Patrick Keane:  An Award-winning Architect Rebuilding the World with Natural Rattan & Modern-Day Technologies

Patrick Keane: An Award-winning Architect Rebuilding the World with Natural Rattan & Modern-Day Technologies

Patrick Keane , Founder

Patrick Keane


With the urban jungles getting denser, sustainability has long become a charity, something more of a feel-good poster caption than an impactful practice. It’s high time architects and designers renewed their vows to nature and brought back the old world charm, allowing humankind to once again reside in the lap of mother nature. This embraces the story of Patrick Keane, the Founder of Enter Projects Asia, which hosts a radical shift in urban construction toward genuine sustainability by reviving the sustainable grassroots of our ancestors and blending it seamlessly with modern-day technologies. By only using locally sourced and crafted 100 percent biodegradable natural rattan in all its projects, Enter Projects sets the benchmark our future deserves.

A Master of Architecture from the University of Princeton, Patrick is a passionate designer who had his baptism of fire in New York’s competitive architecture realm before establishing Enter Projects in 2005. An award-winning architect, Patrick, over the past few decades, has lived and worked on five continents and successfully translated his experiences into contemporary designs. His forward-thinking approaches to design, fusing new technology with local skill sets, and regional arts and crafts have been a predominant aspect of his successful endeavors. I recently got in touch with Patrick and engaged him in an exclusive interaction. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

In conversation with Patrick Keane, Founder, Enter Projects Asia.

You have more than three decades of professional experience across almost all continents. How has this journey been? And what do you consider the most important milestones in this journey?

I kick-started my career by working with innovators and dynamic architecture companies in New York. For 12 years, I got to work with Internationally acclaimed architects like Peter Eisenman and Steven Holl. The next milestone was moving to Southeast Asia and embracing its manufacturing and fabrication resources, especially the local arts and crafts. Southeast Asia is a perfect blend of the past, the present, and the future. It’s a swiftly developing continent with an illustrious history, which is overtly present in today’s culture. So there’s a balance between history, the present, and the future, which inspired my journey. Another milestone was embracing digital design technology and dovetailing it with local artisans.

How did this all begin? What inspired you to go to the local artisans that you engage with today?

Well, it all started when we got a commission to design a yoga studio. It was pre-COVID and was quite a small project. Nevertheless, we wanted to make it a unique, tactile experience. But the problem was that we couldn’t find a building company that could realize what we had in mind, which made us look for alternatives in rattan companies, bamboo companies, woodworking companies, and more, and eventually work on the whole construction endeavor a little bit more. We got more involved in fabrication and construction, and that’s how it started—from a feeling of not being able to find somebody who could build our work or satisfy our design ambitions. That’s actually how Project Rattan started—an initiative alongside our design company, Enter Projects Asia.

Tell us about your factory, raw materials sourcing model, and the kind of techniques that you use in construction.

The fabrication part, which started as a small initiative—just a couple of tin huts—has now grown into a factory with around 50 artists and craftsmen from all over Southeast Asia. We engage a lot with digital fabrication and 3D models. We transmit the information to enable our highly skilled artists and craftsmen to develop these pieces for us. With their know-how in waving and bending combined with our technical approach, we have built an international design standard powered by a wonderful, hands-on tactile process. We’re working with local arts, crafts, and local resources, which now get exported through our projects worldwide.

Tell us about your latest projects. What are the unique aspects of the Bangalore Airport project?

We are currently working on multiple projects worldwide—from a project in the US for Delta Airlines to an initiative in India for Bangalore Airport. In Bangalore, we redesigned the whole departures area and the public spaces, spreading across approximately 15,000 square meters. It will serve more than 20 million people a year. We’re working with the US-based architecture practice Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), who are doing the exteriors. We’re doing all the public spaces. Bangalore is known as the garden city of India. So we’re currently developing the public spaces to be one of the largest sustainable projects in existence. We envision redefining what an airport experience is.

How do you perceive the need for a sus­tainable approach in design & construc­tion? How does Enter Project contribute to this?

A lot of people pay lip service to sustainability. But we believe in what we refer to as grassroots sustainability, which is made possible with our vertical approach. In truth, manufacturing has lost its old-world charm. Many construction companies, especially in the Western world, have given up on local fabrication and source products heavily from Asian countries.

Fortunately, many factories are still alive and well in Asian countries like Thailand and India. But they need to be upgraded to align with contemporary design requirements. Hence, we work with artists and craftsmen who are typically used to making baskets or chairs and selling them down at the marketplace. We trust their skills, compliment them with our technical approach, and expose them to overtly commercial settings, helping them showcase their work through contemporary design. We have built a much more vertical business than a typical architecture practice by encompassing design, development, construction documentation, and fabrication. This allows us to constantly introduce innovative products to the marketplace because we redefined the whole approach. I think it’s really the obligation of any designer or anybody interested in design to follow that path.

Desmond Morris, The English Zoologist, Ethologist, And Surrealist Painter, Once Echoed, “The City Is Not A Concrete Jungle; It Is A Human Zoo”

However, our biggest threat is not necessarily our competitors. It is instead the infiltration of inferior, cheap plastic products that people source from the internet. It’s not only that they are not sourcing locally; they often don’t know where the products are coming from. We talk about it in food culture: the importance of sourcing locally. Now it’s up to us, who work with the environment, to set similar standards. It is time for everybody to open their minds and eyes because the planet is suffering.

You have been highly successful in multiple countries, which is not something that one would achieve without a great team. Tell me about your team and the kind of skill set they bring to the table.

I think it’s all about inspiring people and working with designers with a creative and technical edge. We have a creative and technical team working in tandem with around 15 designers across our offices in Phuket and Bangkok. We also have a solid management team for deployment and implementation that coordinates with our arts and crafts team of around 40 people. In truth, everything boils down to effective communication and combining the latest skills in design and technology with arts and crafts. Real innovation is our process that finds a perfect balance to produce the best outcomes.

Tell us about your leadership approach. What are the values and methodologies that your leadership is guided by?

I always try to inspire people and strive to create new contexts for my team. For instance, we often send our designers to the factory. Some have never walked into a factory, so it helps them comprehend the shopfloor dynamics and create new contexts. I believe in constant learning and always try to learn from others. Designers should have a reciprocal relationship with the people around them. The artists and craftsmen teach us things, and we teach them something. Young designers teach older ones like myself new thoughts and ideologies; hopefully, we inspire them as well. In a nutshell, I believe leadership is about constantly learning, having diverse views and different approaches within the team, and never setting limits on yourself or others.

What are the kinds of opportunities that you foresee in the Asian markets? What are your future plans?

The future plan is to deploy plant-based and natural materials in commercial construction. For instance, we use approximately nine kilometers of rattan in one of our airport projects. Imagine how much plastic and concrete would go into those nine kilometers in traditional design. What about the damage to the environment in terms of waste? That’s something for everybody to think about. The world is lost in all those plastics and synthetic materials right now, and we’re really looking to prevent this with our approach. We constantly strive to optimize and make things lighter and stronger— often by looking back to the past regarding better air conditioning, well-ventilated lobbies, and reduced energy consumption. We are looking at the big picture.

A few words to the budding designers and coming up in the industry?

The first thing is to keep an open mind. You must consistently innovate, constantly strive to work with natural, local materials, and work closely with the source. Go for unique combinations. Comprehend that everything you see is a resource, whether in the built or natural environment.

Patrick Keane, Founder Enter, Projects Asia

An award-winning architect, Patrick, over the past few decades, has lived and worked on five continents and successfully translated his experiences into contemporary designs.

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