JACQUELINE & VICTOR
Plystudio Architects Pte Ltd
Company Founded in
Name of Founder(s)
Victor Lee & Jacqueline Yeo
Founder Birth Year
1972 / 1974
Architectural Association (UK), Diploma, 1999
Previous Job (Vic)
Look Architects (1996-97)
Previous Job (Vic)
Tangguanbee Architects (1997)
Previous Job (Vic)
Voon Wong Architects (1999-00)
Previous Job (Vic)
Simon Conder Associates (2000-02)
Previous Job (Jacq)
Tangguanbee Architects (1996-97)
Previous Job (Jacq)
Brizac Gonzalez Architecture (1999)
Previous Job (Jacq)
Simon Conder Associates (2001-02)
Previous Job (Both)
RSP Architects, Planners and Engineers (2002-05)
Previous Job (Both)
SMC Alsop (2005-07)
Previous Job (Both)
Multiply Architects (2007-08)
Other Pursuits (Jacq)
Studio Tutor, Glasgow School of Design (2019);
Other Pursuits (Jacq)
Part Time Lecturer, National University of Singapore (2021 to now)
Other Pursuits (Jacq)
Potter and Ceramist, Jacquepot (1995 to now)
Other Pursuits (Vic)
Adjunct Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore (2020 to now);
Other Pursuits (Vic)
Part Time Tutor, National University of Singapore (2006-10 and 2019-20)
Period of Occupancy (current)
Team Size (Current)
Location (2nd Office)
Period of Occupancy (2nd Office)
Space (2nd Office)
Team Size (2nd Office)
Location (1st Office)
Period of Occupancy (1st Office)
Space (1st Office)
Team Size (1st Office)
Met at NUS Architecture School
Graduated from Architecture Association of London
Registered as Architects in the UK (ARB)
Awarded Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts 1st Prize (as part of RSP design team)
Editor for 6th International Architecture Biennale of Sao Paolo, Brazil (Jacq)
Founded Plystudio Architects
Invited to participate in Venice Biennale
HKDA Asia Design Awards : ‘J-Loft’ awarded Judges Choice and Silver Prize for Spatial Residential Category
Awarded “40 under 40” by Perspective Hong Kong for Architecture / Interiors Category
Awarded Waterway Point Mall Interiors 1st Prize
Published in ‘Creative Cultures : The Singapore Showcase featuring 100 local creatives’
Shortlisted as Top 3 finalists for Asian Civilisations Museum extension (with Surbana & WY-TO Architects)
Started working on High-rise Housing Projects in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Awarded Rainbow Centre 1st Prize (in collaboration with The Architects’ Circle)
Organised Forum & Inclusive Art Workshop for Archifest 2017
Started working on 450 units of Affordable Housing Project in Nairobi, Kenya
Invited Speaker at Archifest 2018 (Victor)
Completed Gamuda Cove Sales Gallery
Spoke at SSFS6 Workshop on Architecture and Urbanism, Hong Kong
Featured in “Small Firms, Big Ideas” Inaugural Exhibition at AUDE, URA Centre
Rainbow Centre shortlisted for President’s Design Award
Shortlisted as Top 3 finalists for C40 Reinventing Cities Competition for the Bukit Timah Firestation
A Multi-Ply Approach in Design
By Elaine Chan, 1 April 2022
Were you first partners in life or work?
Jacqueline I guess we were both. We both met in architecture school, as undergrads. So we have always been doing work alongside our relationship. And it has evolved from being students together to working together in bigger practices, to then starting our own firm. So it's always gone hand in hand, ever since we met, so yeah, it's a life journey.
How do you work together? Have you come to that perfect way of working with each other, over the years?
Jacqueline Not perfect. But I'll let Victor tell you all about it.
Victor Yeah, I think we try to acknowledge each other's interests and strengths. And also, we are aware of our own weaknesses. So I think, naturally, we have found a kind of best-fit situation to work together and try not to have too many overlaps. When we were working separately in different offices when we first started out in our professional life, even though we were not working together, we always had conversations around architecture and design, trying to learn a bit more from each other, opening up to each other about our concerns at work and problems that we may face. And then through that kind of opening up of our thoughts and sharing of issues and experiences…we try to also find out a bit more about each other professionally, in terms of our own distinct interests in the field of architecture.
