Meet Yanchee Lau, Associate, Hong Kong

Yanchee discusses his unconventional background in engineering and how it has taken him to the other side of the world.

Yanchee

Hi Yanchee, please tell us about yourself.
I’m a structural engineer by background, but I’ve been involved in many facets of engineering consultancy for the built environment, in particular design communication. After 14 years based in London, I relocated to Hong Kong at the end of 2017 to expand Eckersley O’Callaghan’s offering in Asia, where we are increasingly doing more work. On a personal level, my parents were originally from Hong Kong and I wanted to experience the local culture. When friends in the UK ask what it’s like, I say there is a buzz like no other. And the food is great. The whole package is something you have to experience first-hand.

Not only structural engineering then…
That was my first degree, but I’ve also studied product design and design management as my interests have developed. So my experience is rather unconventional, but all in the realm of engineering design of buildings and structures, which has led to different opportunities. I can probably trace it back to when I picked up Rhino (a 3D drawing software), a very long time ago, and realised the meaning of ‘power of the pen’. I would encourage young engineers to actively pursue their interests rather than defaulting to the well-trodden path. It’s obvious to say that finding out what you enjoy is going to lead to a lot more fun.

What sort of projects have you worked on?
Before joining Eckersley O’Callaghan in London, I worked on the extension to the Tate Modern gallery, a truly unique and challenging project that celebrates the materials and structure in the architecture. I was heavily involved in the geometry and defined every component in the brickwork cladding – it was like designing Lego! There was also a period when I was hands-on managing the design and construction of temporary installations and a couple of charitable projects in India. I was also part of team that made a flying machine for the Redbull Flugtag. We called these projects Guerrilla Engineering as they simply wouldn’t have happened without our collective efforts. I believe that being creative demands the act of creating; that, as consultants, we have to connect with the making process.

How is the market different in Asia?
I think there are ever-growing expectations of experiences in work, life and play in Asia. For example, some of the concepts and standards in workplace, hospitality, retail, food & beverage are very progressive, perhaps more so than in Europe. The markets are highly competitive, and companies are constantly finding new ways to delight consumers.

Where do you see Asia in 10 years?
The key challenge is undoubtedly urbanisation. Coupled with this is the availability of space, the liveability of the urban environment, and the development of smart cities. The distinction between places in which people work and live will increasingly become blurred. As consultants in the built environment, we will have to respond to changing ideas about how architecture creates new communities. With the emergence of technology, this is a critical moment as to whether we fully embrace its potential for the cities we live in.

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