Anthony: How old were you when you decided you wanted to be an architect?
Ivy: I was 18 years old. I had finished my A levels. I excelled at art, mathematics and music and didn’t know how to marry the three as I was no good at the arts or the sciences per se. I knew I had to do something technical and vocational, that was my instinct. My uncle was an architect in Melbourne, Australia and influenced my decision-making to go to Uni and study Architecture. But he discouraged me as the money was sh1t and he was in debt even though he had won awards. As I was a teenager, I did not listen to his advice and did it anyway. I have now been doing it for 23 years. I have worked in the Caribbean, Singapore, Malaysia, Sydney and London.
A: What is your favourite / least favourite part of pitching a design or idea to a client?
I: My favourite part is dressing up in extremely smart clothes (hair, makeup, everything done) and rehearsing the pitch blow by blow until it is a star performance, until it is ‘pitch perfect’. Then when you get there and do the pitch, it feels like a breeze and they like you. It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, they just have to like you and the rest will fall into place. If they don’t like you, you can forget it, you won’t stand a chance, so again, we come back to ‘it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it’. The least favourite part of a pitch is dealing with clients who ask you to bring your portfolio but they don’t even look at it because they are too busy talking about their own project, so you know they are not actually interested in you despite potentially hiring you. They keep asking tons of questions after the pitch via phone or email but you still have not got the job, no contract, they just want free advice for as long as possible and they are time wasters.
A: How does it feel to see something that used to be in your head now existing in the world?
I: A sense of belonging. Though most people say pride, I say humility. Nothing is more humbling than seeing an edifice you made/created that will outlive you. You are just a speck in the timeline of space. For a few decades that you are still physically able and mentally fit, you create, and a handful of your creations would survive for maybe even more than a few centuries.
A: What is your favourite part of your job?
I: Design, assembling sample boards, making mood boards, talking concepts, meeting clients, site inspections, coffee, alcohol, product launch parties, more alcohol, the usual perks of any job.
A: What is your least favourite part of your job?
I: Invoicing, accounts, dealing with the council, red tape, protocol, forms, surveys, fire sprinkler system layouts, escape routes, airconditioning ducting, radiator size calculations, building control, English Heritage, listed buildings, sh1t pay, there are too many to list. Architecture is the least paid of any of the building industry professions, probably three pay tiers up from the bricklayer.
A: What is the worst / most annoying tiny detail you’ve had to worry over for a job?
I: There is nothing to worry about. There are a lot of deadline based projects but again, there is nothing to worry about. Just meet the deadlines. Just don’t screw up and you will sleep well. Remember there is no bad detail, just bad design.
A: What one bit of advice would you give to other architects?
I: It’s all down to the bottom line. The client and the contract are key to great design and getting paid. Get a good contract and stick to it. Get paid. Get a feel for good clients and stay with them all the way. Stay away from the bad clients.
A: If you could design any type of building, pre-existing or not, what would it be?
I: I would like to design interconnecting studio live-work pods for a meditation, creative writing, music or art centre, over a rocky beach in an isolated dramatic place with Lavazza coffee and no wifi.
Ivy Ngeow is a practising architect and interior designer who has just written a book! It is called Heart of Glass. It is a modern literary thriller set in the 1980s in Chicago and Macau, cities famous for their architecture and design. Ivy is raising funds through crowdfunding for her book project. It is on week 5 of the campaign and 44% funded. Please support and help her (and her currently 74 supporters) make it happen! Heart of Glass is available for pre-order here.