A fire scare led award-winning Malaysian architect Teh Wan Yan to take up design

Founder and creative director of WY Studio Teh Wan Yan’s first Memories of design were related to jewelery. As a teenager, she received her first pieces of Swarovski accessories, which had a lasting impact on her idea of ​​design.

As for architecture, good Memories of time spent with her beloved grandmother and family in Penang stayed with her for many years, as she found herself drawn to the many heritage buildings in the state.

She would go on to study in Melbourne, Australia, where an unforgettable incident in the apartment where she lived became a deciding factor in her decision to take up design.

“While I was studying in the middle of the night, I heard the fire alarm go off, and at first, I thought it was a false alarm triggered again by other Tenants, however, it turned out there was a real fire,” she recalls.

“I immediately made my way out to the emergency staircase to find that the Escape door was pressurized and I was too petite to push it open.”

Fortunately, she was able to escape through an alternative route but that horrifying experience left a deep impression on Teh, serving as a constant reminder of the importance of good and responsible Architectural design.

These, and other experiences, led her to become the award-winning architect and designer behind the KL-based WY Studio, formerly known as Epic 8 Design.

Design has been on Teh's mind since she was a teenager.Design has been on Teh’s mind since she was a teenager.

What would you say is your signature design style?

I would prefer to call it my design direction, or my ambition … which is a sustainable design direction and approach. The design and style would form subsequently, and the main sustainable design approaches and strategies would lead and later on form the style.

What is it about your style that appeals to clients?

Despite having a difficult path in the direction of sustainable design, I find that my effort in this has helped to educate clients further and thus, build a fundamental design foundation, and I am hoping to build a more solid green Hero team in the future.

To my surprise, I’ve noticed that recently, clients are more appreciative of sustainable design approaches and strategies. That’s a good sign, but we still need more awareness of sustainable design strategies and how it improves our built environment as a whole.

In order for a significant change in climate and built environment to take place, I truly believe we need to work together to create and build a better and healthier built environment.

Every single human being plays an important role in this. It brings health benefits to us, by not neglecting nature. Nature is a new luxury.

Teh believes that good design is being responsible.Teh believes that good design is being responsible.

Where do you get design inspiration from? And how do you balance your design vision with the client’s requests?

I get inspiration from the project site, surroundings, nature, traveling, outdoor activities, each individual client (as each client has a different design brief and intent) and browsing through Arch Daily helps as well at the later stages.

My design vision forms the Ultimate foundation for the project, every design and decision revolves around it. As a result, clients have grown to value my design approach, as it ultimately benefits clients, and I sincerely thank them for that.

What is your favorite way to maximize spaces like nooks, under the stairs and hallways?

One of my key design checklists is, future-proofing spaces (of course, it applies to the entire Architectural design as well), to further enhance unused or neglected space by Transforming these into additional storage, cabinet or seating spaces.

All of these spaces have the potential to be transformed into multi-functional spaces.

One of Teh's goals is to make better use of outdoor spaces.One of Teh’s goals is to make better use of outdoor spaces.

Do you have a favorite type of space to style, and why? (Bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, etc.)

Honestly, my favorite type of space is the (project) site, the main space or function forms the architecture, which I find to be more crucial as a whole. The flow of space and the connection to nature and outdoor space is essential.

For interiors, the living hall would be one of my preferred spaces to style, as it’s a common area, and it is a space for gathering and fun activities with the family.

How did your business fare during the Pandemic and what have you learned from it? What do you feel accomplished during this period?

In these trying times, we tried our best to work with clients’ budgets, without excessive loss. This Pandemic definitely has dramatically transformed every industry, and the built environment is no exception.

It resulted in a need to revise, Rethink and improve how we design, build and incorporate into post-Covid architecture.

When it comes to interiors, Teh loves to make use of unused spaces.When it comes to interiors, Teh loves to make use of unused spaces.

The goal undeniably is to encourage us to reconnect with nature and the land and make better use of outdoor space, especially in the current new norm.

I am still far away from my goal, but I am definitely working towards that sustainable future path that I have learned and was strongly influenced by in my years at the Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne.

What was your inspiration for the design of your own home?

I have always dreamed of designing my own home in the future. In my head, it looks good and sustainable!

When I was studying, I actually participated in designing my parents ’home. At that time, my aim was to create a bright and open space.

What are some personal elements from your childhood / family / past that you have incorporated into the design of your home?

What influenced me in the design of my parent’s home was the importance of natural light. Most of my childhood years were spent in a conventional terrace house, and I found the interior space way too dark and Gloomy for me.

Thus, I’ve always made it my mission to create a bright and naturally lit interior space.


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