Original Artwork by Papa, Azhan and Nine (click image to link)
‘In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. By Time, indeed humanity is in a state of loss. Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth and in the mutual teaching of patience’ (Surah al-`Asr, 103:1-3)
"Professional Architect lives almost by faith. When called upon he can do the job without fear or favour. He possesses aspecialized skill and lives by a code of ethics cloaked in honour andintegrity. He is expected to speak his mind and give his views. Whenfaced with absolute wrong, he can resolutely disagree and walk away." quote from THE PROFESSIONAL MAN by Ar Dr Tan Loke Mun PRESIDENT PAM

Friday, 9 April 2010


 August 2009
 Photographed & Styled by EMILIE SMITH

Dear friends,

I'm writing to you today to congratulate you on your success and achievement this year. All of you have done an excellent job and it is well-deserved.

Soon, the final year undergraduates will embark into the working world of architecture. Some may have the glimpse of what awaits them and I wish them the very best of luck and may God be with you always.

I’m not in the position as a great achiever to give you any lecture. However, I'm writing this humble letter to honour our beloved lecturer request to share thoughts with you that would perhaps help you in your journey.

My friends, once this study of architecture is completed, some of you may opt for a break and have some fun after years of hard work. I hope while enjoying this luxurious time, you could think of the next big step in life. Have a good look at it and write it down.


With many years spent on brainstorming in design, we would have a set of dynamic creativity in our young mind bursting of energy. Remember to keep it fit all the time despite possessing the privilege of the so-called salary and time of our own.

Our set of mind now would totally be different from the one we had before studying architecture. But could we recall how we used to think before being in the architecture? Many of us including myself could hardly remember it anymore. Architecture has made us a better human but how are we going to serve others if we do not understand how non-architectural people think? Although we ensure ourselves fit with the consumption of “creative pills”, we also need to include some “natural ingredient" to our diet.

These are a few suggestions to supplement our diet:

 Instead of spending all our salary on our own luxurious needs, try to give some to the poor.

 Try spending a weekend with the orphans instead of working long hours in the office/studio

 Get ourselves involve with charity work rather than doing freelance for self-profit

 Spare some time with local community activities instead of joining corporate functions

Sometimes we just need to look and listen to people. Hopefully by expanding our relationship and activities with the people in needs will help us develop a better understanding of people's hearts and hopes that we need to serve and fulfil.


My friends, many of us share the same ultimate dream once we completed the architectural course; becoming an architect. Whether it is our true destiny or not is a mystery that we need to find out on our own.

Most importantly, we should pursue our passion in life and work. Passion will provide us with energy and willpower to achieve excellence and success. It will keep us going no matter how difficult it may be.

Yet many of our senior colleagues end up taking different paths. Some become contractors, photographers, 3d visualizer and some even choose to be canteen operator, but those diverted paths from architecture do not mean that they have failed in their life. They are actually successful by following their true passion and found their own destiny.

It is saddening to hear many stories of our senior friends who have come towards the end of their working life but regretted it and feel frustrated with their profession. Oddly enough, they wish they could do something else.

If we end up with different path and find other profession as our destiny, we shouldn't forget all the knowledge and skills we had learnt. Always govern ourselves with the code of professional, maintain our competency, integrity and honesty.


Having to pass design subject with "A" does reflect our talent. But do we know what is the greatest threat to our talent? Lack of character.

"Character creates a foundation upon which the structure of your talent and your life can build", says John C.Maxwell in his book Talent Is Never Enough. The greater your talent, the greater we need for strong character.

Many of us would be familiar with the concept of "extension of time" and "stay back" which are often and widely used in our design course. Although it seems to reflect our passion or commitment towards design, it also epitomizes our lack of self-discipline character. Believe me if we pass our design subject, we are good enough to design, but we'll be even greater if we could design within "sustainable" time schedule.

We should write our core values or our life principles. They define what we believe in and how we live. Islam provides good example of these values. The temptation of avoiding core value such as honesty by cutting corners in work is a continuous threat in real practice. Architects are men of principles.

Architecture world is quite strangely a small world. What comes round will come round. People could spread words even faster than sharing knowledge. If we have strong character and believe in our core values, it will protect everything in our life that we dearly hold onto.


In the studio years, we have the freedom to express and utilise our own idea and develop the confidence to stand against lecturers defending our design. In the real world we need stronger self-confidence to propose any idea simply because we are "lack of experience". This simple reason will lock our freedom.

It is true that experience is gained over the years. But don't let it stop our imagination. We may know nothing but we are ready to learn everything. We can fill the gap of inexperience by reading, going to seminars, taking short courses or simply by asking questions. If we think our lecturers drove us to the wall with too many things to learn, I guess in real practice we need to learn even more. The only difference is nobody will force us to learn. Expanding our knowledge helps build our confidence.

Never wait for opportunity to arise. Sometimes we need to take the initiative. For many of us we won't be able to meet and consult our clients before we reach our senior years in practice. Our whole time waiting for that opportunity equates to losing our momentum. Be initiative by providing free design advice to our neighbours or friends and we never know other doors of opportunity this will open to.

Another way to own our freedom is to identify and overcome our fear. Sometimes we don't even realise of the fear growing inside us that hinders us from embracing new challenges. One example, we will gain more money when we work, and so will our spending and in worse cases stretching ourselves into more debt (study loan, car, home mortgage, credit card, etc). Having more debts will increase our fear of losing jobs (income) especially during the recession. We keep on staying in the same firm even though we are not satisfied with many issues (because we are scared of confronting and debating the issues). The worst thing is when we even sacrifice our core value and principles. By reducing debts (thus gaining financial freedom) and having sufficient fund to survive without a permanent job will free us from the fear of losing jobs. The only fear worth having is the fear of punishment from God for our sins.

Idea and knowledge are a part of God's property, never hold it to ourselves, and share it whenever possible. To hide away knowledge for the sake of personal security will only lock us from the freedom of learning more.


This letter is equally a reminder to myself. When recession hits UK, I have seen many dreams ruined and shattered. Many people have been put out of work, even those at authoritative post like directors are not safe from this unfortunate fate and many firms collapsed. People put out their values just to keep on earning. It made me realised how fragile and vulnerable our profession is and the urgency of preparing oneself spiritually and financially.

That's all for now, I just hope my two-pence story would be of good value for your time. I hope that I could live longer to see one or more of your batch becoming legendary architects; Architects who bring hopes and create changes to make the world a better home for all.

I would like to share the final note from Sir Richard Branson in his book Screw It, Let's Do It (Virgin Books 2006):

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with that first step. If you look ahead  to the end, and all the weary miles between, with all the dangers you might face, you might never take that first step. And whatever it is you want to achieve in life, if you don’t make the effort, you won’t reach your goal. So take that first step. There will be many challenges. You might get knocked back – but in the end, you will make it. Good luck!"

May God accompany you in your journey.

Bury, Lancashire

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