On today's episode.
Yeah, that's right. And you do tend to adopt this this mindset of kind of like always learn from every process that you go through. So nothing is wasted. Nothing is seen like, Oh, this is this is a failure because at every step of the way you're, you're improving you're you're making little tweaks here and there, you're putting together something that maybe can work a little bit better than next time you try it out.
You're At Home, with Stacked.
Hey, welcome back to another episode of at home with Stacked. Now, have you ever wondered what architects in Singapore actually, do? You see, joining me today is the very lovely Jacqueline Yeo from Ply Studio Architects. Now she has been in the industry for over 15 years now. And currently a company with a partner, Mr. Victor Lee. Together, they've worked on many projects both abroad and locally, including some of the more famous ones like the recent Waterway Point and Changi Hotel. At today's show, we discuss the value that architects can bring to our homes, and perhaps more importantly, we learned it doesn't have to cost us all that much. Along the way, Jacqueline also shares some very interesting insights on her line of work, as well as tips at homeowners like you and me can adopt when approaching architects for the very first time. Now remember, if you like what you listen to, you can always hop on to stackedhomes.com/editorial for more us right after the show.
Jacqueline, welcome to the show.
Hi. Hi, Reuben.
Hello. How was your week like?
Mine was spent mostly adjusting back to coming into the office. I think the last time we spoke, we were still working at home. Now we're trying to adjust slowly back to working in the office. It's been a very nice time working from home. So it's a little bit of adjustment coming back into the office. And actually it's it's fantastic because my office is like a street away from my pottery studio. So that's that's, that's the nicest part about working from the office, it's like my little silver lining and my cloud.
Is it something that you've always been to, Pottery?
I have I have. So I started doing ceramics maybe when I was about 13-14. And it was at, on and off. I really got into Pottery. Just before I had my first, first child. So that was quite a number of years ago now. And then I stopped for a period of time. But when I started my office again, it so happened a street away was a pottery studio. So I was I thought, Oh, that's amazing. It's like, it's fated that I have to get back into pottery. So about three years ago, I went back into it again and nice. It's it's really been quite consistent throughout the whole time. Because proximity wise, it's so near me. And it's also a very nice way to distress get away from work, work and do something that is purely about making with your hands. So that's that's really nice. Yeah,
Sure. I mean, in a way, it's kind of like architecture. I mean, nowadays, architecture is about building, getting your design process together. And Pottery is kind of assemblance of that, doesn't it get very similar at some point?
Yeah, you're right. There's a lot of things which are quite similar in certain aspects. There's that whole uncertainty about what's the actual product going to be at the end of the day, even though you could have planned and designed for it, right. But because it goes into this natural firing process in the oven, and different, like the glazes work differently under different kinds of temperatures. So you are never like hundred percent sure that what you have thought about, like the vision that you had for that piece of artwork would have eventually really turned out to be exactly like what you plan for it to be.
Right. So it's basically a few external factors that in a way you don't really have control of yet and the interesting thing is that you can troubleshoot because once you get the guy out of the oven, his baked is finished. So you do gotta roll with what you have.
Yeah, that's right. And you do tend to adopt this, this mindset of Kinda like always learn from every process that you go through. So nothing is wasted, nothing is seen like, Oh, this is this is a failure because at every step of the way, you're, you're improving, you're you're making little tweaks here and there, you're putting together something that maybe can work a little bit better than next time you try it out.
So right, you're basically building experiences. In the future.
You do? Yes, definitely.
So what, Okay, tell us a little bit more of what is architecture based on the Singaporean scene, I think
in, in a lot of ways, architects are the people who have been trained to look at spaces in a certain way to look at how spaces relate to each other. So whether you're talking about a home, or you're talking about school, or any other sort of building, we have been, we add we are trained to, to look at them, and to be able to give a very objective sort of reaction or vision to tie all the spaces that you think you require, into a holistic bill form. So so in laymen terms, it's a little bit like if you go to how do I put that in more layman term...