Jacqueline Yeah, so I think after a while, you kind of develop a little bit of shorthand with each other, especially when it came to putting together works for our own practice. That came in very, very helpful because we are so used to working together, working with each other's train of thoughts that it could almost be quite a seamless thought process that develops through the entire design journey of any projects that we are working on together. So I think we dovetail quite a lot in in our responsibilities. It's a little bit like a relay match in a way, where one person starts something and then it just gets continued by the next person. So far, I think that has worked pretty well.
Is it always smooth?
Victor I think we’d like to think that we'll get there in the end.
Jacqueline Hahaha. Yeah
Victor This really depends on how long that process takes. But I would say it's been fairly smooth, I guess. Through the years that we've been working together, I don't recall any major disagreements over certain stages of the project, or in terms of where ideas came from, because I think being partners as well, we were, we are exposed to the same kind of life situations and experiences, as much as we have separate kind of experiences. But at the core of it, we do have very similar kind of outlook in life. And perhaps that’s also why we got together in the first place.
Why did you become architects?
Jacqueline It's a question that we asked ourselves all the time. But I think for me, definitely this idea that space is something that is quite ubiquitous, and it's quite egalitairan; it shouldn't really belong to a very small subset of very rich people. So good space is something that we try to do throughout the works that we create, and it can be something very small up to something very big. But I think what we try to always have at the core…what we really want to do is to see if space can be the factor that changes how people are able to live in a certain way or to operate or work in a certain way. So that's, that's something that is quite important for us.
But I think for me, definitely this idea that space is something that is quite ubiquitous, and it's quite egalitarian; it shouldn't really belong to a very small subset of very rich people.
Does Victor have anything to add to that? Why did you become an architect?
Victor I guess for me, growing up, I was interested in drawing as well as making things, taking things apart and putting them back together, so on and so forth. And growing up without having family [members] in this profession, in this trade, you're really just hearing from what people say about architecture being the perfect blend of the arts and sciences. So I just naturally, you know, latched on to that concept. And when it came to university, I just went for architecture, to try and, you know, satisfy both the creative interest that I have in things as well as looking at things in a very rational way. So yeah, it's the age-old cliche that architecture is really at the crossroads of the arts and sciences.
Many years down the road from then…is architecture what you’ve imagined? And what do you think are the most important elements in the practice and in your practice?
Victor Maybe I can answer this first. I think your views and your attitudes towards looking at what architecture really means and what architecture encompasses really changes from when you were a student, fresh out of school, still very naive, and you know, very inspired by things around you and what you see. And then now…working through the ranks of getting experience professionally, working with various practices, and then eventually thinking about setting on your own and being autonomous in that sense, and creating your own products and spaces and buildings or whatever.
I think it has been quite a change, a big change for me. Especially when you are running a practice now, and the more kind of real-world issues, the whole practical side of running a practice. And then the more pragmatic aspects of making architecture - dealing with budgets, dealing with people, dealing with clients, dealing with often conflicting factors of a project, and then having to mitigate those differences and find a way to negotiate the process. I think these are the things that you gradually, and gradually understand that they are all part and parcel of constraints, and inputs to help shape and enrich the design process. And I think we do try to embrace that because we believe at the end of the day, the outcome of the design is really a confluence of responses to these very conflicting kinds of needs. We like to think that we pay a lot of attention to try to mitigate these differences, and then to try and come up with a design that is in a way, quite responsive to such challenges.
Jacqueline I think what we try to do throughout the years is - as what Victor said - to kind of distill the most important aspects of each of our clients’ requirements and maybe also the site requirements etc. And I think we have been quite fortunate because we have worked on quite a number of projects outside of Singapore, as well as within Singapore. So I think it translates quite well through our different experiences with different clients from different parts of the world. And the essence of how we then talk about our projects can transcend, sort of, social and economic boundaries I think, or geographic boundaries of what it actually means to build in those countries. I think in that sense, it's quite rewarding because it's still able to meet what their requirements are even though we don't really know the context that well.
