Saturday, December 28, 2013

After the run

It was the 17th November. It was Sunday afternoon, after our Penang run. We had our naps, woke up hungry, went for a walk and found the Mugshot Cafe along Lebuh Chulia. I found the place irresistible because it sold bagels! The place was packed and we ended up sharing a long low table with a couple near the front shop window (this was the view from my seat)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Last weekend's gardening

 I have been busy in my garden but somehow it is not on par with the gardens that I design for my clients. Is it because I lack their budget? I suspect it is because I am trying to build everything myself and making use of existing material which I have. Noble but not pretty, and tiring too.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Power of Symbols in Chinese Tradition and Culture

This was the title for our latest design lecture at PAMSC given by Prof. Teh Kem Jin from NUS. The two-hour long lecture was presented in a interesting and informal manner; discussing the power of symbols in Chinese Tradition and Culture and its relevance to modern society in general and to design in particular.

This was overhead at the after-talk lunch:-
Si Yong: ..(upon hearing that Stephen's new baby is a boy) your first child is a girl?
Stephen: Yes.
Si Yong: that's good. Get it? (writing a Chinese Character with his fork on the paper plate with curry gravy) - first the girl then the boy is the Chinese character for 'good'
Stephen: Oh! (a banana* learns something new as an aftermath to a fruitful lecture) - that means I can close shop.


 *banana - local slang for a person of Asian who is more assimilated into Western culture than Asian -  white inside while yellow outside. 

Some would argue that the word is represents woman with a child but I think credit should be given to Si Yong for his interpretation to suit the situation. We think that the other 50 participants are similarly informed and inspired.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

there's quite a bit on my plate

Sometimes when I have too many things on my mind - I like to write them down, and sometimes when I have too many things to do all at once - I make a list. Just to see how much trouble I am in, instead of doing the tasks themselves. Some people may call this procrastination but I enjoy the pleasure of striking items off the list when I have done them.
Since making the list, I have transplanted the basil and pruned the guava. We have also bought some chilli plants and put them in our planter box - all this gardening is aimed at growing things we can eat instead of decorative plants.
Since making the list, I have also sketched out Robin's renovation plans and emailed them to him. (see below)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I am very pleased with my time spent in Penang - busy the whole three days that I was there. 

I traveled there with Alfred, Sofia and Eng Hooi - we arrived at noon on Friday just in time to collect our Penang Bridge Marathon race packs, and eat a ChaKuehTiaw lunch at Lorong Selamat before heading to my first task. 

WORK - site meeting to resolve construction issues for the Ramp House, a three-storey house designed as a series of landings connected by ramps and in between these landings is an urban forest designed by Pe Yang. The photo shows the first ramp which is in concrete, the rest will be built in steel and clad in timber.

arrival ramp from entry to dining room
SHARE - on Saturday morning, after a quick hotel breakfast with Alfred and Eng Hooi, I headed to the PAM (Malaysian Architect's Institute) Centre to give a talk titled "do what you like", sharing my thoughts about the sustainability of our profession, doing 'bread and butter' work to support our design 'explorations' which sustain our creative interest and therefore the lifespan of our practice. I also talked about the importance and my enjoyment of working with and nurturing architecture students. Despite the potential seriousness of these issues, you can probably guess from the title that there were many light-hearted moments in my presentation.

I told them the story of the ramp house

It is always enjoyable to give talks in Penang, the venue is intimate and people are genuine and inquisitive. They always take me out for a nice lunch, with good company.

after the talk, I chatted with Ar. Jong, Datin Teng and Ar. Boey
RUN - at 3:30 a.m. Sunday I started my fourth Penang Bridge Half Marathon. It would have been a nice birthday present (the next day) if I had better-ed my personal best of 2:29. But I didn't, and to quote dear Sara after her Additional Math paper, - "it's in the past, I don't want to talk about it".

Penang International Bridge Marathon - I did the Half

For the rest of Sunday, we were 'gallivanting gourmets' Alfred, Eng Hooi, Frances, Larry and I strolled from cultural spot to food destination; sampling history and folklore with chendol and curry noodles (more in upcoming post).

FLY - We took off from Penang at 7:10 a.m. on Monday - I left my sketch book in my luggage which explains why these two sketches are done on the AirAsia barf bags.
Early flight home with fishballs from Ah Chiat, my favourite cab driver in Penang

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Sister Flora wanted a garden shed for the Home Of Peace (HOPE) - so my students and I devised this steel structure for the elderly folks who live there.

11 a.m.

11:30 a.m.
12:00 noon.
Lunch time

1:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m.

3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Patsy from the LoV Gallery wanted the Urban Sketchers Kuching to submit our sketches for her exhibition on 'artists' in Kuching. Reluctant to cut out my sketches I promised her some new originals instead. AS usual, I ran out of time - between work and teaching, running and gardening, spending time with family and playing with my cats, so I decided to combine two of my hobbies. I fold a piece of A3 into my running pouch and bring my Artline pen before I head out for my morning run and while waiting for Sam to meet me for breakfast, I finish a quick sketch of my surroundings.

This might be the beginning of a new routine, there is an efficiency that I dearly need in my life.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


From the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, we move to Sarawak Museum where we are designing a gallery to exhibit the life and work of Alfred Russell Wallace whose theories about evolution pre-date Darwin's.The 'site' is in one wing of the Sarawak Museum and this temporary gallery would last 2-3 years targeted at the general public especially children.
We were interested to explore a different way of exhibiting the artifacts while keeping in view the educational intent, flexibility and cost effectiveness.

