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Science + Manga = Architecture

Love of drawing led top S’pore Poly student in design & creative arts to study architecture

Published on May 22, 2012 8:40 PM
Amanda Yeo from Singapore Polytechnic, first recipient of the Tan Kay Yong Gold medal given to the best student in design and creative arts. -- TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

This article first appeared in The New Paper on May 22, 2012.

She was five and her brother seven when their father left the family.

Ms Amanda Yeo’s mother, Madam Hoong Bee Huay, a clerk, brought them up single-handedly with help from a church-run student care centre.

Said Madam Hoong, 48: “They were good children; they didn’t give me trouble.

“Amanda was drawing manga when she was in secondary school. So, when she told me she wanted to study architecture in polytechnic, I said okay.

“I didn’t know how useful this subject would be because none of my family members has a background in architecture.”

On Friday, Ms Yeo will be the first Singapore Polytechnic (SP) student to receive the Tan Kay Yong Gold Medal, an award given to the top student in design and creative arts.

“I didn’t set out to win this award, so I’m very happy,” she said.

Ms Yeo told The New Paper that she chose architecture because she wanted a course that combined science and design.
“I was a science student, but I loved drawing, especially manga, so architecture seemed to offer what I wanted,” she said.

Ms Yeo had a grade point average of 3.973 and scored five distinctions and seven As.

The 20-year-old former Siglap Secondary School student is no bookworm.

Keen to explore new cultures and environments, Ms Yeo spent five months in Inner Mongolia from May to September last year on the Green Desert Project.

It is an initiative organised by SP and Asian Journeys, a Singapore-based social enterprise that teaches youths leadership skills.

The trip made her realise that desertification (when fertile lands turn into deserts)affects not only farmers but also city dwellers.

The cause of desertification is overgrazing or deforestation, which leads to soil erosion, leaving an infertile soil layer for growing food.

“If farmers can’t grow their crops, city dwellers won’t get their food,” she said.

Referring to the Green Desert Project, Ms Yeo said: “It was physically demanding work but fun, and environmentally friendly too.
“During our stay there, there weren’t any flushable toilets, so we had to use the fields. That took some getting used to.”

Her group of about 30 SP students planted 1,133 trees in Duolun, Inner Mongolia, during their five-month stay.

Ms Yeo is so inspired by her community stint in Inner Mongolia that she is collaborating with Asian Journey founder Lawrence Ko on introducing sustainable eco-tourism in a village in Sarawak, dubbed the Sibu Long House project.

Deeply passionate

The SP Scholar and Model Student Award winner is deeply passionate about using architecture to bring about environment sustainability and admires the work of architects Tadao Ando and Cameron Sinclair.

Ms Yeo said she admires Japanese architect Tadao Ando for his heavy and creative use of natural light as well as his philosophy that architecture should follow the natural forms of the landscape, rather than making it conform to a constructed space or building.
She counts Ando’s Church of the Light as one of her favourite buildings.

She is also inspired by the work of London-born Cameron Sinclair, the founder of Architecture for Humanity, whose many clients live without clean water, adequate food or access to education, or who may be recovering from natural or man-made disasters.
Said Ms Yeo: “I like his Just Build ethos.”

The 1.5m-tall Ms Yeo also does rock climbing, sailing and mixed martial arts.

Ms Yeo has just started her degree in architecture and sustainable design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. She is on a scholarship from the university.

If all goes well, she will graduate with a master’s in architecture in 2017. She dreams of starting her own architectural firm.

Said Madam Hoong: “I’m very happy for Amanda. She worked very hard and clocked very long hours. Her effort has paid off.”