Balanced for better in the Architecture and Construction Industry
Published: March 25, 2019

Juliet Huang | Interviews | 25 March, 2019

    Balanced for better in the Architecture and Construction Industry

    In light of International Women’s Day in March, we interview Ms May Chan, Director at DP Architects. This year’s theme for IWD is Balanced for Better, focusing on building a gender-balanced world. As a leading architect, Ms Chan is an inspiring role model, and we are honoured to share her thoughts here on her career, gender equality, as well as the architecture and construction industry.

    May Chan is a Director at DP Architects. She has been spearheading DP Architects’ growth in the Middle East since 2003, with more than a decade of experience and tenure in Dubai working on many Retail, Residential, Hospitality, Office and Master Planning projects within Dubai and the wider Middle East region.

    May’s current portfolio in the Middle East encompasses managing and representing DPA in the Middle East and overseeing the Dubai Branch Office, which she played a key role in setting up in 2005. (Adapted from DP Architects’ website)


    Q. What would you consider to be the highlight of your career?

    May Chan: The highlight would have to be The Dubai Mall Project. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work on such a large, iconic shopping Mall in the context of Dubai during the years of its massive real estate growth. Being involved in the design from the inception in Singapore, and on site when the project moved to site in Dubai, and including some time spent as part of the Client’s private office post mall opening, were all exciting times as the project was pushing the forefront of Retail Architecture at that point in time. Till this day, I am still dedicated to Dubai and Middle East Projects, and I believe being involved in The Dubai Mall project is the main reason for this.


    The Dubai Mall. Image © DP Architects.

    The Dubai Mall. Image © DP Architects.


    Q. What would you consider to be your most challenging project to date?

    May Chan: It would have to be The Dubai Mall as it encompassed building the largest Mall in the world at that time. Furthermore, The Dubai Mall was in the midst of one of the biggest, if not the biggest construction boom at that time. Defining how it was going to be the largest iconic shopping destination in the world was something that we had to work closely with the client, Emaar Properties PJSC and in particular their Chairman Mohamed Ali Alabbar, to create.

    And I think whatever we did, we must have gotten it right. Over the last four years, The Dubai Mall has been cited as the most visited mall in the world, seeing 80 million visitors annually.


    Q. How has the industry changed since you started your career?

    May Chan: When I finished school and started work, Architecture was about good, well-designed buildings and spaces that we all come to experience and know. Currently, all these norms are being challenged. The changing landscape of what people want for the spaces means that design and design approaches must shed its conventional shell. The developments on the Internet affect how these buildings function. For example, the changing face of Retail directly affects and makes Architects question what kind of Retail Buildings we really need now and in the future? New building typologies and redefinition of building typologies such as data centres, hospitality-styled hospitals and residential developments with much enhanced social spaces are some examples.


    Doha Festival City. Image © Marc Tey & DP Architects.

    Doha Festival City. Image © Marc Tey & DP Architects.


    Q. As a female architect, do you feel that women have made good progress in taking on bigger roles in the field of architecture?

    May Chan: Yes, and I think women have been taking on bigger roles in all industries – not just Architecture. And this is representative of the changing times. In the construction industry, which is traditionally male dominated, the low number of women compared to men is more glaring. However, over the years, there are now more female architects and engineers in meetings and on site. There are also more women in leadership positions in the industry. I would hope that in the near future, the conversations would not be centred around women architects; but on whether the person is a good architect who can be recognised for his/her works.


    Q. In that light, how would you advise young architects who are trying to manage their personal lives and careers simultaneously?

    May Chan: If this question is in relation to the one before this, then it would be meant for young women architects. Either way, Architecture is a very consuming profession. Most of the times you are either all in or out. There will always be another project after the one you are working on but your personal life is a linear progression. So I would say that proper overall planning on how you would see yourself in the next 5 and 10 years, plus intermediate stock take at the right moments where project milestones are versus your personal life, would be a good way to manage both simultaneously.


    May Chan, Director DP Architects. Image © DP Architects.

    May Chan, Director DP Architects. Image © DP Architects.


    Q. What is your personal vision for DP Architects in the next 5 years?

    May Chan: Over the last few years, DPA has been refining our various focus from design to office management so as to achieve Design Excellence and better service to our clients. In the next 5 years, I would hope to see this all being done at a higher level, making DP Architects even more successful on all fronts. 



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