Terence Yong : Architect

Surry Hills is about opportunity because it is a place that is concentrated with architects – good architects. If you want to do trend-setting architecture, you work here. This is a place that you can expect to see good design because there is a community of designers here. A good example is the soon to be completed trendy boutique guesthouse hotel along Albion Street – the first to be developed here in decades. I am working on this landmark project as a Design and Project Architect with an architectural company that is also based in Surry Hills. Together with other surrounding cultural creative suburbs, Surry Hills certainly leads the pack in design excellence.

What makes Surry Hills special to me is the “fine-grain” of the place. The aesthetic of the place is eclectic which I equally find inspirational. Even sitting here looking at this laneway is beautiful. There is fine-grain or “natural-grain” here but in some other places, the aesthetic is plastic. Some places are more like The Bold and the Beautiful, but not here. So that is why it is a favourite amongst architects and designers.

I lead architecture tours here and I love meeting people who are like-minded. I want to promote this place. I want to inspire people and change their perceptions. When people say to me, “I will never look at buildings in the same way again”, I think that is amazing. So for example, the Reader’s Digest building. A lot of people hate it because it is Brutalist. But after my tour, many people change their minds. Once a lady said to me that she did not like the building even though she lived in Surry Hills. At the end of the tour, she said she still did not like it, but she said she could appreciate it. It does not get any better than that. I want to make small changes in people’s lives. It makes me feel like all my time and effort are worthy.

My burning passion for architecture was only ignited not too long after my school days. One evening when I stayed back late at work, I picked up an architecture magazine that featured a beautiful house designed by the most respected architect in Australia, and I thought, “I can do this”. Then I became an architecture groupie. I love the detail of architecture, I get goose bumps when I see sexy buildings. When I see buildings that are finely detailed, simple, light, bright, airy and refined, that is an aesthetic that I like. I love it when old and new come together in buildings, that is sexy. You are bound to find such buildings in Surry Hills.

I think Surry Hills has not really changed a great deal since I started working here a little over a decade ago. Maybe there are subtle and small yet gradual changes, as in improvements that are designed carefully and sensitively as additions to the current architecture, just like the boutique guesthouse hotel that I mentioned earlier. The identity of Surry Hills and its character remain relatively intact, unlike many other places in the inner city which are more large scale. So I am not worried about the now or future of Surry Hills. If anything, it can only enhance as time goes by.

As the only child with a single mum, my mother’s health and well-being are certainly of utmost importance to me. I also have to ensure I stay happy and healthy so that I can continue soldiering on to achieve my career goals and make mum proud in the near future. However, the road to success for someone who has just started flying solo like me is never easy, especially when my professional network and presence in the industry are relatively small, to begin with. It also takes time to build good business momentum. Architecture is not the kind of business where you can just set up a shop and expect clients to walk in automatically; people are spending lots of money based on your skillset and experience. That said, I look forward to the challenges ahead; otherwise life is uneventful. I am proud of myself for what I have achieved in only 13+ years here as an architect.

6th October 2017

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