So in a way, it's kind of like, interior design. But before it even becomes interior design, does that make sense?
Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. Interior Design is really about the interior spaces. So you already have a shell to work with, right? You already have, let's say, where you're where your living rooms are, where your your wet areas are, where your dry areas are, where your external areas are an Indian internal areas are, for example, right. But maybe there are possibilities within your your property that would allow you to relook at the definition of these areas. So maybe your bathroom does not need to be in that particular location, or your kitchen doesn't need to be in that particular location. So what we do is we look at it as a holistic set of relationship spaces that have a relationship to each other. And we try to talk with the clients, we always feel that it is a collaborative exercise between us and and what the clients require. So so they will come to us, we will have a number of conversations, and we will then look at what they need, before we do any sort of recommendation to them.
Sure. And this is mostly for landed property, I'm assuming,
yes, mostly for land or property. So but of course, we also do look at interior spaces. I think the the value add to a lender property is definitely a lot more if you if you come to us for any advice, obviously, with a lender property, there's a lot more variables that can happen. So so if you were to, let's say, do an AMA or to do a new build, then you can really relook at all these spatial relationships that I talked about.
Sure. Have you ever worked with condos for example,
actually, to be when we first started out, it was quite an interesting exercise for us. We started with, quite interestingly, on some of the really, really small condominium apartments, which, which, which became an exercise in redefining what an interior space has to be like. So the one of the things that we talk to our clients about and a lot of our clients wanted, in the in the solutions became something that I think is not something that they would have thought about, if they were to, to look at their Saida condominium floor plans, for example, and say, Okay, this is this is the best solution for for my living for my lived like day to day living, right. So, so what we did was we started to look at the interiors almost as, as sort of an intervention that we can do that would allow them to, on some occasions modify the space that they were given with by by putting in like moveable walls. For example, in one project, we did like a movable movable box that acted as a demarcation between the study and the living room, because the study wasn't used all the time. So the living room could actually be expanded, and that that became almost like a system for reorganising the whole space of that interior, for example, so that that was quite interesting series of projects that we we were, we did. First, yeah. When we first looked at interior spaces.
And what is one thing or other? What What do you think is the most important qualities? Since we're on the topic of spaces, right? You met, you mentioned, the dry areas, the wet areas, based on all these spaces, what is the most important quality, or some of the most important qualities that you feel a home should have?
I think definitely being in a tropics is, is a lot of considerations of tropical environment, there's always this consideration of ventilation of the rain coming into the spaces. At the end of the day, you do want a very livable sort of interior space. And we have been quite interested to see because we have been doing a number of terrorist health projects now. And and you know, in Singapore, the terrorist house or the row house is is quite deep. And because you have solid walls on both sides of your of your land, you almost don't have any light coming in at all. So it was true discussion with the clients how we can inject light into the space and inject inject spaces of ventilation into shore to these deep, deep floor plates.
Right. It's very interesting, because I have a place in in JB Malaysia. And it's exactly the same, right? I love my giant windows, I have always I think when I travel, when I'm on Airbnb, I'm always looking for places with bigger windows, because it gives you more like I mean, it gives you more, it feels more grand, right? You feel a lot more free. You don't have to go out a house to be outside of the house, if that makes sense. And evolve this home in ngbs. And it's so big. He has like five toilets and all that stuff. But Wow, the walls are so thick, right? And the windows are kind of so tiny. So like, by the time it's like evening, but I would only like 530 right even before the sunsets. The inside is already kind of dark. So you got to turn on the lights and all this stuff. And it is a little bit sad sometimes. So I definitely get-
You do need to look at it.
Well, maybe we could we can let's talk after the podcast.
Could be like a case study for Stacked.
But okay, actually, on that note, Jacqueline, I guess there's a very big question on people's minds, right. You always talk about contractors, and he talked about architect? What is the difference between architect led building versus contractor led building?
