Chatting With: Mr Yaw Seng Heng, Group Managing Director of Nippon Paint Malaysia Group, IDr Lai Siew Hong, Chief Judge, Interior Design & Ar Sarly Adre Sarkum, Chief Judge, Architectural

Mr Yaw Seng Heng, thank you for being here. The Asia Young Designer Awards (AYDA) was first launched in 2008. Over the years, AYDA has impacted thousands of young and talented student designers. Why, in your opinion, design awards like this matter?

AYDA main intent and core is to create and provide opportunities for students to showcase their talents and ideas while at the same time receiving critical feedback and personal coaching from industry leaders in the architectural and interior design industry. However, AYDA is not just a competition platform but it goes beyond that – it presents an opportunity for personal growth and development, and provided with a ‘real world’ scenario when they present their projects to industry practitioners. Often times, the feedback we’ve received from these young designers is how this competition has helped them to be more confident in their work and presenting their ideas and the professional profile that they get to build as they enter the workplace. 

Mr Yaw Seng Heng, Group Managing Director of Nippon Paint Malaysia Group

Watching them grow and gradually improve from the beginning stages of the competition to the final stage is truly remarkable and many a times even the judges are inspired by the student’s tenacity and willingness to learn. AYDA first began in Malaysia 2008 as an initiative for industry leaders and brands who shared a collective vision, to come together and nurture the design talents of the future.

by Dayana Aripin,
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
Gold Award, Best Colour Choice, 2020

Today AYDA has grown tremendously into a community of architectures and interior designers across 15 geographical locations within the Asia region. A lot of hard work and passion has been poured into AYDA and we hope this will open up new opportunities in more countries, expanding our AYDA family. With veteran architects and interior designers in the AYDA journey as judges, mentors or speakers, this platform is able to nurture the design talent of tomorrow to raise the capabilities and expertise standards not just within but also outside of Malaysia.

by Lim Yee Fah,
Taylor’s University
Interior Design,
Gold Award, Best Colour Choice, 2020

As chief judges for AYDA, could you tell us how you feel about competitions in general, given your own experience? 

IDr Lai: In our experience since 2008, design competitions promote innovation, creativity and excellence. AYDA truly raises the level of design capability amongst junior designers, as we see them showcasing better skills and ideas with each passing year. Participants who go through the rigorous process of validation and critique by a distinguished panel of judges are definitely better equipped for the workplace and they carry this sense of acclaim and pride even as they mentor others in the future. 

Ar Sarly: I do acknowledge that AYDA genuinely has an impact on the development of young talents in the design industry. It has provided a benchmark for many young architects and interior designers to aspire to even greater heights. It has also empowered many students to challenge themselves in the national and international stage. The competition has raised the confidence level of the winners, where we have observed wonderful examples of students who are still doing their bachelor’s but surpassing masters’ entries to win even at the regional levels. It is truly wonderful to see the young, talented minds fulfilling their potential.

Mr Yaw Seng Heng, 2019’s theme was Forward: A Sustainable Future. The selected theme for 2020 is Human-centred Design. How did you decide on the theme and why such a theme was selected? 

Global warming and climate issues are at the forefront of every major decision made in many industries. We wanted to nurture these young talents to have the environment in mind when developing their ideas. Hence, we decided to make sustainability the centred theme for AYDA 2019. As we moved in to 2020, we came to understand that sustainability is very much rooted in designs that help shape better lives for people all around. Hence, the theme Human-centred Design for 2020 as an approach that focuses on putting people first and we wanted to know their thought process on what inspired their designs and ideas. This proved to be a lovely theme as many of the ideas we’ve received incorporated sustainable development paired with concepts that would help uplift communities or even empower people for a better tomorrow. In particular, I was touched to see so much compassion and empathy in the future generation as the presented their ideas in ways that displayed their innovative spirit. Many of these projects are applicable to real life and never have we been so proud of the work that we are doing with these young designers. 

Can you share your impressions after judging the entries? And, was there anything that you struggled with during the judging process? 

IDr Lai: The submissions this year were of good quality as it displayed new level of in-depth design thinking and creativity. Amidst the pandemic, we saw the finalists fully explore the capabilities and advantages of multimedia through virtual presentation. They have truly raised the bar for future AYDA design presentations.

IDr Lai Siew Hong, Chief Judge, Interior Design

Ar Sarly: Judging the entries throughout the years has become more and more challenging, not just because of the sheer number of entrants but also due to the increase in quality. We had a particularly tough time this year as the entries were very close to one another in terms of quality. It was very tough that we even had to select 13 finalists instead of the mandated 12. In selecting the final winner, it was another struggle as we had to spend an extra 3 hours on top of the planned 7 hours in the judging process. I am very grateful as it is a good indicator that the level of competition has increased tremendously. I would like to thank the panel of judges for their tenacity, patience and passion in doing their job so thoroughly.

Mr Yaw Seng Heng, we want to thank you again for the interview. Any parting words of wisdom?

I would just like to quote something I read that resonates with our AYDA alumni and future participants…“Your deepest fear is never that you are inadequate. Your deepest fear is that you are talented beyond measure. It is your light not darkness that frightens you the most. So, let your talents shine and in doing so you unconsciously inspire others to do the same. As you are liberated from your own fears, your courage automatically liberates others.” 

Hence, to all AYDA alumni and participants, thank you for inspiring us and we are confident that you are working hard towards your dreams. To the future young talents out there, do not give up on your passions. No matter how many times you fall, pick yourself up and keep going. So, stay focused and stay passionate! 

Where do you see the evolution of architectural/interior design going over the next 5-10 years?

IDr Lai: We are hoping to see new design solutions that brings positive changes to life and would leave an impact in the preservation of our environment. We look forward to future submissions that are purpose-driven and aimed at truly making the world a better place to live. 

Ar Sarly Adre Sarkum, Chief Judge, Architectural

Ar Sarly: Architecture is on the cusp of great change. There is great awareness towards sustainable design and the human condition as a whole. This results in an empowerment that architects and interior designers can and will impact the world in terms of making it a better place for all. Anthropocentric/Humancentric design considerations need to be balanced equally with Environmental concerns in order to create a manageable and sustainable future. Building and construction are responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world, with operational emissions (from energy used to heat, cool and light buildings) accounting for 28%. The remaining 11% comes from embodied carbon emissions, or ‘upfront’ carbon that is associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole building life-cycle. 

New technologies such as better use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT), Augmented Reality (AR) and other such emerging technologies will be a game changer when coupled with the age-old wisdom that we are relearning from our vernacular architecture and climate traditions. 

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