In this month’s issue of Beyond the Classroom, we are proud to feature Albert, Principal of BEEP Lab. Albert believes that learners should be encouraged to use design thinking processes to investigate the environment around us. He believes an imaginative and inquisitive mind is required to master the craft of architecture.

1. Describe yourself and what you do?

I am an Architectural Educator who curates learning experiences inspired by architectural concepts and themes that empowers children, youth & educators to build the mindset and capacity to learn. We create design based project that encourage learners to use design thinking processes to investigate the built, natural and cultural environment all around us. Architecture, after all, is equal parts art and science – a craft that requires a mind that’s both imaginative and inquisitive.

2. Is there a story behind WHY you do what you do?

As a child I had difficulties reading and writing, and was not academically inclined. I discovered that I learn best when I write, draw and teach others.

When I enrolled into the school of architecture in National University of Singapore, I was surprised that I had no idea about what is designing at all! I thought to myself if only I had the opportunity to interact with architects and designers when I was younger to have a better understanding about the beauty of involving in the design of our built and natural environment.

I believe that through a mentoring process one could learn more than just the techniques of a designer, but the transfer of heart, belief and experiences that would shape our character.

3. To what extent have your talents/passions led you in any way to do what you do today?

Nothing is new under the sun, no talent or passion is enough to keep one going in the pursuit of work and vocation. For me, I believe it was a sense of calling and a certain aspect of an adventurous spirit and willingness to take a leap of faith to pioneer a project that few have undertaken. Finally wtih the support of a community of people including family, mentors and partners, they have contributed to my ability to continue to do what I do daily.

4. Share with us what you were like as a student and how school was like for you.

When I first came to SIngapore at the age of 10, I had huge difficulties in my language, I also had a lot of adjustments to make such as cultural, linguistic barrier, and emotional adjustments.

What I enjoyed most in school was playing sports and participating in after school activities. I also enjoyed visiting my friends’ houses to play and have fun. Back in school, I was a part of the Science Club and Basketball team. I also participated in the National Cadet Corps. To me, learning has always been beyond the 4 walls of a classroom and so many of the key life learning happens as we interact and work with other people, thats when we learn about ourselves and our ability to work with others.

When I was in Secondary school and Junior College, I enjoyed studying in groups as my peers and I will share and learn from each other’s strengths in the different subjects. I believe that sharing and teaching others what we know will help reinforce the knowledge that we have and make us better learners.

5. In retrospect, how do you think that played a part in what you do now and who you have become?

I think in retrospect, the learning to overcome the change in environment from Taiwan to Singapore and overcoming my language barrier was a key part in enabling me to build confidence to build relationships with people of all races and age group. Also keeping in mind that life is never a straight line, it’s about taking risks and learning about ourselves and bringing out the best of ourselves through adversity the challenges we face. When we finally reach the end of the tunnel, we find that we have become a improved version of ourselves.

6. How do you reinvent yourself? What motivates you?

Always be reflective and be willing to make adjustments when situations don’t seem to be going the way we expected it to be. How do we begin to reinvent ourselves? It begins with an awareness that there is a change in the environment that requires us to develop different skill sets and capacity to provide a relevant solution to the circumstances. This awareness needs to be coupled with a sense of willingness and understanding that change is a necessary part of the growing journey. Even though there will be discomfort and pain, we must be willing to embrace the challenges to allow us to begin the process to reinvent and remake ourselves.

7. What’s the best piece of advice you ever received or given?

Always start with the heart to engage people. If you want to influence people, start by leading by examples and actions rather than just inspiring words or ideals that are not able to tangibly speak about our conviction.

8. Share ONE life lesson and how it changed the way you approached life.

In our pursuit in life and building up of our work and careers, we must learn to define our own criteria for success. For we are not formed and shaped not by what we get to receive, or what we are doing in the process, but it is building of our character and our life that truly matters.

9. The future-ready educator should…

Possess the following literacy: the literacy to learn to unlearn and relearn the world we live in. Ultimately it is our capacity to learn that shape our ability to teach and guide others to learn better.

10. What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?

I recently learned about the Design Singapore 2025 vision by the National Design Council, where they aim to prepare Singapore to be a thriving innovation-driven economy and a loveable city by design.

As part of the goals to achieve the vision, they have placed 5 key recommendations and the first one being “ Influsing Design into our national skill sets”. The recommendation is to establish a series of design courses for students from pre-school to secondary levels, that will be developed as an integrated curriculum to support continuity in the students’ learning as they progress from one level to the next. Designer-facilitators will be trained to conduct these courses as part of the enrichment programmes available to our schools.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Chan Chun Sing, urges designers and students in Singapore to think about the “higher purpose of design and how designers in Singapore can help create solutions for major challenges.”

“ Thinking about design is hard, but not thinking about design can be disastrous. “ – Ralph Caplan, Author, journalist of “ By Design”

11. How do you hope your business might do its part to transform or add value to the educational scene in Singapore?

BEEP Lab hopes to create and add value to a diverse Education landscape in Singapore by providing design-thinking project-based learning through the use of architecture and design.

We aim to enrich and engage the minds of children, youths and educators through the lens of architecture. With the use of a design-thinking process, we nurture responsible users and designers through the mastery of creativity, confidence, and collaboration.

At BEEP Lab, every student will start off by discovering the joy of building, the sharing of knowledge and the learning of skills to become lifelong learners of our built, natural and cultural environments. Architecture, after all, is equal parts of art and science – a craft that requires a mind that’s both imaginative and inquisitive.