So I think whenever we embark on a new project, we try to see as much as possible what these requirements are and try and distill it down to some very simple rules, which we then subscribe to very, very rationally and religiously through the whole design process.
I think we do try to embrace that because we believe at the end of the day, the outcome of the design is really a confluence of responses to these very conflicting kinds of needs.
I've read in an article that you have a methodology of basing on the idea of modulated form. This is a little bit jargonistic to me, would you elaborate more?
Jacqueline Yeah. Okay, so I think modulated form came about because…we've always been quite a small team. We never really went beyond like a four to six number size of our practice.
Was that intentional - to keep the team small?
Jacqueline Yes, I think it was very intentional. We both worked in one of the largest architecture offices in Singapore before we set out our own practice. So I think we knew that we didn't really want to be a lot bigger.
But we also didn't want to limit ourselves to doing smaller scale projects just because our team was very small. So I think as part of that strategy of creating that logic between how do you then scale something up from what we can handle as a team would be to create modulated forms that then can be aggregated and to be scaled up to a certain size, and to be able to then spend as much time as as we need to make it work. So, in a sense, it was a bit of a strategy also to then talk about the most essential space for every project, because that then becomes the core space that could then be modulated to then be aggregated.
We also didn't want to limit ourselves to doing smaller scale projects just because our team was very small.
My understanding is that there is a core that you work with, and then it is able to scale up and out, and build along, and I assume that you collaborate with partners along the way as and when needed?
Jacqueline Yes, that's correct. Maybe just to give you an example. We previously worked on 450 units of affordable housing in Kenya, in Africa. And how the modulated form method worked there was that all 450 units were derived from a single plan. So it wasn't like there were so many different variations, but the complexity came about in how they were being put together and how they were being combined and organized in, on the site itself. So I think we quite enjoy doing those scale shifts, but with a very intentional limitation that we set ourselves. I think a lot of things that we do actually comes from a very limited...we tend to try to limit ourselves to a few moves such that I think eventually it forces a certain invention to take place...yeah, so it would be something quite surprising at the end of the day!
Victor I think it’s also a way in which we try to economise our practice, in our design process, because we have always been a very small team, very lean. We really have to work with whatever resources that we have. So this method or whatever word you want to call it, it's just a way that we have been working very naturally at first, and then when we look back, we realise that actually the things that have changed are not much, you know. We come up with something and then in order to create variations, we just make some subtle changes. The key is in how we then combine things together. In a small project that can work, but it also allows us to get a foot into working on larger scale projects where we are really just working with smaller parts of the of the bigger picture all the time. And it gives us a bit more confidence because then we can work through the small to the big, rather than starting with something very big and you then struggle to break it down and to design all parts of it. So it's really, like Jacqueline says, a scaling process as well. There's obviously a lot of repetition but we are aware of that and trying to develop ways to create variations within the repetitions. And I think in terms of the outcome, it's also in a way trying to gear towards making things that look like they belong in a family when they have been combined, rather than have things that may not kind of work in continuity with each other. And the fact that they change…we feel that it's very interesting to look at things…how the how the shape or how the form changes, it kind of has a relationship…or you can trace it really back to the first first shape or the first iteration of it.
Jacqueline And I think also it stemmed from us always having to work with our contractor partners. From the very start - even when we were working in London - we work very closely with the builders, the people that actually build our projects. And I think the modularity, and the fact that everything stemmed from a root, sort of like a family…so they're all family of parts. So it makes it much easier to describe to the person that's going to be building it. And I think it's also very nice that they then have a lot of confidence in building it, because it's not trying to digest a huge project, but they're actually digesting it in bite-sized chunks, that they can then replicate. And so that became like the modal operators for us for all our projects. It's very easy to then talk to the contractors and the people who will be building it in these parts.
