Architect Catherine Loke: "Competence and performance matter most, regardless of gender"

Niki Bruce
·Contributor
·4-min read
(PHOTO: Lander Loke Architects)
The Tree House is a special project built for the children of Child at Street 11 who range in age from 2- to 12-years, to create an external learning environment where children can explore and interact with nature. (PHOTO: Lander Loke Architects)

Singaporean architect Catherine Loke has been a registered architect since 1998 and is a founding partner in Lander Loke Architects since 1999. Over the years of her career, she has observed and been involved in, the creation of Singapore’s globally admired built environment.

Loke has always been a proponent of “hands-on” architecture and has been involved in the design of everything from the SAFTI Military Institute Phase 1 and the Tuas Power Station Stage I, to homes, commercial buildings and even the stunning Tree House playground just completed.

Humans have always modified the environment in some way or another, to suit our physical, psychological, social and economic needs,” explains Loke.

“Architecture reflects society’s values and will always be relevant, especially as more and more people choose to migrate to urban areas, and we have to address the effects of climate change.

“A well-designed and well-executed built environment leads to the well-being of all of humanity, and we need to put the design and execution in the hands of properly trained professionals who can satisfy human needs whilst respecting natural limits.

“... it is extremely important to appreciate the value of good architecture and interior design, and the need to channel our creative talent to these professions.”

2-storey Good Class bungalow. (PHOTO: Lander Loke Architects)
2-storey Good Class bungalow. (PHOTO: Lander Loke Architects)

With a year encompassing decades, Loke has experienced the ups and downs of history and economic upheaval; the recent impact of the Coronavirus is just another obstacle to overcome.

“We have been quite fortunate in terms of timing, as our current projects are not in the construction stage. We had one project which obtained TOP (Temporary Occupation Permit) last year, and we were in the process of obtaining CSC (Certificate of Statutory Completion), which was slightly delayed. Still, it was a simple matter of getting extensions of time from the relevant government agencies,” Loke explains.

“As far as the industry as a whole is concerned, I think this is an interesting time for the architects and interior designers to step up to the mark to design for a different brief,” she shares.

“Upheavals present opportunities for us to question the way we do things and re-examine our role.”

This calm and considered reaction to these unprecedented times has stood her in good stead over the years. Working in the construction industry might have been considered difficult for a woman; however, it has never been a problem for Loke.

Proposed floating stage at Singapore river. (PHOTO: Lander Loke Architects)
Proposed floating stage at Singapore river. (PHOTO: Lander Loke Architects)

“To be honest, gender has never been an issue in my experience. Competence and performance matter most, regardless of gender,” says Loke.

“I started my practice in 1993, and it never crossed my mind that I was a female architect, and no-one asked me about being a female architect. I was and am an architect. Interestingly, this question is being asked in 2020. It seems to be a question about a non-issue.

“However, I would also say that I was fortunate to have an enlightened employer back in the 1990s when my children were little, who allowed me to work partially from home. That enabled me to be with my children and yet continue to develop professionally.

“In those days, we relied only on the telephone and fax machines for communication. Nowadays, technology has made working from home so much easier, and I think after the COVID-19 circuit breaker experience, employers will be more open to their employees - both male and female - with young children working from home.

“So the biggest change I see is that being a female architect with young children will no longer be perceived as a liability to employers.”

(PHOTO: Lander Loke Architects)
Catherine Loke. (PHOTO: Lander Loke Architects)

Loke won the top award for the RICS Women of the Built Environment Award 2020; served on the Council of the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) from 2012 to 2020; was the First Vice-President of SIA for Council Years 2018/2019 and 2019/2020, and is currently the Adjunct Associate Professor at NUS, teaching architectural practice.

There is no notion of slowing down for Catherine Loke.

“In our practice, we are continually looking at how to improve the quality of our work and our delivery,” explains Loke.

“This has served us well in the past and has made us able to change with the times and meet new challenges. [I] plan to continue to be hands-on in our work, as it is this approach that has enabled us to become skilful, self-reliant and resilient.”

To discover Catherine Loke’s architecture, go to landerloke.com.sg.

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