The Architect: Teri Tsang

April 17, 2013

Teri Tsang designs buildings and interiors, collects things that inspire her, takes beautiful pictures, bakes cupcakes in the middle of the night, and if she had time, would add Barista to her resume.

Tsang Town…  Teri, if you build it, I will come!  …

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where are you from?
i grew up in hong kong. went to the states, northfield, ma, for highschool, then to pittsburgh, pa for my degree in cmu. i came back to hong kong right after graduation. it’s been 8 years now.

what type of work do you do?
i am an architect. i design buildings, as well as coordination with different parties in a building process up to construction completes. the latter do not sound so fun, huh? yep, this is architecture.. the cool part only stays in the beginning then the crap follows. i work in an uk based architectural firm that expertise in retail shopping malls. we are slowly picking up some residential, office and hotel projects as well, as the global trend tends to do mixed-use development nowadays. i also do interior design for residential homes or small shops for friends in my leisure time; this is more of an interest to me than for the extra cash. doing interiors gives me a very different satisfaction as compare to constructing a building (you may find me crazy saying so..) but when the time it takes to finish a job is much shorter and seeing it right in front of you, able to touch it, feel it in a more personal scale, do make a difference to what I do everyday, not to mention they would help killing my crave on getting the nicely designed furniture from homes to homes.

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what is the largest project you’ve designed?
the largest project i’ve done would be this mixed-use development i am currently working on in chennai, india. It is a 2.2 million sqft construction on a 16 acre site – a mixed-use development with a huge retail mall and 3 residential towers sitting on top of it. apart from it being exotically in india, it is also quite a challenging one, as you know india is still a “poorly” developing country where they are still learning the technologies and methods to build a real proper building, at least one that do not leak water when it rains or one that has working air-con.

what is the most challenging part of your job?
i think what i have mentioned above was one of the most challenging part of my job and to add on top of that would be my site visits to india every few months. i do hear a lot of good comments from traveling to india leisurely, but working in there is a completely different story! apart from the place not being at all livable with its dirty streets that are packed with homeless people or animals (mostly bulls / cows), chaotic traffic systems, run-down buildings all over the city, like most developing countries, indians are just as stubborn and persistent with their outdated way of construction, so kicking some sense into them was quite a challenge! However, once they accepted your ideas, it feels like you are changing the world and their lives!!  As for the interior part of me, the biggest challenge is to put what i like into other people’s lives. a good design is very subjective, how can i tailor the design to be what they would be happy to live in? useful or practical for their daily lives and not defeating my own design beliefs? yes, this is always a dilemma in what i do, applies to both architecture or interior, thriving for a balance between practicality and aesthetics is one of the biggest challenges. architects are called the most practical artists, in no doubt this is true. it’s not an easy task and can be very frustrating, but this is where the fun is.

what is your other dream job?
apart from being a full-time interior designer, my next dream job would be a baker or a coffee barista! i love baking, loving the idea that it is actually chemistry! if one step fails, the whole thing fails!! it is something that i would do on stressful nights (yea i like baking in midst of the night!), it keeps my mind off my stressful day and all i have in there would be how much flour or sugar i need to get this recipe works!! the idea of being a coffee barista is pretty much the same, other than addicted to the drink itself, am also addicted to the irresistible coffee aroma during the process.

what inspires you?
it tends to be very random. I can get inspired by a random photograph, not necessarily a building or interior photograph, even just an abstract painting, a random scene i see in a restaurant or even the shape of a coffee cup can inspire me. mostly old things, old-fashioned ceramic tiles, french windows, scandinavian prints (love!!).. i do not usually take the whole scene literally, I may just get inspired by the color tone or the composition of these items. inspirations always happen at the most random times of my life – like when i was picking up something i dropped.

where can i find the best noodles in hong kong?
i’d suggest this fishball rice noodle place in aberdeen, hong kong! they serve the freshest and crunchiest fried fishballs in town!! one of my favorite weekend lunch spots!!

what are you working on now?
i am working on this retail mall project in india i mentioned above; it is in construction stage now, lots of remote coordination and emails everyday regarding site queries. apart from that, i am also working on another retail mall at its design stage in china, a slightly more developed country, but just as frustrating!!

what do you collect?
oh my.. you sure you want me to get to this?! my collection goes from design books, scale ruler, tees to lego figures – one of my proudest collections. i was always a lego kid, no wonder my mom could see me being an architect since i was a kid!! another favorite collection of mine would be my coffee mugs and the protector sleeves for take-away coffee!! coffee makes a big part of me due to my profession, liking almost everything that relates to it!!

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