Right, it is an interesting question. I mean, well, I would like to preface it by saying that I have, we have deep respect for for, for contractors. I mean, we we work a lot with the contractors, and we really respect them on their knowledge of building. And I believe that to make any successful building work, you need a very good contractor on board. So I'm not saying that all contractor led projects are not desirable. And also come on the other disclaimer. Yeah.
So we don't get any backlash right?
Exactly. So on the flip side, not all architect led-buildings are also very. Good. So it's the two sides of the coin. Right. But I think what people don't quite understand is there is a difference in emphasis. So I think for for contractors, it's always very, very much dollar. Like, I guess, how much things cost? And how much is it going to cost you how much it's going to set you back in terms of time in terms of budget, whereas for the architecture firm, it's always about how do I add the most value to what you have given me as your as your base right to work with. So whether you want to do a new build building or more like an addition alteration sort of project. I think our first our most initial kind of engagement with the client is always how do we value add to what you have given us a so called your problem or your or your first piece of first cut to what you want to do, right? So I think the approach is very different. Definitely. So so that's one of the main differences between an a contractor lead and an architect led,
So it's, sorry. So it's more of like, in a way more personalised with architects is that when
I would say, more more to words, the ambition of the project is, is not to, to build the the biggest building with the cheapest budget, I guess bridges kind of where most people who just go directly to a contractor will be will be. I think that's the mindset of most people that approaches a contractor where as the mindset of someone who approaches an architect would want to hear first to see, like, say, what's the value that that I can add on to my property?
You get more finesse and function? I would say with architects.
Yeah. Yeah, maybe I think you'll get a more well taught to enterprise product. Because at the end of the day, yeah, if it is just left to contractors, then it would be more of like what you said previously, right? It was very unit based. So if it's about a window, then it's just about a window, or if it's just about a roof extension, and it's just about a roof. Whereas I think for for architects because they look at space as a totality, then it's about what kind of space are you adding on to your flat door? Or no to your house? or? Yeah.
Right. So because I mean, they are they you think about if especially for homeowners, right, and I mean, if even investors who are renting out their units to tenants, this is the place that you're going to be staying in. So you want to enjoy the space that you're in. Right, I have seen units, which have been just put together for the sake of being put together. And then I've seen units that have been put together, you know, like really well.
And yeah, and a lot of times they don't actually cost very much difference. That's the frustrating thing about it for
What are the fees like actually, if we're gonna be talking about fees, what what are they like, in general?
You mean for for professional team for a professional to look at a project?
Yeah. Architecture wise.
Okay, so I would always say that it is not, it's within the range of maybe five to 10%, depending on the scope of the works and the extent of the works. And whether or not it is that there are also different types of homes landed home. So there's, there's the NA, there is the new build, there's also conservation, there are various different types of involvement of the have the professional team for each of this project. So obviously, the the percentages increase or decrease according to the complexity of the project. But it just is a Bowl this year is roughly around there, which is like how much you pay for GST, right? Because GST is like 7%. Now, I think, yes, they haven't increased? Yes, is around 7%. Right. So. So I mean, people do, maybe they don't know how much an architect will cost or they feel that it's always their project is too small or too insignificant. But I sometimes do feel like there's so many wasted opportunities, because because there's there's so much that can be done. And yet when when they don't, they're not exposed to what can be done, it becomes more of a stop get kind of solution. We
Makes sense. Just to just to kind of recap when you said five to 10% earlier, just for the benefit of our listeners, yeah, five to 10% of the entire-
Construction costs, so not land costs, equals construction costs. Yes
I see. Wonderful. Okay. Well, you've been working in this line for many years. Yes. Is that okay? Well, you've been in line for a couple of years now. What do you think is the biggest challenge for your clients and yourself like when they first come to you?
