Patrick Keane

Founder, Enter Projects Asia

Patrick Keane is anything but traditional, so to hear him admit he has an overtly conservative approach to living life seems curious. This could definitely use some clarifying and thankfully he can explain. “I met Frank Gehry once and to this day, I think he’s the most conservative person I’ve ever met, but such conservatism is not to be underrated,” Keane begins, in his characteristically thoughtful, articulate way. “You concentrate so hard on creative endeavours, it seems intelligent when you’re winding down to have a conservative approach to, say, what you eat for dinner. It just helps to switch the brain off.” For someone who has pretty much always worked – and will continue to work – in full-steam-ahead mode, this makes plenty of sense.

Born in Nairobi, Keane studied environmental design at the University of Western Australia before graduating with a Master’s in Architecture from Princeton University. He worked in New York for a couple of firms, namely Steven Holl Architects and Eisenman Architects, before returning to Australia, where he founded Enter Projects in 2005.

Fast forward to early 2018 and Keane moved to Phuket (where he is currently based) after securing more work in South East Asia, renaming his practice Enter Projects Asia, which now boasts a 25-strong team across two offices.

Indeed, Enter Projects Asia is widely recognised for dovetailing artisanal arts and crafts with digital fabrication. Keane and his team also build models rather than relying heavily on plans, sections and elevations, and they have developed streamlined processes in order to minimise the time it takes to deliver projects.

At the heart of the business is a commitment to sustainability, which Keane has long been passionate about. As he sees it, “architecture is meant to represent shelter or some sort of stability, but I think with the post-COVID era of design, we need to review that. And we especially need to review it from an environmental standpoint, in regards to levels of wastage and material excess, which is essentially what our work is a statement about.”

Perhaps the practice’s most well-known project to date is Vikasa, a yoga studio completed in 2019. Keane and his team worked with approximately 40 local craftspeople to fabricate key elements of the design, using traditional techniques sometimes handed down over more than five generations.

Another achievement is the work Enter Projects Asia is undertaking, in collaboration with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, on the new airport in Bangalore. Keane and his team are responsible for the design of approximately 10,000-square-metres of breakout space, which will take the form of a huge internal garden dotted with a series of domes and pods. The practice is also working with some big-name brands on upcoming projects, including Delta Airlines and Banyan Tree.

Keane’s clear success is in running a grassroots sustainable company that produces outstanding projects at substantial scale, and while this may very well be his legacy, his compassion also resonates. At his core he is a designer who believes in the need for rejuvenation and regeneration and in creating better places for all people to live, work and play in.

This is an excerpt from a feature first published in INDESIGN #89. Words by Leanne Amodeo.

Portrait photography: Enter Projects Asia