...I think we quite enjoy doing those scale shifts, but with a very intentional limitation that we set ourselves. I think a lot of things that we do actually comes from a very limited...we tend to try to limit ourselves to a few moves such that I think eventually it forces a certain invention to take place.
You intentionally keep the team small because you have worked in bigger firms. So that brings me to the question, why did you guys decide to start your own business?
Jacqueline Hahaha. I think one of the main reasons was the autonomy…the ability to gravitate towards certain project types or certain projects, genres that we feel quite passionately about. I think inevitably if you're in a bigger firm, you have to deal with a huge spectrum of clients from the super commercial, all the way to very bespoke sort of clients. And I think because we have always wanted to be quite…I don't know why but we seem to gravitate towards clients who are not very commercial in nature, almost [at] the opposite spectrum of of commercial. So we have done schools. We have done quite a number of schools. We have done quite a number of spaces that are more for, kind of collaborative workspaces rather than developer-led sorts of projects. Somehow, we gravitate towards those projects, and more of those sort of projects seem to come to us. That's partly the reason why we decided to set up on our own, so that we can have a choice of what sort of projects that we wanted to take on.
Victor I just wanted to add on that it could also be more of an intrinsic motivation to become, you know, owners of your own practice. I think the traditional model of an architecture firm, at least for me personally, when I was first exposed to architecture and throughout my learning journey, was really looking at architects that have their own practices as a model. So being not very adventurous and also, maybe through a personal kind of prejudice, I guess we do share the same position, with the same perspective…we know that eventually, we would want to do something on our own, and therefore, set up on our own to have a practice. The years that we've spent working with other practices and professionally was really for us to be very sure that we would not want to stay and work in a corporate practice or to work with somebody else, but really to drive us or to motivate us further to creating our own practice.
I think the traditional model of an architecture firm, at least for me personally, when I was first exposed to architecture and throughout my learning journey, was really looking at architects that have their own practices as a model.
Have you enjoyed being run or running your own practice, so far?
Jacqueline Yes, and no, I think. There's always, of course, things that make you feel very frustrated about running your own practice. It's difficult, I guess, to answer that question, because you will never know what it was to not to run your own practice; you will never know the other trajectory, I suppose.
Because we have chosen this, and this is our trajectory, and for the past, like 13 years or so. And, I mean, it has been very rewarding, that's for sure. When we see things being completed, and people enjoying the spaces, and really contributing in that sense to everyone else's well-being when they inherit the project and they use it. And we find great joy in visiting our projects after a few years of occupation and seeing how people really liked using the spaces. So that's definitely something that is very much a reward for doing this on our own. Of course, there are stumbles and there are things that you learn across the journey. But I don't think it would be be worse off, I guess, than if we had not done this. I mean, the grass is always greener on the other side.
Victor, any thoughts to share?
Victor I think it's been a rewarding as well as challenging journey so far. I do echo everything that Jacqueline has mentioned. Of course, when you were younger, being more optimistic and naïve, and then to kind of act upon, you know, your inspirations and motivations.
But through the years I think you understand more and more so that it's not just really producing the work, it's really also the challenge of the day-to-day running of a business. Really looking at it as a business was something that we both have, you know, really have to think quite hard and think through the strategies we can deploy to make it viable as a business. Aside from, or rather, on top of maintaining a certain integrity about the design, maintaining certain rigours about the design, keeping true to your own processes and wanting to keep furthering your thoughts about certain ideas about design and wanting to create more research and eventually execute those ideas. It's definitely been challenging, but I would like to say that we, of course, try to remain positive and really treat each experience as a learning point in trying to move forward.
On the point about integrity, what is your design philosophy?
Victor I think it was briefly covered, when we were talking about some of the impetus behind creating the design process in the way that we have done so. And it's really a result of understanding our own circumstance, right? Because I don't think, I think no two firms are alike, and you really have to search and understand your own position, your own circumstances, in order to find the best way to produce the work under very challenging demands and situations. I don't think we have like a real design philosophy other than it’s really being driven by, like the core of our operations – how we really need to work in order to stay above, I guess, challenges.
