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Tina Qiu on PLP Architecture’s vision for innovation and sustainability

Tina Qiu discusses PLP Architecture’s life-centric approach, research-based design and commitment to innovation.

Tina Qiu on PLP Architecture’s vision for innovation and sustainability

Tina Qiu. Portrait by Khoo Guo Jie.

From young, Tina Qiu has always been more interested in drawing houses and buildings than playing with dolls. Little did she know then that her hobby will eventually become her profession. The British architect began her career at PLP Architecture soon after she completed her Masters of Arts in Architecture at the Royal College of Art.

“My thesis very much relates to the ethos and work that PLP Architecture does,” says Qiu of the practice, which challenges preconceived notions and constructs new narratives that add social, environmental and financial value. “It seemed like a good fit for me and thankfully the practice thought the same.” Indeed, the synergies aligned so well that Qiu has been with the London-based practice for the last ten years designing and delivering commercial, residential and mixed-use projects across the United Kingdom, Europe and Singapore.

In London, she was responsible for the design and redevelopment of a key flagship retail space at 425 Oxford Street in Central London. The project promotes the adaptive reuse of the existing building, involving a complex demolition behind a retained 1930s facade to create dynamic internal spaces with exposed structure for a new lifestyle-focused store of a major international brand. 

Oxford Street Adidas by PLP Architecture Tina Liu
Llifestyle-focused store of a major international brand at Oxford Street. Photography by Janie Airey.

Says Qiu: “This was my first big project as a young architect. Redesigning an existing building was more difficult than designing a new build as structural limitations and foundations need to be considered. And to make the process even more complicated, construction was completed with retained tenancies on the upper office floors throughout.”

Following the success of the project, Qiu has led the design for a new luxury office development in the Mayfair area. The facade sensitively contributes to the conservation area using crafted terracotta pieces embedded in Portland Stone. Internally, it has been redesigned and reprogrammed into efficient spaces that place emphasis on understated luxury and refined durability. The project adds to PLP Architecture’s recently completed headquarter building located along the same street for the same client.

Related: Building conservation: Its necessity in Singapore’s changing urban landscape

Clivedale Office by PLP Architecture Tina Qiu
Clivedale Ventures headquarters. Image courtesy of PLP Architecture.

These projects demonstrate the commitment Qiu shares with the practice for high quality architecture and urban works grounded in innovation and sustainability. As the built environment accounts for 39 per cent of global carbon emissions, of which 11 per cent is embodied carbon and the remaining 28 per cent is from building operations, Qiu shares that reusability and durability of building and building materials need to be prioritised. 

Be it an existing or new build, every component needs to be thoroughly thought through at the early stages of the design phase, and the design needs to be adaptive for the next hundred years. “Armed with greater knowledge, expertise and advanced technology, there shouldn’t be a reason now for responsible design professionals to not achieve this.” A wonderful example is The Edge, Amsterdam, created by the practice as the world’s most sustainable office building by employing innovative smart technologies. 

This focus on context, civic responsibility and environmental responsiveness is manifested in the 1.1 million-square-metre Tokyo Cross Park Vision, which is a new district in Uchisaiwaicho 1-Chome that is slated for completion in 2037. The project will be the largest regeneration development in the metropolitan area of Tokyo and aims for net zero at completion. Together with the introduction of new technology such as carbon capturing, the masterplan aims for carbon negative in the future.

Tokyo Cross Park Vision by PLP Architecture
Tokyo Cross Park Vision. Image courtesy of Nikkei Sekkei.

Indeed, architecture has the ability to create a platform for future change; therefore, PLP Architecture created its design research collaborative, PLP Labs, to support this vision. Though a separate entity from the practice, much of the research done by PLP Labs inform the practice’s design and are extrapolated to several projects. “For example, we worked with PLP Labs on the biophysics research for the Park Nova project to investigate how biophilia affect human wellness, productivity and comfort in a space,” says Qiu of the high-end residential tower in Orchard for Shun Tak Holdings that will be completed in 2024. 

By collaborating with leading experts from around the word and across a wide spectrum of disciplines, PLP Labs can arrive at new and more successful solutions. The research and innovation arm is currently exploring how to measure and value health and wellbeing in offices with wearable technologies, rethinking mobility systems in cities with AEV networks and exploring the future of sustainable materials such as wood and mycelium. “We’re hoping to create furniture out of mycelium and incorporate it into other parts of the built environment if the research if successful, says Qiu.

Park Nova by PLP Architecture Tina Qiu
Park Nova. Image courtesy of PLP Architecture.

This vision for innovation and sustainability extends to PLP Architecture’s studios in London, Tokyo and most recently Singapore, as the firm hopes to engage in more meaningful and transformative projects in Southeast Asia. With Qiu’s particular expertise in projects involving complex planning and programmatic challenges, as well as specialised experiences in the major renovation of complex early twentieth-century buildings, she is poised to lead the growth and strategic development of PLP Architecture’s Singapore studio.

This article first appeared on Cubes #103. Purchase your digital copy here.

Portrait photography by Khoo Guo Jie

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