Navigating into digital-centric world, progressively

Datuk Ar. Tan Pei Ing, Founder – PI Architect

Tan Pei Ing, a leading Architect at Malaysia and proprietor of her own Architectural firm, is one of the first women to set up her own architectural firm in 1984.  As a female sole proprietor, she has faced many challenges and hurdles in the fairly male dominated industry. She had to overcome the gender biasness to prove that a female could still perform well with commitment and passion. She was able to finally prove her capability and has secured continuous projects from her clients and she was nicknamed by many as ‘Iron Lady’.

Tan Pei Ing graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture (with honours) degree from the University of Melbourne. She enjoys eating and loves to travel with her children to different parts of the world every year as a part of her bonding with them. She considers herself greatly inspired by different culture, nature and architecture.

Her vision for her firm is to provide quality and efficient services, being dynamic, responsive and provide innovative solutions to a wide range of architectural requirements. She believes in adopting flexible design methodology, which breaks away from preconceived and/ or formulated solutions. Professionalism and integrity are also the main guiding principles of the firm and her firm has gained respectable reputation in the building industry.

Datuk Tan Pei Ing shares more from her interesting journey with the team ABT.

Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?
It is difficult to pinpoint who has been my biggest inspiration. I was inspired by different people at different stages of my life, personally as well as professionally. During my childhood, my late grandmother was probably the one who had the greatest influence on my life. Although she wasn’t educated, she was the most knowledgeable and respected elder within the community. She was extremely hardworking and helped my parents look after all the 5 of us when they were busy working to make ends meet.

My parents have also inspired me tremendously; my mom strives for perfection and my father is passionate about institutional and voluntary works. When I was pursing architecture in Melbourne University, I was inspired by the works of a few key Architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Khan, Philip Johnson, Mies Van der Rohe, Antoni Gaudi etc and I want to be like them, to be able to make a difference in the built environment.

When I returned to Malaysia after graduation, professionally, I was truly inspired by the spirit of voluntarism by a few of the senior members of the architectural profession. One of them is the Late Dato’ Kinton Loo, who inspired me through his dedication to promote professionalism and integrity in the architectural profession. I also feel that there is more to life than enriching yourself monetarily and I consider it my responsibility to give back to the industry that has made me who I am today.

What is your view about the changing role of technology in Architectural Designs?
We are progressively navigating to a more digital – centric world. The newer technology has a great impact not only on our lives but also on Architecture and the design process. I am from the old school and was trained to use hand and T- square to design and draw. With the computer and software technology, the new generations of Architects are able to explore more complex geometry and new frontiers. It helps to add new dimensions to the designs which enable the Architects to realise the ideas that could not be fully expressed before.

The building information modelling (BIM) technology, rendering so few areas and virtual reality etc will provide important design information to the architects and affect the design process. The architects are now able to create realistic 3D modelling to help the client and users to visualise and experience the space that has been proposed before it is built.

How did you manage to challenge the Industry Stereotypes?
The journey through any career is never easy. Being a woman in the industry that is considered male dominated, I have gone through my fair shares of gender discrimination.

When I returned to Malaysia in the mid 80s, the country was going through recession. I had difficulties in getting job, as many perceived that ladies were incapable of handling rough construction sites. I continuously encountered gender bias and stereotyping from all sectors during my career, and at times, sexual harassment.

My passion for architecture helped me overcome these hurdles and my desire to excel pushed me and I persevered. I have to work much harder to prove my capabilities and earn respect. The tough journey has helped me to build my strength and resilience. As an architect, professionalism, passion and integrity are very important, and you must always give your best. I am an active advocate for gender equity and for advancing women in architecture.

Tell us about your most cherished project.
Under my Practice, PI Architect, every project we do is our pride, especially when we are doing it for the first time. IOI Puchong Mall (Malaysia) is the first big project undertaken by the firm. It signifies trust given to us and it was a break through, followed shortly by the Putrajaya Marriott hotel and IOI Towers.

Professionally, I do a lot of voluntary works under the local and international organizations. I was elected as PAM’s (Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia) President in 2001 (16 plus years ago). During my 2 yr term, we achieved most of the milestones under the 5 key strategies, which I set up to do and we have shown tangible outcomes and received positive feedback from members. I also started and chaired the Contract Review committee under my term as President and completed the 2006 Form of contracts that are being used widely in the building industry, even until now. We also completed a Handbook to guide members on how to use the Forms.

Do you believe in making dreams come true?
My belief is to stay focussed, be positive and committed, never give up and persevere. Love what you do and always strive to be the best and able to make a difference. ‘No matter where you are and what you do, if you have passion, then success will follow’. Don’t talk about glass ceiling and always believe that “The sky is the limit.” 

What would you like to achieve in the next coming years?
In UIA (International Union of Architects) Seoul congress 2017, I was elected as Council Member for Region IV (2017- 2020) and I look forward to be part of the team to pursue issues that affect the profession in the international level. I hope I will be able to continue to promote the policy and be involved in the tracking of the implementation phase under the UIA Professional Practice Commission for the next 3 years. I am looking forward to our ARCASIA Congress, which would be held in Tokyo in September 2018.

I look forward to be able to assist and contribute to the university that I have benefitted from and hope that my participation would help the future generation. The Minister of Works Malaysia has also reappointed me as a member of the Board of Architect recently (from October 2017– September 2018) and I hope to continue some of the works that we have started on the amendment of the Architect’s Act and Rules etc and some policies that will affect the profession. On my own personal practice, we have a few new exciting projects that are under design development stage and I hope some of them would take off the ground.

​Here is the video of Ar. Tan Pei Ing, at the Women Icons Malaysia Summit & Awards 2018