The Future Is Bright
Tan’s Evolving Nature envisions an interactive community platform in Pontian Kechil’s fishing village
Any forward-looking company with an interest in longevity should consider providing a platform to nurture the next generation of talents. Nippon Paint is one of those organisations with a long-term view and has been encouraging promising talents in architecture and interior design via the Asia Young Designer Award (AYDA) for the last nine years.

Since its first instalment, AYDA has seen the participation of more than 4,500 students across 15 countries in Asia including Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, and Hong Kong. For AYDA 2017, the theme is You For Tomorrow to unearth design concepts that are relevant and meaningful, as well as meet the needs of tomorrow. It aims to find ways to promote green sustainability with the well-being of the community in mind while also pushing design boundaries.

The winner of the Malaysian chapter will receive a cash prize of RM5,000 and a six-month paid internship with IJM Corporation Bhd, and the chance to compete for the Platinum Award at the regional level via the Regional Learning Programme. Apart from the prestigious recognition, the Platinum Award winner also stands to win US$1,000 (RM4279) in cash.

This year, Malaysia has also been selected as the location for the AYDA 2017 Regional Learning Programme. Gold Award winners from every participating country will have the opportunity to attend sharing sessions with renowned architects and interior designers, who will also act as mentors on their final presentations.

Tan Kwon Chong, the AYDA Platinum 2015 winner in architecture, and Chai Min Li, AYDA Platinum Award 2016 in Interior Design, share their experience being part of the competition and how it has benefitted them.

Chia’s The Common Place: Regeneration of Pudu Market aims to transform Pudu Market into a cross-cultural and inter-generational centre


Focus Life: Why did you decide to take part in AYDA? What have you learnt most from the experience?

: I decided to participate in AYDA as I saw this as an opportunity to meet and to learn from renowned architects and interior designers from around Asia. I was also convinced the competition would bring added value to my knowledge, skill, and experience as an aspiring architect.

Through the personal coaching sessions and workshops with industry captains, I’ve learned and discovered my potential and my capabilities to achieve beyond what I thought I could. But the best part about AYDA was the friendships forged. I got to know so many young architects and designers from other countries in Asia. Despite spending only a few days together, we continue to stay in touch.

: I decided to join the competition on the encouragement of my lecturer. I’m glad that I joined the competition because it has helped me develop both intellectually and emotionally as a designer. The lessons I’ve learnt will definitely be useful especially now that I’ve joined the workforce.

It was great to have industry professionals share their opinions and provide valuable feedback on my project. The process has improved both my technical and communication skills while boosting my confidence as an interior designer.

How has joining the competition impacted your perspective in your field?

Tan: The competition gave me a glimpse into the actual world of architecture. It was interesting and encouraging to see that I was able to form connections between the technicalities and the precision of what I have studied with my project submission. My understanding of the subject has become more relatable as I’ve found ways to infuse elements of that year’s competition’s theme Design with Heart: For a Sustainable Future: With People in Mind into my project. I discovered that architecture is about creating a future for the place, its people, and the environment they live in.

Chia: The competition has taught me that detailed observations and meaningful conversations with like-minded people are key to a more holistic and mindful thought process towards achieving pro-active solutions. At the same time, the opportunity to meet fellow participants and speakers from around Asia was a great opportunity to absorb knowledge and perspectives as well as forge new friendships.

Tell us more about your winning projects.

Tan: My design was birthed from the desire to create a functional and eco-friendly architecture that would benefit my community in my hometown of Pontian Kechil, Johor. My design strategy was to understand the land so that it would reflect its history. The design provided an alternative community area where both the marketplace and learning centre are integrated into one. This marketplace came with a recreational park that aimed to educate the community on sustainable living culture in a fishing village. Visitors could shop, learn, work, and play within this eco-learning market centre.

Chia: I’ve always been interested in heritage preservation and I often think about ways we can help preserve traditional spaces without losing their identities. Although Malaysia has achieved commendable economic and social progress over the years, traditional spaces have been declining or entirely eliminated, and the younger generation is losing interest in taking ownership or preserving our existing, multi-cultural heritage. Hence, this has inspired me to come up with an innovative design to transform the Pudu wet market, one of Kuala Lumpur’s landmarks, into a multi-function space that included a learning space for traditional cultures.

What are your goals and aspirations?

Tan: My goal as an architect is to further enrich the community with meaningful architecture. It has always been my dream to create buildings that respond to the natural environment and that represent Malaysia’s unique culture, identity and history.

Chia: Currently, I’m working in an architectural firm in Singapore and I’m planning to do my Masters in the next few years. My goal is to keep exploring and experimenting with new things to deliver honest and human-centric designs. It’s my heart’s desire to see my designs have a positive impact on the community, no matter how small.

AYDA 2017 is currently open for project submission from Architecture students (3rd-year diploma onwards) and Interior Design students (2nd-year diploma onwards). Deadline for submission is Oct 3, 2017. For details, visit

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 244.