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Architect

Architects are the designers behind infrastructures and buildings such as skyscrapers, shopping malls, museums and even residential bungalows. They deal with challenges such as aesthetics, safety and sustainability.

 

Read on to find out more about what it takes to be an architect

A day in the life of an Architect…

An Architect

Ng San Son, Associate Architect, DP Architects

Success stories

Read about the motivations, inspirations and achievements of some of Singapore's practicing architects.

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As a child, Jerry loved playing with Lego sets and creating fantastic castles and structure, so it was only natural for him to study architecture in the National University of Singapore, and continue feeding his interest in designing buildings. 

He enjoyed his stint as an intern at CPG Consultants so much, he joined the firm full-time after graduation. He feels the multi-disciplinary consultancy offers an integrated approach to design, and provides a caring and supportive work culture. It also exposed him to a wide range of project typologies that was important in his formative years as a young architectural graduate.
 
In 2005, Jerry was involved in the development of Tanjong Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin. That ignited an interest in green and sustainable design.
 
Passion for sustainable architecture
 
“Chek Jawa opened my eyes to a natural treasure trove that I never thought an urban country like Singapore still possesses. Through that project, I developed a sensitivity and deep respect for nature. My passion grew when I started working on Healthcare projects. I realised that nature helps in creating a healing environment for patients, so Khoo Teck Puat Hospital was designed to integrate with nature seamlessly”, he shares.
 
He did not expect his career to shift towards specialising in healthcare design, when tasked to work on an international design competition for the new Alexandra Hospital (later renamed Khoo Teck Puat Hospital) in 2006. His team won the design competition, which opened the doors to more hospital projects, locally and internationally. Some of those he has worked on include the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital in Jurong, ParkCity Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur, and Indus Academic Medical Campus in Karachi, Pakistan. Currently, he is working on Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

He believes that a sustainable hospital model is the ideal model as hospitals are traditionally big consumers of energy. His team’s concern for environmental degradation ensures that they are constantly searching for sustainable design solutions to keep energy consumption low.

Living in the central catchment area, with nature just outside his door, definitely helped to shape the way he designs. Ideas pop into his head when he goes jogging along the various nature trails.
 
“I believe everyone has a responsibility to take care of our planet and, as an architect, I am empowered to make a difference. Hence, it is a mandate that every project I work on is sustainable and green as I see no other way of doing it.”
 
Designing to make a difference
 
But sustainability is just one facet of his design concept. As a facility used by people in all states of health, hospitals have a crucial need for Universal Design (UD).
 
Explained simply, UD is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible. This includes smooth, ground level entrances without stairs, wide interior doors and hallways, and even buttons or controls that can be distinguished by touch. This is especially relevant to Singapore which faces an ageing population.
 
“As architects of health and wellness, we have to be even more sensitive to Universal Design, to cater to the varying special needs of users. Hence, all the hospitals we design incorporate UD features. It is an integral part in designing for the built environment, and should be incorporated in a holistic manner, not provided just for the sake of doing so”, Jerry explains.
 
Drawing upon his interest and knowledge in both concepts, he believes in marrying nature and UD in his designs, and feels it has to be a conscious and concerted effort to integrate a connection with nature and UD. He knows it will not happen if left to chance, but has to be the product of good design.

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Building for the People

The building industry is an integral tenet of a nation. The construct, ambience and skyline of a country are aggregated from the imagination, sensitivity and creativity of architects, urban planners, engineers and other disciplines.

We have a great responsibility.
We build for people.
We orchestrate spaces so people use them functionally, unexpectedly, innovatively, contextually.

It is like a carefully crafted movie, or a symphony.

Driven by DP Architects’ core philosophy to uplift the human experience and spirit through purposeful design, this humanistic approach has been key to our design ethos since the firm was founded in 1967. I am sensitive to pursue this even in commercial projects such as myVillage and Orchard Central, understanding the public and social nature of the shopping space as a civic place of gathering and respite, beyond just a space for retail consumption in Singapore. myVillage was designed to actively engage the local neighbourhood of Serangoon, with its large span transparent curtain walls, naturally lit atriums, landscaped clusters and informal gathering spaces that have a welcoming porosity. On the other hand, the design of Orchard Central wraps and injects private commercial space with the public space of Orchard Road, activating all 11 storeys of the mall with street connectivity through open-air escalators and landings, landscaped roof decks – helping shoppers feel connected to the urban landscape around them, instead of being in an introverted mall.