We thought to create a series of rooms using his 'moth-nets' as a homage to the man and also to prolong the journey through the relatively small space. The displays will be then printed or mounted on the 'walls' which can be actual fabric or some form of semi-rigid translucent panels.

We will design some new furniture and props to complement the existing cabinets - one of the ideas was to re-create Wallace's jungle room where the moth-nets were used. Wallace's moth-nets were essentially three bedsheets hung like a three sided room with a hurricane lamp in the middle to attract insects which, we then collected

section of the gallery

the 'walls' hover above the ground and sway gently when people walk by

view of the gallery entrance

We made a 1:50 scale cardboard model to convince the client as our scheme was 'not even close to the original brief' and thankfully it worked and our ideas were accepted.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Courtyard of the Pinecone

Following on from the last post about Sean and Rome, this sketch reminds me of the hot hot day when we decided to visit the Vatican Museum to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


This was our 'home' in Rome - four of us in one large room with a balcony. It is not St. Regis but we were happy to be in Rome and I was happy that my children still travel with me; part of our family 'tradition'.
Recently, I bunked in with Sean before our race, I sat on his sofa and watched him getting my bed ready, doing his laundry and cooking pasta sauce and was reminded that he is 'all grown up' and studying / living away from home.  Not the 'chubby chickadee' anymore, he is his own man and still has time for his old man. Good to know.
Sean at work in Rome
Two dudes at Bawa's Seema Malaka Temple in Colombo 2007

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My 'rides'

People around me have been buying cars; two of my business partners, two of my running friends - every time someone I know buys a new car, I buy myself a new pair of running shoes. Last month, my brother-in-law bought himself an Audi, I thought about going out to get a pair of Adidas...but I didn't, their running shoes are rubbish.

Mine are cheaper alternatives to cars and better for the environment, and they give me so much freedom and joy. Freedom when I run alone in the morning before the workday starts, sometimes across the river on 'Robyn's River Run' and taking the 'sampan-tambang' back to town for breakfast with Sam. One hour by myself with my favourite music.
Joy when I run with my friends or use it as an excuse to travel and run, as I did on two weekends this month - with Sara at the KL half marathon and Sean at the King of the Road (ten miles).

Larry joined Sara and I in KL
Sean appears not as willing as Sara but deep inside he enjoys doing stuff with his dad.
This photo is priceless for the guy's expression.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Design Workshop in Sibu

Last week, Chai Si Yong, Ivy, Siew Ling, Felix and I conducted a one-day architectural design workshop at Kolej Laila Taib (KLT) in Sibu with 100 students taking part. They were given a design brief to ‘stretch the envelope’ of the typical terrace house to come up with ideas for a new housing prototype in Sarawak. The students were divided into groups of ten students from the various academic years to come up with solutions in 24 hours.

Here are some of my notes taken during the workshop;

'cut and fill' house

open sided house

the cage

The workshop received support from the college's course leader, Mr Allen Lipan who regards this as a rare opportunity for his students to broaden their design thinking. These workshops are part of PAMSC's mandate to encourage fellow architects to play a greater role in mentoring Sarawakian architecture architects.

The winning team gets to attend the PAMSC Design Forum in Kuching next year; all expenses paid, not bad for a day's work.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Stolen Afternoon

There was a time when a stolen afternoon meant something entirely different for Sam and I, but the thrill of mischief is similar. One recent afternoon, we found ourselves bored with what we were doing, I was drawing alternative layouts of a bathroom and she was preparing dinner. We decided to drop everything and sneak off for a coffee at my favourite part of town.

black bean coffee and tea company

Carpenter Street was quiet at three o'clock in the afternoon. The coffee wasn't especially good and neither was the pastry but we were grateful for the freedom to leave work behind and pretend we were on holiday for a while. Not talking yet glad of each other's company.

kim joo noodle shop - an institution for some
and across the road; bike shops and tea merchants

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kuching to Damai - 5th edition

What started four year ago as a personal challenge for Eng Hooi has become a running event; on each New Year's Day he would try to run from his house in Kuching to Damai Beach - a distance of 33Km.
On the first attempt, his run ended at the Santubong Bridge (25Km). I joined him on the second year and we stopped at the bridge again; too tired to carry on. On the third year, we ran in heavy rain and took a wrong turn ending up back in Kuching.

Last year, 7 of us joined Eng Hooi on Labour Day and arrived at Damai Beach Resort. This National Day, 70 of us joined him - some starting at the Kuching Amphitheatre at 3:30 a.m. working their way to Damai, where we were joined by the rest at the Santubong Bridge for the last 14 km.
The 'RUN FREE' group of runners after completing their Kuching to Damai run
 This event was organised almost on the spur of the moment - it took three weeks to register runners, print tee-shirts and finalise logistics - done through word of mouth and social media. There were no prizes awarded and no medals given; only drinking water and words of encouragement were offered during the run.

 In conjunction to Malaysia's National Day 31st August, the words 'RUN FREE' was printed on the tee shirts - not only to recall our freedom from colonial rule but perhaps as a call to free ourselves from personal prejudices and differences and be united by the love of running (and one's country)

scenic views were temporarily ignored as runners struggle to complete the run
Nick (12, with cap) and Kieran (10) were amongst the youngest runners that day