What are the projects that you have done that you're most proud of? And also, what are the kinds of projects you want to do but have not gotten around to doing yet?
Jacqueline Maybe I'll answer the second question. And then Victor can answer the first question. Because I have more wants than he has. Hahaha.
I think we have been quite lucky. We have been doing a rather large range of work actually, from schools all the way down to housing. Something that always strikes us as worth doing would be projects that, of course, reach out to larger audience. So I think if we were able to do so, we would like to do more civic projects, projects that, of course, would be comfortable enough in terms of its size for us to handle, and also be able to be experienced by more people. So not like private houses where usually it's only the family members that use the spaces. And I think it would be also interesting to do projects that are conventionally, maybe not done by architects. I mean, we have always talked about this. I think we have always been quite interested in seeing whether we can do projects that are quite run-of-the-mill sort of buildings, but they're also not deemed to be important enough to be designed by an architect or designed even. So I think that would have been quite interesting.
Is there an example in Singapore?
Jacqueline When we were first starting up, I think we did like a series of workshops that were actually looking at the type of bus-stop. I think it was like a very small scale, sort of ubiquitous structure that is all over [the city], but it's just infrastructural design in that sense. I don't know. I think it'll be quite interesting to find out actually if there's any things of that sort of genre that we could really get into, to design.
I would mind having a new bus-stop. Yeah. That sounds really interesting.
Jacqueline Yeah. So yeah, that's what I think. That's my two cents worth, maybe Vic wants to add something?
Victor Yeah, I think in response to the question of projects we are most proud of…probably we’d share some common projects that we have completed.
I think the most meaningful one will be the Rainbow Centre extension. We really enjoyed that project from the standpoint of really working with a different group of users and having very good clients that understand what’s really required in terms of engaging an architect to work on their project. It’s not so much the scale of the project, but I guess it was one of the projects that we were able to deploy some of the design processes that were mentioned earlier and seeing that being realised and implemented in the final project. It’s a project that we wouldn’t have completed without the input of our collaborators. We collaborated with another architecture firm to work on that project. That was quite a nice project.
Another project that we quite enjoyed that also worked on the principle of simple geometry and how we put things together in a repetitive manner, yet with some variations. It was the Cove Galleria in KL. We worked quite closely with construction/fabrication arm of our clients, who were also infrastructural developers, and they were quite keen to try out pre-fabrication concrete structures that would be made off-site and then delivered to site. Basically, it’s the same principles of creating something very simple to start with and then looking at different ways to permutate and create differences that ended up as structures for the buildings. So it was really the feature that created the core experience of the main building as well.
Of course there were also a lot of smaller-scale projects along the way that we felt were very interesting, at the other end of the scale spectrum, which we were also able to discuss and finally implement very similar ideas. So I think all in all, we don’t have a particular angle, or sector, we are targeting at. It’s really more of trying to see if there is a kind of consistent, or a pre-determined way to look at projects, regardless of the genre, size or scale.
Jacqueline Yeah, I think that’s exactly what we try to think of for most of our projects. Even if it was something quite typical, we would try to see if there’s any avenue to push it to a certain form or a certain architectural language, taking cues from the client’s organisation or the context in which it was supposed to be built, or certain unique requests from the client – so that’s always interesting and important for us.
Our relationship with clients I suppost is always critical and quite important for us. We tend to want to have very close and collaborative relationships with our clients. The two projects that Victor was talking about actually were the ones where we worked hand-in-hand with the clients to basically envision what the outcome would be. Either using their indepth knowledge of construction like the Cove Galleria, or in the case of Rainbow, to really look into the pedagogy of how the school is being run and the sort of ways in which the teachers are looking at producing the teaching pedagogy, and how the spaces we create can complement it.
For us, it’s quite important that we start the conversations early with our clients, and we move the architecture to really be very customised and bespoke to what we find interesting about what they tell us.
We don’t have a particular angle, or sector, we are targeting at. It’s really more of trying to see if there is a kind of consistent, or a pre-determined way to look at projects, regardless of the genre, size or scale.