Right. I think getting to speak a common language is is more of a I would call it a challenge. But I would think that it would be it would be something that that one would need to prep, prep the the conversations or the the kind of medium of engagement, if you will, because I think a lot of times when we talk about very technical drawings and very technical requirements. I think for most clients, they find it too, too foreign to what they can understand. So we do need to To work quite hard at trying to make some middle ground of understanding, so that so that they know exactly what the question is, and how they can input their comments or their even like what they really, really want. So to teaser and to seek out all these requirements takes quite a number of meetings takes quite a number of two and froing. And I think through through the years of experience, we have come to realise that certain things are quite easy for the client to understand and therefore to make a decision on. And then there are also things which are quite difficult to, to to take apart, especially when you work with multi generational families, for example. So you kind of become both a psychologist as well as the architects because you need to also manage expectations between family members of each other, as well as the eventual outcome of what it's going to be because maybe maybe one of one of the people, one of their aims is to do certain things, but maybe it's not something that is shared across everybody. It's not what everybody wants. So how do you then manage that expectation is also so it calls on a lot of people skills really? On top of you...
You kind of become, an intermediary of sorts?
You do. Yes, you do. You do. And and you have to be quite neutral, because you don't really want to, to get involved in that part.
Yeah, that's the last thing you want. I mean, they are the family stays as family. Yeah. demons, they decide that you come in as an external party to help them and you have to stay neutral in that sense. So in essence, the onus kind lies on you, right? Because most people who come I'm assuming that not everyone who comes to you is an architecture expert. In fact, very few of them are. So the onus on the onus lies on you to ask the questions. What is one common question that you normally kick start the conversation off with?
And I always, I always ask them, What do you like to do? in your house, when you are at home? Over the weekend, or when you come home from from work? What's your day to day take? space that you go through when you're in your house, for example. So different? Usually, it's a family. So usually we try to engage everyone in the family to understand both kind of day to day, normal, everyday happening situation, and also maybe on special occasions. What do they like to do today? They like somebody that who likes to entertain a lot? Are they someone who doesn't like to entertain a lot and would prefer many, many small corners where they can just do their own thing most of the time? Just kind of hide away like a little Yes.
When your wife gets angry, like okay, this is my space.
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Being a listener helps, right? Yeah.
Actually, on that note, right. So in a way, when you kind of ask them what they do on a daily basis, you are innocence, also kind of categorising that lifestyle, right. So so some of us I feel, personally, which is go and live our lives, because everything is so hectic. Sometimes we work with the kids, relationships, to handle all those things, and you don't really give thought to what you really do in a day in a typical day. And by asking them, what are you what do you actually do, then they have to think about it and true that they can even make some positive change.
Yeah, yeah, I think that would be the best thing that would be a result in perhaps even how they they might structure their lives based on the new layout or a new way of spending time more time at certain parts of their home, maybe it will give rise to different activities taking place more often. Maybe they would have more enjoyment of the outdoors, for example, or more enjoyment of certain parts of of the house if if it was planned in a certain way that it's a space that they can get get to very easily and very often. So yeah, me to kind of like break out of it more. Because I feel that if you're going if you're in the same house for so many, so many so many years, you develop certain habits. And one of the biggest way to kind of break those habits, whether good or bad is to change the space. Right and especially in Singapore because we're always controlled finding those four walls. Yes. So there's very, very interesting, I guess, to bring awareness. And to that is, especially with the whole work from home and study from home. So the whole house has to be almost reconfigured all over again, because of spaces that you didn't usually use at every time of the day comes to the forefront. So it's quite interesting for me, actually, because now I know exactly where the greasiest corner of my house is, where the sunniest part of my house is, so I can avoid sitting there at certain times of the day. And just things like that, because you don't usually spend a lot of time let's say, in a particular part of your house at that point of time, because you're at the office, right? So. So it's very nice to have that very intimate relationship with the spaces that you occupy in the house. And of course, you have to carve out your own space, because there's so many people living in the house and you want to have your own space sometimes when nobody can leave the house, for example.
