Kai Chen

Kai Chen
Kai Chen
Director and Founding Principal
BArch (Hons) (Melb) FRAIA
Kai Chen’s creative career began when he graduated from the University of Melbourne with an architecture degree to find himself, as he puts it, “unemployed and unemployable”. He soon founded his own practice, Robinson Chen, which over the next ten years conceived and built a series of meticulously-wrought residential projects, gaining international attention.
He has worked with Peter Lovell since 1991, when he joined the practice as principal designer, becoming director and founding principal of Lovell Chen in 2005. He is responsible for the design direction and management of all architectural projects in the office, and is an award-winning designer with significant peer recognition.

Chen works across a broad range and scale of projects, including major institutional buildings, and master planning and urban space planning schemes. Projects have included many of Melbourne’s major landmarks.
His design skills are in evidence in projects undertaken by Lovell Chen where the extension and adaptation of significant heritage buildings has involved the sensitive resolution of complex functional briefs, and the integration of modern servicing and programme requirements. He makes no distinction between architecture and interior design, tackling all aspects of a project, including lighting and furniture design, as appropriate.
Chen’s approach is thoughtful and instinctive, seeking to temper contemporary demands with respect for the significance of place. He sees “getting inside the skin of the original architect” as central to his role. His interventions are designed to be reversible, a fundamental aspect of his respect for past practitioners and the grain of his surroundings.
“There will be times when I’m playing second fiddle to a building, and times when I’ll stand up next to it,” he says. “Whatever it needs to make it viable — to make it come alive.”

Chen’s professional activities include long-standing participation as a member on various AIA Award juries. He has contributed to the education of numerous young architects through tutoring and teaching at all three major universites in Victoria, and his work has been published widely in Australia and overseas. In 1991, he was one of 11 architects selected to represent the country at the Venice Architectural Biennale.