From Architect To Actress

If you have ever been to Singapore or the region, or if you have ever lived in Singapore, you will most definitely have stepped inside a building designed by #DPArchitects #DPA …#bugisjunction #parkviewsquare #sunteccity #esplanadetheatres #goldenmilecomplex #marinacentre just to name a few…

Being an #architect is like being initiated into a very special fraternity of people who made dreaming a career. People who dreamt of creating a better world, and who had the tenacity to make it happen (or, who at least try their best to do so). It was this desire to do something good and important, to create architecture and spaces that would benefit society and enrich lives that drew me to the profession in the first place. The old guards like #taykhengsoon #williamlim who were opinionated and who challenged our thinking inspired me. And, few people knew this, but I was lucky enough to have experienced life as an architect, albeit for too short a time at DP Architects.

I remember the day when I sat in Mr Chan Sui Him’s office 20 years ago, almost in tears, when I decided that I wanted to pursue acting. He might not have known it at the time, but, it was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make in my life. I still remember that day vividly. I was shaking with nervousness, my stomach tied in a knot. I could almost feel his disappointment, even as he wished me well, supportive of my decision regardless. DP had become like my family. I had spent practically all my waking hours either at the office or traveling to the office. I had made so many friends who were like family to me… who were so kind, loving and nurturing towards me, who supported me, kept late nights with me, went on smoking breaks with me (I don’t smoke anymore), and who guided me and showed me the way to become a better architect each day by their examples.

A chance meeting with #DPACEO #AngeleneChan recently scored me an invitation to their #50thAnniversary #celebration which I was very pleased to accept. (I am so proud to see that DP, one of Singapore’s most important architectural firms has a #femaleCEO at the top leadership position. An exceedingly capable lady at that too.) I was so impressed that after all these years, she still remembered me, even though we never worked on the same project together. A mark of a good leader, she never forgets people. There were many things which I took for granted when I was at DP, one of which was that I had never felt that I was being judged based on my gender.

She had taken a risk for the 50th Anniversary celebration, and had commissioned a musical with a cast comprising of all DPians. Again, another big tick in my books… the DP that I knew in my days had many talented people… musicians, writers, artists, dancers, singers, designers… and that she had commissioned a vehicle to let them showcase their talents, suggests to me that she is a leader who is in touch with her people, and who understands that their passion for the work is complemented by their artistic nature. (Something which I had struggled to reconcile with in my time.) I am sure that rehearsals must have taken the performers away from their work, however, she probably understood that it would actually create greater engagement for the organisation in the long run…. something that will stay in their memories and psyche for a long time to come… not just for the performers, but, also, for the whole organisation. The production was absolutely brilliant. Reminding us of the history and roots of DP, celebrating the people who built the company, its key milestones, told with so much heart and soul. Nobody was left out, and especially not Judith our receptionist who had been with the company for as long as I could remember. Kudos to #JonathanLim #IreneAng and #AdrianPang for helping to bringing its history to life.

So I found myself at the end of the evening, so happy to see many faces whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and watching the remaining people dancing on  the dance floor, and thinking of all the friendships that I had made with these people, remembering the special moments I had shared with each of them, thanking God for the opportunity to have lived life as an #architect once upon a time, and to have been blessed with the privilege to have been a part of the DPian family.


  1. Rida

    Hi Debra, awesome…
    Glad you came to our dinner and happy that it brings you lots of sweet memories.
    Wish you all the best too in your career. Take care.
    I am the country director of Indonesia anyway…(if you can remember me…:-))

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