Architecture Graduate’s Experience

Interview with a green activist and architecture graduate

EduSpiral met Japheth Lim Gene Harn at an education fair and started to chat. This chat led to an interview session at Pappa Rich in Bangsar last week. I found Japheth to be highly intelligent and passionate about Green Architecture and that is why I asked if I could interview him to share his insights about architecture studies after having just graduated recently.

Japheth Lim hails from Kelana Jaya, Selangor and has just graduated with a degree in architecture from USM. He obtained straight As in his SPM and went into Matriculaion, subsequently clinching the much sought after JPA scholarship. He just started his first day of work yesterday at an architectural firm in Bangsar.

Being passionate about Environmental Sustainability and Urban Design, he favours team diversity and cross culture experience by working with over 20 countries individuals on various projects and conferences across the globe. Gene-Harn has an ENTJ leadership personality and also currently the founder of MESYM Malaysia Environmental Sustainability Youth Movement.  He’s also part of the AIESEC and Bayers Young Environmental Envoy network.

EduSpiral: Did you like design when you were younger?

I am actually bad at art and cannot draw well. There is a misconception out there that all architects are good at drawing or that if one is good at drawing, they should become an architect. Choosing architecture was never about art. It is about how to use design to find solutions.

EduSpiral:  What influenced you to choose Architecture?

It is funny how I became interested in architecture. It was through watching Discovery Channel on TV. I enjoyed watching how buildings were made, their intricate designs and the history or culture behind it. Each building has its own unique story.  So, I wanted to create and design buildings, each with its own uniqueness.

I also realised that architecture can have an impact on society. It is about finding solutions to built environments, from spaces to citiess. There are so many issues that still has yet to be solved therefore the opportunities are immense.

EduSpiral:  What are your favorite architecture subjects and what do they involve?

I think that Designing studio would be my favorite as it is the application of all that we have learnt in university. It is the output of all the subjects taken. We use all the knowledge gained and put together a design that we hope reflects what we have learnt and what we desire to show.

At university there are people who just take in lock, stock and barrel what the lecturers teach without questioning them. I used to give some of them a headache as I would Google the terms that they teach in class to see if the are the latest information and I would challenge my lecturers. This helped me to refine my thinking and made me sharper. I also read a lot and learnt a lot of stuff on my own.

EduSpiral: Why go green ?

Going green for me is about ethics and our responsibility to society and the world at large. I go green also because it feels good to be involved in something larger that has value to me personally and to mankind. I first encountered green issues when I read about Copenhagen and eventually Rio 20. This piqued my interest and eventually became my passion.

Choosing architecture allowed me to express my desire to contribute to society in a way that has impact and combine that with my creative talent.

Basically it should be refered to as sustainable architecture. Ultimately 40% of carbon dioxide comes from bad town planning. If you don’t plan your town properly, it will contribute greatly to pollution. When towns are not planned properly, roads will be jammed and the congestion of stalled cars will add to the pollution. Another example is the public transportation where a good system will motivate the public to use it regularly and thus decresing usage of cars.

EduSpiral:  Is architecture a good career pathway?

If you are keen about it. It depends on what you want in life. I think I made the right decision for myself.

EduSpiral: Good prospects for architecture?

Architecture is a profession where you either succeed or fail. This is because it takes a while to build your profession. In architecture, one does not just graduate from a degree and then find a job and begin your career. After compleing your degree in Architecture, it is only the beginning, where the degree is equivalent to Part 1 of PAM or Pertubuhan Architek Malaysia.

It is a long term struggle to getting your masters which is equivalent to Part 2 of PAM and then to getting your licence to be an architect and eventually working your way to owning your own firm.

However, when students finish the Part 1 they can diversify and they can go into Interior Design or real estate. They can pursue the Masters in Real Estate  Management where there is big money for this robust industry. Degree graduates can also join the developers as an inhouse representative to deal with the architecture firms in discussions for any projects.

EduSpiral:  What type of students should study architecture?

In Architecture, one should be open up to different fields and ideas where you will be able to draw ideas from there. You are in the forefront of design and therefor must be original and not just copy. You have to question everything, question your design, process. It is also about regulations. You cannot be a black & white person, you have to be creative. Expose yourself to everything.

For example, I love to travel to see diffirent cultures. When I travel, I get to see and experience first hand the story behind each building, of why it was made and the rationale for the designs behind it. Having these experiences contribute a lot to my conceptualisation of ideas for designs for buildings.

Most students do not realise this but Architecture is also about complying to the laws and regulations of the country. This can be quite frustrating and tedious. Architecture is where you have to build a building and ensure that it complies with all the procedures and regulations related to it.

EduSpiral: What’s your next step?

I am currently working now and thinking about going for Part 2 & 3. I want to be in the forefront of Green Building. Green Building Index (GBI). I am also considering on pursuing to be a consultant for this area or go into architecture emphasising on Green Design.

Green building is in its infant stage in Malaysia and if I focus in this area, I may be able to reap the benefits of specialising in this area in the near future.

I can work as a Green Building Index (GBI) certifier or facilitator. I can attend a shourt course to become certifed as a GBI certifier or facilitator. In this job I can serve a consultant to architects on Green Building Index certification. I will help advise them on how to comply to achieve the necessary points on the GBI system.

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