Pictured above: Bianca graduated from SUTD with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture and is SUTD’s first architect to be registered under the Board of Architects.
Find out how Bianca’s endless curiosity and SUTD’s interdisciplinary learning environment set her with a vision to build sustainable homes for unhoused people.
This article is brought to you by the SUTD – Women x Tech & Design series.
During her time at SUTD, Bianca was a BCA-RSP Scholar in the university’s pioneer batch and graduated with both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture. Prior to university, she studied at Nanyang Junior College. Today, she also holds a Specialist Diploma in Computational Building Information Modelling from BCAA, is SUTD’s very first architect to be registered under the Board of Architects, and is a member of both the Singapore Institute of Architects and the Young Architects League.
Her career path is no surprise considering she hails from a family of architects and engineers. In fact, it was her late grandfather who first stoked Bianca’s passion for these fields. As the Chief Architect of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s Human Settlements Division, it was his job to tour developing countries around the world and advise on possible improvements to housing issues, including designing and building affordable, low-cost solutions.
“One of my favourite stories was his visit to China in 1981 for a conference to better understand the state of living there and to decide how his team can help,” Bianca explains. “Where there were ideological and cultural challenges, he instead saw beauty and value that architecture can bring. His ability to empathise with the people he designed for sparked my curiosity and love for the possibilities that architecture can bring.”
Bianca’s grandfather, who was a Chief Architect under the United Nations, has long been her primary role model and source of inspiration.
As a Senior Architect at the Singaporean branch of Hassell Design, Bianca collaborates with her team and stakeholders to efficiently manage projects and ensure that they meet the financial and design requirements of both the company and the client.
“SUTD’s focus on an interdisciplinary approach to learning gave me the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds and expertise, and it prepared me for my career when I must work with different clients and consultants,” she says. “I realised that having gone through an interdisciplinary approach in SUTD sparked my curiosity and hunger to better understand my project consultants and their constraints. [This way, we can] work together to achieve the project brief set forth by the clients and advise better solutions.”
Moreover, her professors at SUTD regularly pushed Bianca to be curious and explore her various interests, even if she had little to zero prior experience in certain areas. “The professors were very encouraging. [They] taught me confidence and resilience in the face of uncharted waters because there were many opportunities for us to venture, fail, and learn from our experiences.”
SUTD’s interdisciplinary approach also allowed Bianca to explore these uncharted waters by implementing a range of novel design concepts, including the opportunity to use technologies like computation and digital fabrication. Outside of her architecture classes, she was also able to enrol in humanities and arts courses which covered subjects like history, ethics, philosophy, and culture.
“If you feel like you care enough about the lives of people, the spaces they live in, and the gratification you feel when you see people immersing and benefitting from the spaces you design and create, then take the first step forward by being involved in actual projects.”
While testing out new technologies and ideas can be daunting, Bianca says her time at SUTD helped her develop a “Can-Do” attitude; in turn, this has only fuelled her endless curiosity for ways to solve new problems, as well as newer, more efficient solutions to pre-existing problems — even in spite of the setbacks or disappointments that might occur.
“Through the interactions with my peers and professors, one of the most important things that I learned is to just do it and we learn from there,” she says. “We are often too afraid to try new things due to the amount of uncertainty and discomfort. However, we will never know until we try, and the fastest way to learn is to fail fast and try again.”
When she was assigned as one of the project architects on One Holland Village Project, a mixed-residential development in the heart of Holland Village, Bianca admits there was a “very steep” learning curve due to it being her first time working on a project of this magnitude. Nonetheless, she didn’t back down. Working carefully with her team of consultants and contractors, she learned a number of lessons from effective communication and technical skills to project management. In retrospect, those experiences have since impacted the way she views and handles all new projects.
Bianca on-site with her One Holland Village Project team.
Bianca sees architecture as helping to “create different perspectives, empathy, and sensitivities to both the people and our environment. The nature of the profession can be described as a form of service, and through serving the compelling needs of the people and our environment, it teaches us humility and shows how we can affect the way we live and sustain life.”
Keeping this notion of architecture as “service” in mind, her goals are ultimately to sustainably design and build places for under-resourced people to live, learn and love the spaces designed for and with them.
In a full-circle moment, she’s also become an adjunct lecturer at SUTD for the 3.007 Design Thinking and Innovation course — a role that has brought her great joy. And while simultaneously straddling academia and industry might not be for everyone, as someone who’s always enjoyed challenging the status quo, Bianca feels that teaching also allows her to give back in some way. “Maybe because I did not have much mentoring or guidance when I first started out my career, I felt the importance of mentorship. Mentorship to me is not about providing answers but showing the tools to find those answers.”
At SUTD, Bianca encourages students to take advantage of the university’s extensive connections within the industry and the various professional opportunities by getting involved with industry partners — whether that’s through competitions, external projects, or architectural events.
Today, Bianca also serves as an adjunct lecturer at SUTD.
As someone who was the youngest in her study group to prepare for the professional examinations, Bianca is well accustomed to how scary it can feel to face uncharted waters head on. While she always pushes students to “get your hands dirty and start something,” she also reminds them to be mindful of their goals and motivations.
“Be sure you really care,” she says. “If you feel like you care enough about the lives of people, the spaces they live in, and the gratification you feel when you see people immersing and benefitting from the spaces you design and create, then take the first step forward by being involved in actual projects.”
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