Cover Pamela Tan, founder of Malaysia-based Poh Sin Studio pictured next to her Eden installation

The Malaysian architectural designer Pamela Tan is the founder of Poh Sin Studio; she creates immersive installations that blur the boundaries between architecture, design and art

Founder of Poh Sin Studio, Pamela Tan, creates immersive installations that just beg to be experienced. Blurring the boundaries between architecture, design and art, her complex creations range from murals and spatial installations to interactive sculptures—multilayered extravaganzas that are as thought-provoking as they are enchanting.

After obtaining her master's in architecture from the University of Greenwich, the architectural designer returned to Malaysia. Her work thus far is grounded in profound concepts with an accessible aesthetic appeal.

These include Eden, a nature-inspired installation commissioned by a developer that eschews lush greenery for an all-white “garden of delight”. A maze of intricate wrought-metal “vines” and luminous glass spheres invites visitors to rediscover how nature can be experienced by magnifying subtle details through its organic structures.

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Just as complex but evoking a completely different response is Projection: Kite, a work created for the Good Vibes Music Festival 2019 held in Genting Highlands, Malaysia. A spatial installation comprising colourful woven strings, the playful piece lets visitors experience “visual portal of lightness and transparency”. Eden won the Bronze award in the Design for Asia Awards 2020 in the Environmental Design category, while Projection: Kite took home the Merit award.

It’s heartening that the Malaysian design landscape has space for Tan, whose work defies easy categorisation; what lies ahead for this bright young talent looks as intriguing as her creations. She tells us more about her creative process and her sources of inspiration.

Tell us more about your creative process.
Pamela Tan (PT) The design process is my favourite part of a project because it’s a period of discovery; I never know what’s the final outcome and that is the exciting part. I love how the final outcome can still surprise me every time.

My design process varies with the type of projects I'm working on but generally, it starts with finding a subject or a narrative. These could include elements of history or research based on colour and material studies. These findings were then translated into design characteristics, taxonomy or modular pieces. This is where I began my experimental phase; I experiment with different materials, building prototypes, and understand them through a process of trial and error. The final design outcome is literally the final prototype.

What do you hope to achieve through your designs?
PT I enjoy expressing details in a skeletal manner that highlights the essence (of an object), (combined with) layers of meanings. I’m always looking out for opportunities to collaborate with people from different fields. They each have their own values and philosophy, and it’s interesting to see if I’m able to layer those elements and meanings in my designs.

What keeps you inspired? Who are the designers and artists that you look up to?
PT
Project-wise, I would say that my research findings and the search for narratives are the main inspiration behind all my work.

I look up to artists such as Ai Wei Wei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Banksy, Olafur Eliasson, Antony Gormley, Jeff Koons and David Hockney, as well as architects and designers including Frank Gehry, Le Corbusier, Lebbeus Woods, Snarkitecture, Virgil Abloh, Sou Fujimoto, Loose Leaf Studio and many more.

What are you working on now?
PT I’m currently working on large scale ceiling installation for a private hospital and designing several small-scale objects.