Right. So just to kind of go back a little bit, yeah. What are some things then that maybe any future clients that are coming to you listeners who are listening in? What questions, what should they prepare, before coming out to you, or maybe even speaking to other architects,
I think they will be good if they have an idea in their minds about how they want to see themselves, utilising the space that they have, they have purchased, what is the most important space. So sometimes we do, we do go through with clients on for example, budget versus like, what your intention or your wish list is, right. So if their wish list is something that, for example, cannot be done with, with all, well, the budget and limited budget that they have, then you do need to be quite, quite clever about what you actually spend your money on. And then you can have certain things that can be done first, and then maybe at a later stage, you can do the rest of your things When, when, like the budget is possible. It's sure, yeah, when you have the budget to do so. So to have a wish list, but be able to prioritise your wish list according to what you feel is most critical to how you want the space to to be for your, for your, for your needs at the moment. Because I think a lot of times, yeah, a lot of times people tend to want everything. And like they will be they will usually come in and they'll say like, oh, but maybe in five years down the road, I will need to have this this distance. And maybe when 10 years down the road, I would not be able to climb the stairs. So maybe I would need to have a lift and things like that. So. So yeah, I mean, those are all the wishlist items that they might want to have. But they also need to have a priority list where you need to have like, maybe this is the most important few components that I really, really want to enjoy. In like, the immediate, like five years down the road.
Sure. And actually, you mentioned that part about like 10 years on the road, I might not want to be climbing the stairs, for example, what is one extremely important thing that homeowners who are coming to you or architects should not about, like for the future to prepare for that,
I think, to me being being sustainable, but not sustainable in I put a lot of green walls in our look at timber construction and things like that, but sustainable in the fact that you are able to have a very robust framework of like the skeleton of of how you want to structure your, your main spaces, and then from then on to build up different things that can happen. So in a way you build up like a skeleton framework of how you would want the most important space
Like a foundation, right?
Yes, yes, that's right. And then as time changes as maybe your life changes, the people in your family grow or shrink, you can you can start looking at other spaces in different ways or they can change according to how you your life pans out. Right.
Very nice. So basically, don't don't pain everything at once in the sleep like keep some spaces open over there. paint some stuff, but make sure that they are in simple colours first and then yeah, exactly. You add a little bit more over the Okay, so you have done so many projects. I was just looking at a website the other day. Yeah. And I see that you've actually worked. You have to design what we point What was that?
Waterway Point, we were the interior, interior designers for the mall
Very nice, lovely because I actually have a place right next to the waterway point. And I remember when it first came up, it was so there was so many people like, on the ferry flip it was just like you couldn't move like Yeah, no, it was in today's climate where you have like the coven anyway, they would never have happened, right? It was so jam packed years ago.
Yeah, that's right. Yeah, we were we were actually talking to our photographer, it was almost impossible for him to get proper photographs of that space. Because because there was always people there. And then you can't really photograph the space properly when it's so crowded. So yes.
And you know, it's so big as well. So if I remember the first time we went there, there was like the entire east wing. And then there was the West Wing, and then you have a bubble tea downstairs. Yes, right open-air Kopitiam upstairs. And it was really, I really like the interior. Personally, I'm not big on Moore's, but that was really well designed. And, you know, based on that, I am sure that you've had many memorable moments. So you mentioned the photographer, for example, gonna get a shot, can you shave is one of the more hot pulling, like, you know, stories over the years.
So we did a project in Batam some time ago. It's for an Indonesian and Singaporean collaboration is a film studio. But it was a very humble building, it was a old clubhouse golf clubhouse that was derelict. And we read it the we took on the existing skeleton and the roof that was left behind. But we redid the entire interiors, plus us floor slabs and new walls. And we kind of reinterpreted the whole, like Indonesian vernacular of like the zinc, zinc walls, you know, the very, very casual, very zinc walls, and also even use many, many of the local materials like the lava stone from from that part of Indonesia, for example.
So at the end of the day, it was also a very kind of men made in a way building, it was a very crafted building, because even though it was an it was an island, and it was very difficult to get materials that were manufactured to the island, because it costs actually a lot more to import materials than it was to hand make them on site itself. Wow. So what's interesting was, we devised a way to build everything. So it's like pre fabrication, like the super high tech, pre fabrication, but this was pre fabricated by craftsmen on site. So it wasn't done by machinery was done by a few craftsmen. And they work very, very diligently do all the casting on site with the formwork and everything. And there was such a level of pride in what they do that every time we went for a site meeting, they were always very keen to show us. They don't even do because we will always ask for mock ups and usually mock ups are done in a smaller scale.