Over the years, having practised architecture for quite a while, have the challenges changed in the practice? What kind of challenges are you currently confronting?
Jacqueline I don’t think they have really changed that much in terms of a creative journey. What I think has really changed is…it’s always about running a business. I guess it’s also because we are a small firm. I think it’s always been this balancing act. How much do you put out in order to get the sustainability aspect, how do you even sustain the business financially, how do you make sure you grow big enough for this balance to happen. So that has always been something that we are not too good at, or we always need to be more exposed to various ways in which practices can be run.
I think this is really quite a good platform [Studio SML] because I would say from talking with Kelley and also some of the people who have been featured, it has been quite interesting to find how everyone is negotiating this. As what we said, every firm is very different and you might say this is an interesting way of running a business. So at the end of the day, architecture firms also need to have conversations about how do you run a business. This is something we feel quite strongly about, not so much as where your creative outlet takes you, because every firm’s creative direction is quite different but everybody needs to survive and to work, right?
Victor, do you have anything to add to that?
Victor I think running the business part of the practice is definitely the challenging part.
I was also thinking in terms of how we as architects and designers are also staying current in terms of responding to more global kind of changes that are taking place. Of course it’s very easy to just jump on the bandwagon of the whole green and sustainability movement, but I think it’s more of developng a consciousness about designing to fit those purposes…also about whether the practice has opportunities to design for those kinds of projects. And without having those kinds of projects to work on, that we also try to look at our own design process as a way to create more efficiencies perhaps.
What I’m trying to get at is not looking at the execution of the project, which means the actual built, the actual implementation of the projects taking on, or deploying sustainability products, or green products and so on. But really examining our own design to try to create efficiencies and less wastage perhaps, and also looking at ways in which, you know, with more repetition in projects, or less, kind of, with more stringent palatte of materials. At the end of the day, driving towards less wastage, less use of manpower... Of course we are not really talking about automation and things like that, but just doing what we can in a very analogue way – without having the bigger projects to execute under the umbrella of the green movement, what else can we do? It’s really more of we’re trying to reexamine our own design process. That was probably quite a challenge…to tailor make, or adjust the way you design or create architecture, in terms of trying to align with the bigger picture.
Of course it’s very easy to just jump on the bandwagon of the whole green and sustainability movement, but I think it’s more of developng a consciousness about designing to fit those purposes…
It’s also a complex process…because we have been so used to whatever we are doing.
Jacqueline Yeah, totally.
My final question – what inspires you? Where do you get your inspiration? What do you read? What kind of music do you like?
Victor For me personally, I try to look at…I’m not really specific in terms of looking for inspiration from various sources. It’s really more of trying to be more observant, be more aware of things around me, be more mindful…
I think the inspiration for design really comes through in various different forms and sometimes it’s a lot of relying on your own experiences. So whatever you’ve gone through, whatever you’ve done obviously adds up to a high level in your mental library, in terms of what you can deploy, what you can pull from, mentally, and then to try to translate that onto paper, into a piece of design. But also to constantly be looking around the city, moving around, looking at things, looking at things differently. I guess that’s what I would say inspire me.
Jacqueline I think also spaces…to see the spaces in real time is important. It’s almost like if you go to a space in the city, or a space that you visit, to really understand why it’s interesting, or why it makes you stay on in that space, or what about it that’s so interesting. I think that helps to keep a certain level of inspiration…
It’s like what Victor was saying – building up your own mental roller-deck of different sorts of spaces. To me, I’m always most excited when I go to sites, so projects that are ongoing, projects that have yet to start, projects that are in different phases of building, that really inspires me because I think when you get to the people who are building it, how you want to make certain things happen, that is something really exciting and quite inspiring for me. That transition between what we have designed on paper to what is actually being built, that transition in scale and how you actually can be in the space that you’ve designed is really inspiring for me.
I think also spaces…to see the spaces in real time is important. It’s almost like if you go to a space in the city, or a space that you visit, to really understand why it’s interesting, or why it makes you stay on in that space...