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From Japan to Singapore: Journey to the Far East to Discover Asian Architecture

Asian architecture is breathtakingly beautiful and inspiring. But did you know that it’s not only striking to look at, but sustainable too? Many Asian architects implement sustainability into their designs in a very natural way through building with, instead of against, nature. Join us on a trip to Japan, China and Singapore and discover the balanced beauty of Asian architecture.


Japanese architecture is deeply rooted in the culture of the country. In their beautiful and minimal designs, less truly is more. A typical style is gable roofs with complex overhangs and timbered walls. Mixing innovation and simplicity, elegance is a key word for the Japanese. An example is Japanese architecture firm, Shigeru Ban Architects, which makes use of paper tubes as structural material, creating their buildings and homes with affordable and accessible matters. With sustainability as a core practice, the firm works with recyclable materials to bring balance between nature and architecture. 


Mixing traditional and modern techniques, Chinese architecture uses both timber and stone in their buildings. A key term in their designs is balance. China frequently uses sustainable practices in their architecture, without doing it in the name of sustainability. Instead, it is an old tradition of creating harmony with nature that has lived on. For instance, Xu Tiantian of DnA Design and Architecture recently used bamboo trees to build an open-air theatre. This was highlighted in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, called Reuse, Renew, Recycle: Recent Architecture from China, which concluded in July 2022. 


Several buildings in Singapore use clever design and energy-efficient technology, such as solar panels and good ventilation systems. Their knack for innovation has allowed them to shred old practices that weren’t beneficial from an environmental perspective and replace them with impressive solutions. Singaporian architecture firm WOHA has become a name to be reckoned with in green architecture. It was founded in 1994, and since then it has become famous world-wide for integrating environmentally-friendly principles into their designs. Creating everything from urban hotels with sky gardens to high rise towers with cross-ventilation and outdoor verandas, WOHA is truly remarkable.

Common Materials and Practices

While Japan, China and Singapore have great practices within architecture, there are other star players out there as well. Throughout Asia, there is frequent use of natural materials such as bamboo, timber and mud. Often referred to as green steel, it highlights its friendly approach to the environment. Buildings with bamboo can be found in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Another popular design style is the tropical style, focusing on creating places close to nature where you can escape from the stresses of everyday life. An environment that is zen and in rhythm with nature, it incorporates plants, waterfalls and natural airflow. 

REFRAMD is excited for a long trip through Asia to see all their smart and inspiring creations. What and where is your favourite sustainable building?