So they will do like half the size of what is the normal speed or size that you need it to be right. But because of the time that they have there, and also the commitment level, this particular group of contractors, they actually cast everything real scale, and they were mounted up and then they were assessed. Okay, are you okay with it? Or are you not okay with it? If you're not okay with it, we can try again. And then we can show you next week or the next time you come to site. What we really want to do so, so to and fro across the course of maybe about six to eight months, when the building was finally completed. I think the most heartwarming site was all the contractors and all the workers were just looking at the building and they were quite, I mean, they were they looked like they were they were really, really proud of what they have achieved at the end of the day. So I think that was that was a really really nice relationship that we had with with those people who build the build that particular project. So that quite memorable.
Definitely a very eye opening experience. Do you chip in with any of your pottery master class?
No, unfortunately not.
That's a wonderful story. Thank you, Jacqueline. for that. Well, let's zoom out over zoom in a little bit. On the current climate, right, the COVID-19 situation, what are some of the bigger issues that you feel that this has caused your industry?
I think definitely the construction industry has been very curtailed because of the whole the odometry cases are extremely high and, and a lot of sites are virtually not moving, because it's impossible to have anybody coming in or going out, or actually coming to work on the construction site. So a lot of the works that we have been doing are at a standstill now. And I think what it really, really highlights is the this reliance on not just on construction workers, but I think also a reliance on a very global supply chain. So I'm not sure if you, if you I'm sure you know, because you're building your house and JP, right?
Sure. There's strike. Okay, but there's so many, there's this almost very, very strong reliance on things from all over the world. So. So like the, like the marble could be from China, electrical appliances, could be from Germany, the window systems could be from Malaysia, the laminates that are used to do the carpentry work could be from Vietnam, or Thailand. And and when the whole COVID thing happens, basically, everything just stood still like nobody could get anything from anywhere. And and sometimes it makes you wonder like, for, for the button project, like what I mentioned previously, it was a conscious attempt not to have anything important because it was just so expensive to get everything important. So there was this reliance really on like local materials, local resources, right. I always wonder, like, if it's possible, even at this day and age to to be more aware and more conscious about where things come from, and maybe that that will make people more conscious and more prudent about what we want, instead of always going for the cheapest, cheapest source, I guess, which is? Yeah, which is what's happening now. That's why we have this huge reliance on foreign labour as well.
Kind of like the bottom dollar that over reliance on the bottom dollar.
Yes, it is. And, and I think it's going there. I mean, it's going in the right direction, there are definitely pursuits to some more different ways of working different ways of manufacturing different ways of building, which we are also very interested in looking at pushing the boundaries of how we can actually make these more industrialised or less labour intensive projects. Be be something that could be more to be seen as more of the norm in future. So...
Very nice. Oh, that is really lovely. Thank you again, Jacqueline. This has been a wonderful, a wonderful episode. before we let you go, can you let our listeners know? Can you even tell me? Where can we go to view your work or maybe even to learn more about Ply Studio Architects.
Yes you can go to my website, it's www.ply-studio.com. That's where we have our works being shown as well as we also have some blog posts, which are more to do with things that interest us. And also your thoughts about things that are in progress works, which maybe sometimes doesn't get to be built because it's either competition work or something happened along the way.
And it's very important because some of the best ideas actually go into that. So not to miss those things. So once again, thank you, Jacqueline, for your time. Back on the show in the near future.
Thank you so much.
Once again, this has been an episode with the very lovely Jacqueline Yeo from Ply Studio architects. If you're interested in reading more quality real estate content online, you can hop on to stackhomes.com/editorial. As always, if you have questions, comments or suggestions, feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once again. Thank you for joining me today. My name is Reuben Dahnaraj and I'll see you the next podcast.