LIAK TENG LIT
Group Chief Executive Officer, Alexandra Health System
by Dr Nirmal Kishnani
The Singapore hospitals that Liak Teng Lit has managed as CEO—particularly Alexandra and Khoo Teck Puat—are seen to be game changers in design for healthcare. The latter has won multiple awards and garnered global attention, specifically for its use of plants and water to create a ‘healing’ environment. FuturArc editor-in-chief Dr Nirmal Kishnani catches up with Mr Liak, now chairman of Singapore’s National Environment Agency, to find out how decisions were made and directions forged.
NK: We are seeing a shift in the importance placed on greenery in Singapore. From an ornamental mindset—decorating the street or hiding unsightly things—greenery is becoming an instrument of wellness. Your role as CEO of several hospitals in Singapore is an illustration of this. When did the idea of the healing environment come to you?
A year later, the AH gardeners invited butterfly lover Khew Sin Khoon to give a talk on butterflies. I was in the audience and I challenged them: let’s go for 100 species of butterflies. A butterfly interest group came in and told us what to plant. Within a year we hit 60 to 70 species. Eventually it was 103, I think. That was how the butterfly garden got moving, quite spontaneously.
We were then asked to plan Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). We choose this site—out of nine offered to us—because it was next to Yishun pond and it had the potential to be a nice, quiet, restful place. We told the architects we like greenery and plants. When patients are sick, they like greenery. The design specification for this hospital was that it should integrate nicely into the neighbourhood. We didn’t want to be a big bully, to overwhelm the neighbourhood. The building had to ‘humbly’ fit into the neighbourhood. We told the architects that we did not want a Pamela Anderson.