Forming Memories

The versatility and significance of our profession on our built environment attracted me to pursue this discourse. The settings of a building, construction of a space, refinement of details in what we create will help formulate or enhance users’ experiences.

Architects do not only create buildings, we help catalyse the formation of memories. Many recreational spaces are ideal settings for families and friends to spend time together and form new memories, hence the inspiration to design recreational spaces, such as River Safari - Asia’s first river-themed park and the first park to be awarded BCA’s Green Mark Platinum. The design of Civil Service Club at Changi, set in the laidback eastern part of Singapore, sensitively conserved the clubhouse’s colonial heritage and rejuvenated its surroundings with new recreational and hospitality programmes. The major revamp of Downtown East to become an even more beloved, integrated leisure experience, served to lure users away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Designing for Future Generations

Buildings are designed and constructed to last. The very thought of building something that future generations can use is extremely meaningful.  In a way, the legacy will be imprinted forever, till its demolition.

For example, religious structures have for millennia performed as public spaces of congregation. Such buildings can often seem the most consistent architectural typology, normally impervious to rapid technological development or lifestyle shifts. In 2005, I worked on a necessary expansion for St. Andrew’s Cathedral to house a growing congregation and to offer increased accessibility as a site more welcoming for visitors. The design for the extension sought neutrality both in massing and material, to become a backdrop supportive of the established Early Gothic architectural language of the original church. The addition fused landscape and architecture, and in an effort to maintain a clear formal hierarchy on site, the majority of the new structure was designed underground with skylight infiltrating the interior.  

This went to show even religious centres must sensitively accommodate evolving social patterns – reminding me of my role as an architect in facilitating a balanced, respectful and effective dialogue between the past, present and future aspirations.

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"Ever since I can remember, I have been taking things apart to see how they work and scribbling on walls, doodling on my parents' photographs – in fact drawing on any paper I can get my hands on," Szue Hann muses.

Szue Hann enjoys the fact that architecture isn’t a pure science, or any definable vocation for that matter, but one that allows for a great deal of creativity. "Often, the design process involves many tries before you get a solution you are comfortable with." Szue Hann explains, "This quest for perfection is an important aspect of being an architect. If you are not particular, you would take short-cuts on crucial safety aspects for instance, and that can’t be allowed to happen!"

Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal winner from NUS, Szue Hann graduated with First Class Honours in Architecture and went on to complete a Masters degree, with stints as a visiting scholar in Delft, the Netherlands, and at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was practising at WOHA Architects, a home-grown award-winning firm and a co-editor for Singapore Architect, an internationally-circulated architecture and design magazine published by the Singapore Institute of Architects.

Architecture involves a passion to create.

In these roles, Szue Hann is able to assimilate his other passions: art, photography and travel. He draws on his experiences abroad for inspiration, in addition to observing local cultures. This is why he looks to the future in Singapore with such excitement. "We are shaping the cityscape and landscapes for an interesting mix of cultures as Singapore readies herself for a possible population of 6 million in the coming years," he explains. "It is an extremely interesting time for architects because, as a young nation, we are always looking forward while bearing a deep respect towards sustaining both the environment and Singapore’s cosmopolitan cultures." As Szue Hann clearly demonstrates, architecture greatly involves a passion to create, and nothing helps that process more than having a curious mind.

Job scope

Some responsibilities an architect has include:

  • Planning, designing and supervising the construction of buildings and other physical landscapes
  • Providing advice on the preservation and refurbishment of old buildings
  • Providing specifications and detailed drawings on architectural works
  • Providing advice to clients regarding project execution, supervising progress and quality of work at site
  • Liaising with other parties involved in the project

Qualities

Here are some qualities that a competent architect should have:

  • Creative with good aesthetic judgement
  • Enjoy problem solving
  • Good communication skills
  • Strong organisation skills

SALARY GUIDE FOR
POLYTECHNIC GRADUATES 

The salaries below serve as a guide for graduates in Interior Architecture & Design; Interior Design; Retail & Hospitality Design; Space & Interior Design

Median monthly gross starting salary
Fresh graduates

$2,000

SALARY GUIDE FOR 
UNIVERSITY GRADUATES

The salaries below serve as a guide for graduates in Architecture

Median monthly gross starting salary
Fresh graduates

$3,600
 Source: MOM report on wages in Singapore, 2015 and other sources.
*Median monthly gross starting salaries includes basic wage, overtime pay, commissions and allowances. Bonuses are excluded.

Education route

Your education roadmap to becoming a professional architect:

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* The above chart is intended as a guide for general reference only.