The architect tells us why it’s important to set aside fear and take lots of calculated risks

Prior to setting up design office COLLECTIVE, Generation T lister Betty Ng was design director at OMA Rotterdam with internationally renowned architect, Rem Koolhaas, where she led the winning proposals for Axel Springer Media Headquarters in Berlin, the Hermitage Museum Art Repository in St. Petersburg and the West Kowloon Cultural District Master Plan in Hong Kong, to name a few.

She also has experience with Herzog & de Meuron and Massimiliano Fuksas and is considered a force to be reckoned among architectural and design circles.

We met with Betty at one of her favourite haunts, Second Draft and in our latest edition of the Tatler 10, where we pose 10 questions to Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs about their businesses, Betty tells us why fear shouldn’t stand in your way and why clarity, beauty and function are key.

What does Hong Kong mean to you?

Hong Kong seems to be capable of accommodating all kinds of contradictions in all aspects and I’m constantly intrigued by this quality of tension and contradiction.  

Summarise your business in one sentence.

COLLECTIVE is an international research and idea-driven design office practicing architecture, interiors and urban design; while COLLECTIVE remains dedicated to the realisation of architecture, we also engage in areas beyond traditional boundaries, operating also as a research unit and design consultancy, working in scenography, exhibition design, and experiential art.

See also: The Tatler 10: Kelly Lo

What is your proudest accomplishment?

I feel as though I’m not at a point where I can say anything, I’m still working on it!

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Betty wears the Reserve boots by Stuart Weitzman (Photos: Moses Ng/Hong Kong Tatler)
Above Betty wears the Reserve boots by Stuart Weitzman (Photos: Moses Ng/Hong Kong Tatler)

What do you love most about running your own business?

Being able to choreograph our work with autonomy; the talented architects and designers we managed to gather to create a tight and extraordinarily creative team; and having to tackle business matters outside of architecture has proven to be fairly exhilarating and similarly exciting.

What advice can you offer budding entrepreneurs?  

Set aside fear, never hesitate to enquire and take (a lot of) calculated risks.

As an entrepreneur, what do you think sets you and your business apart from the competition?

COLLECTIVE never takes a cookie-cutter approach to design, we are an idea-driven team that insists on clarity, beauty and function, and we treat each project as a new opportunity for experimentation.

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Betty wears the Reserve boots by Stuart Weitzman (Photos: Moses Ng/Hong Kong Tatler)
Above Betty wears the Reserve boots by Stuart Weitzman (Photos: Moses Ng/Hong Kong Tatler)

Who inspires you and why? This can be one person or different people.  

Rem Koolhaas, for obvious reasons as he was my mentor and is a highly regarded architect; yet the most mesmerising thing is his ability to keep design processes alive with a methodology, through creating constructive and devastating tension, keeping everyone and everything off balance, while piloting through hope and contradictions persistently and reaching a design agenda.

My partners at COLLECTIVE, we were all colleagues previously working with Rem. Juan and Katja made a jump to join forces with me at COLLECTIVE and it’s been 2 years, the courage, trust, the risks they took on and how we understand and utilise each other’s strength and weaknesses to the extreme never ceases to amaze me.

See also: The Tatler 10: Pearl Shek of Apinara

Looking back do you wish you had done anything differently?

No, I am grateful to be where I am now and I believe everything happens for a reason.

What's your end goal?

I hope there is no choreographed finale to my life or to COLLECTIVE, my partners and I look forward to witnessing and tackling whatever lies ahead.

What are your words to live by?

“I keep setting aside fear; it brings me far along the way.”

See other Tatler 10 interviews with Stephnie Shek, Christy Liang and Cynthia Mak.

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