Remembering Kerry Hill: The Architect Who Redefined Tropical Modernist Design

CEO Khai Intela
In memory of William Kerry Hill AO, a renowned Australian architect who left an indelible mark on the tropics, revolutionizing hotel design in Asia. Kerry Hill, an influential architect known for his expertise in tropical...

Kerry Hill

In memory of William Kerry Hill AO, a renowned Australian architect who left an indelible mark on the tropics, revolutionizing hotel design in Asia.

Kerry Hill, an influential architect known for his expertise in tropical Asian architecture, passed away on August 26, 2018, leaving behind a legacy of stunning designs. With steeply-pitched pavilion roofs, shaded walkways, and enchanting water features, Hill's signature touch transformed the landscape of hotels across the region. Today, we celebrate the life and work of this visionary architect whose creations continue to inspire.

Early Life and Career

Born on June 19, 1943, in Perth, Western Australia, Kerry Hill grew up in the vast landscapes of northwestern Australia. His formative years were spent traveling the country, igniting a passion for architecture that would shape his future. After studying at Perth Technical College and the University of Western Australia, Hill began his professional journey, working with renowned architectural firms in Perth, including Kierath and Waldron Architects and Howlett & Bailey.

Embarking on an Asian Adventure

Hill's pivotal moment came in 1971 when he left Australia to join the Hong Kong-based practice Palmer & Turner. It was during his time with the firm that he was sent to Bali, Indonesia, to work on the iconic Bali Hyatt in Sanur. This experience laid the foundation for Hill's love affair with Asia and would shape his career for the next several decades.

In 1979, Hill established his own architectural practice, Kerry Hill Architects, in Singapore, where he would spend the rest of his life. Known for his tropical modernist designs, he collaborated with Indonesian hotelier Adrian Zecha, working on notable projects like the Amanusa and Serai hotels in Bali, as well as the Chedi, Beaufort Sentosa, and Datai hotels in Bandung, Singapore, and Langkawi, respectively. Hill's reverence for a place's setting and culture was evident in the design of the Datai hotel in Langkawi, a project that showcased his commitment to minimal environmental impact.

The Essence of Hill's Style

The Lalu, Taiwan (2002) The Lalu, Taiwan (2002)

Hill's architectural style was praised for its region-sensitive approach, seamlessly blending modern elements with traditional settings. Each project reflected the local site and climate, incorporating local materials and construction practices. With a keen eye for detail, he created buildings that harmoniously embraced their surroundings. Richard Hassell of Singapore's WOHA aptly described Hill's designs as amplifying the essence of a place, capturing its unique qualities. Hill firmly believed in avoiding cookie-cutter designs, ensuring that each project was tailored to its specific context.

Awards and Recognition

Throughout his esteemed career, Hill received numerous awards and accolades for his architectural contributions. In 2001, he was honored with the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, followed by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2006. His work was featured in esteemed publications worldwide, including Architectural Digest, Wallpaper, and Architecture Australia. Hill's exceptional talent and dedication to his craft were further recognized when he was appointed as a recipient of the Order of Australia in 2012.

A Lasting Legacy

On August 26, 2018, Kerry Hill passed away at the age of 75 after a battle with cancer. His untimely departure left a void in the architectural world, but his influence lives on. Hill's unique approach and style continue to inspire architects, including Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell of WOHA, Ernesto Bedmar of Bedmar and Shi, and Richard Ho and Cheong Yew Kuan. His teachings have shaped the next generation of architects, ensuring that his legacy remains vibrant.

Notable Projects

Some of Kerry Hill's notable projects include:

  • Darwin Centre, Darwin, Australia (1986)
  • Sukhothai Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand (1991)
  • Amanusa Hotel, Bali, Indonesia (1992)
  • The Chedi Hotel, Bandung, Indonesia (1994)
  • The Serai Hotel, Bali, Indonesia (1994)
  • The Datai Hotel, Langkawi, Malaysia (1994)
  • Singapore Cricket Association Pavilion, Singapore (1999)
  • The Lalu Hotel, Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan (2002)
  • Ogilvie House, Sunshine Beach, Queensland, Australia (2002)
  • ITC Sonar, Kolkata, India (2003)
  • The Chedi Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand (2003)
  • Amankora, Bhutan (2007)
  • State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, Perth, Australia (2010)
  • City of Perth Library, Perth, Australia (2014)
  • Aman Tokyo (2015)
  • COMO The Treasury Hotel, Perth, Australia (2015)
  • RAH FALHU, Maldives (2018)
  • Aman Kyoto (2019)

Kerry Hill's visionary designs continue to captivate and amaze, reminding us of the beauty that lies in the harmonious integration of architecture and its surroundings. His impact on the world of tropical modernist design will forever be remembered and cherished.


  • Goad, Philip; Pieris, Anoma; Bingham-Hall, Patrick (2014). New Directions in Tropical Asian Architecture. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-0804844437.
  • Geoffrey London et al. (2013): Kerry Hill: Crafting Modernism, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 978-0500342862