HDB Undergraduate Scholar Zheng Yehan holds a Bachelor of Science (Architecture) and a Master of Architecture degree from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He is currently a Senior Architect designing and delivering quality BTO projects while exploring new design thinking initiatives to improve the lives of the Singapore population.
What is social architecture?
Zheng Yehan, a Housing & Development Board (HDB) Scholar, described it as a fundamental concept that guides the way he works as an architect. “A socially-oriented architect places particular emphasis on prudency and pragmatic considerations,” he explained. “It is a public-oriented mindset; I learn from the ground to serve and cater for public needs and interests. I want to make an impact by improving people’s quality of life through my designs.”
With HDB’s public housing success story heralded worldwide, there is no better place than HDB for Yehan to hone his craft and make an impact on Singapore’s housing landscape. HDB has enabled Yehan to live his dream, enjoying a multifaceted career that is aligned with his interests and aspirations, and enabling him to contribute towards a good cause. Clearly, social architecture begins with HDB.
Art and Architecture
“Art and creative expression were central to my schooling experience,” recalled Yehan. He was in the Art Elective Programme (AEP) in school for six years, after all.
Naturally, he gravitated toward the creative industries. He defined his main area of interest as “spatial concepts as depicted in the design world”, for which architecture was the perfect fit.
From there, he further refined his direction for housing architecture over other building typologies because it is the one typology that is closest to people’s hearts.
This made the HDB scholarship particularly appealing because of the opportunity to influence a large segment of the population who lives in public housing.
“HDB housing is a distinctive hallmark of the Singaporean identity, and it is an honour to be a part of the cause to strengthen the Singaporean identity,” Yehan emphasised.
New Housing Perspectives
Yehan’s six years of studies in London greatly influenced and distinctively shaped his life views.
Recalling his overseas experience, he mused: “Those six years studying in a largely foreign environment ingrained in me the belief that we must always be open to change and keep an open mind to all ideas and concepts, even those which may seem ludicrous or far-fetched at first.”
Yehan is grateful to HDB for guiding his study path. As an HDB Scholar, Yehan was assigned a mentor, an experienced HDB architect, who guided him on his thesis subject and provided feedback on how it could be applied to Singapore’s context.
Yehan was also involved in socially-oriented architectural design thinking in university. This emphasised a design ethos whereby each design move is considered carefully in relation to societal implications and how it affects different stakeholders in a chain – particularly relevant to HDB’s work.
Behind BTO Design
The applications of his studies are far-reaching as he combines his academic knowledge with on-the-job learning in his current role.
As a Senior Architect, Yehan is afforded opportunities on two fronts. He designs and delivers quality Build-To-Order (BTO) projects, overseeing all stages from design, tender, construction, management, to the delivery of completed BTO flats. He is also involved in researching and exploring how good design thinking and adoption of technology, as well as sustainable approaches can improve the lives of residents.
One project that highlights Yehan’s work is an upcoming BTO development in Tengah. This development emphasises residents’ health and wellness through a variety of accessible social spaces and health amenities nestled within lushly landscaped environments. Smart and sustainable initiatives pioneered at Tengah include centralised cooling systems which provide a sustainable way of cooling homes, and pneumatic waste conveyance systems which use underground pipes to collect waste in a centralised and odour-free manner, thereby streamlining the waste collection process.
The Tengah project showcases the scope of HDB’s innovative design and is reflective of Yehan’s philosophy. “I would like to contribute as much as I can to improve society and people’s lives through good spatial design, and my mission in my career is to never deviate from that. There is so much that architecture can contribute to societal well-being.”
Career-wise, Yehan values the diverse opportunities that HDB offers to architects, from design and town planning, to research and development.