Jason Pomeroy is an award winning architect, urban planner and academic at the forefront of the sustainable built environment agenda. Jason’s award – winning projects transcend scale and discipline and include: the Idea House, the first carbon zero prototype house in South East Asia, and Vision Valley Malaysia, an 80,000 acre Network Garden City extension of Kuala Lumpur.
Jason also lectures and publishes widely, and is the author of Idea House: Future tropical living today and Skycourts and skygardens: greening the urban habitat. He tells Eluxe about working out, wigwams and ecological wisdom in this exclusive interview.
In which ways does nature inspire your architecture work? The natural environment is important to our design works. Temperature, humidity, sun and wind path, noise, and the natural greenery and biodiversity of a place are the starting points to our design creations, as are the local socio-cultural forces that are ripe for reinterpretation and abstraction. These elements allow us us to create award-winning green cities, buildings, landscapes and interiors.
How do you manage to stay healthy with such a busy travelling schedule? I do cardio work-outs whenever and wherever I can – usually 3 times a week. I had the good fortune of studying martial arts since I was 7 and obtained my black belt at 16. I then actively pursued rugby and rowing at university level and cross-country running. So, physical activity has always been a part of my life.
What is the earliest memory you have of being in nature? Playing in my parent’s back garden – a humble, yet lush green space with an abundance of flora, fauna and a pine tree. It is not only where I got up close and personal with nature, but where learnt to ride my bike and set up a wigwam tent – early forays into sustainable architecture!
What’s the most positive thing you do for the environment in your daily life? Walking to work. I live in Marina bay, which is a 15 walk to my Studio in Clarke Quay. It allows me to enjoy the riverfront and be in the fresh air without being cooped up in an air-conditioned car that’s burning noxious pollutants. I used to walk to my Studio in London also, which also happened to be on the waterfront.
What’s your greatest eco ‘sin’? I guess it would have to be travelling, which to a greater extent is by plane. It isn’t the most sustainable, but project commitments require me to do so. I therefore try and ensure that I capture as much as I can in those trips to minimise the need to fly, which also means that we can be more efficient in our project work.
You’ve travelled a lot, but what would be your eco-friendly dream travel destination? I’ve had the privilege of visiting the most historic cities and their emotive architectural structures that have spanned time, ranging from the 7th century ancient city of Varanasi rich in spiritual content, through to the 21st century city of Tokyo that is a hotbed of technological ingenuity. I’ve also seen the majestic Palaces of Hue, and the magical ruins of Ayutthaya. But I think Bhutan will next be on the list, given its people’s happiness index.
What do you do to carbon offset your travels, if anything? Last year, the studio built houses for the underprivileged for Habitat for Humanity. We also planted trees as part of N Parks celebration of 50 years of greening Singapore. I have also established a ‘Pomeroy Studio Design for a Sustainable Future Award’, which is a financial award and internship programme to capture the best global students in sustainable design, and to provide them with a platform for furthering their career. In addition, I’ve established the ‘Pomeroy Studio Scholarship’, which offers financial support to MPhil and PhD students pursuing research in sustainable design.
Which spokesperson for the environment do you most admire, and why? I have to say Ken Yeang, the eco-architect for his outspoken ability to pioneer in the field of sustainable design before it became such an over-used term. He has been my mentor for many years. It started when I did my undergraduate thesis on his works at Canterbury. When I went to Cambridge to do my research degree in the role of skycourts and skygardens, he was my external supervisor. More recently, he wrote the foreword to my book ‘The Skycourt and Skygarden: Greening the Urban Habitat’.
Which eco issues are most important to you?
My Studio is passionate about redefining the concept of sustainability to go beyond the accepted logic of a triple bottom line. In addition to preserving the sense of community (the social), the local and global economy (the economic) and the natural landscape (the environmental), we also believe in space preservation for the use of society given rapid urbanisation and the eradication of open space (the spatial). We also believe in cultural preservation in light of continued globalisation that challenges our own identity (the cultural). Finally, we believe in the careful use of technology as opposed to its over subscription to ensure that is integrated with passive design principles to maximise natural light, natural ventilation and water preservation (technological).
How do you think further damage to the planet can be stopped?
I think much of the damage has been caused by the previous generations ignorance during the 19th and 20th centuries, as it is the accepted wisdom that industrialisation was largely responsible for heightened global warming. The answer now lies with our children, and thankfully education is changing perceptions critically and quickly. I believe that the generation today is far more attuned to the cataclysmic effects of climate change – we will need to give them the necessary tools, skills sets and empowerment to ensure that they can act responsibly at stemming climate change and be better decision makers than us.
For more info, please visit www.pomeroystudio.sg