Great Women of Our Time Awards

Design & Style Nominee 2016: Tan Pei Ing

She's dubbed as the "Iron Lady of Architecture" for a reason!

By The Weekly | August 17, 2016

Tan Pei Ing 56, Founder, PI Architect

One of the first women to set up her own architectural firm in 1984, Tan Pei Ing had to face acute gender discrimination in the heavily male-dominated industry.

But growing up in a poor family made her a fighter. “A tough life builds up your strength and resilience,” says Pei Ing. When she was treated rudely by prefects because of her poor English, she told them: “You do not deserve to be prefects because you do not have respect for others.”

From having to work two jobs because she could not secure enough projects for the firm, she built PI Architect into one of Malaysia’s most successful design firms in Malaysia, admired for award-winning buildings that have shaped the country’s skyline such as IOI Mall, IOI Business Park and the FIABCI-award-winning Marriott Hotel.

But far more than just a “starchitect”, Pei Ing’s achievements redefined what was possible for a woman in a male-dominated industry. As the first and only female President of the Malaysian Institute of Architects in 90 years, her fearless positions about gender discrimination and socially responsible architecture earned her the nickname “Iron Lady of Architecture”.

Her input has impacted public policies and legal provisions to protect public interest and improve construction, including provisions for access for the disabled in public buildings and a forum providing free service to members of the public who encounter housing problems.

Regionally, as the first female President of Architects Regional Council Asia (ARCASIA), she was instrumental in formulating a charter to promote responsible architecture in Asia.

The overlap between social responsibility and architecture remains central to her practice.

“I do not believe in blindly copying styles and trends. The first principle of design is that it must relate to the context of our environment. What
we do as architects has tremendous long-lasting impact. Our responsibility is forever.”

Text: Alexandra Wong /Shoot Coordinator: Jasnitha Nair / Styling: Sabrina Salehuddin / Photography: Brian Fang/ M8 Studio / Hair: Cindy Hor / Make Up: Zoee Low / Elizabeth Arden / Clothes Accessories: Zara and Bowerhaus

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