The Quick Six with Ian Simpson

By Ian Simpson
June 15, 2023

Singapore skyline at sunset

Ian Simpson is an award-winning architect and seasoned leader. With a vast portfolio spanning sectors including retail, residential and mixed-use, and regions as diverse as Asia Pacific and the Americas, Ian has a keen interest in the relationship between architecture and master planning, ensuring that buildings best respond to environmental, cultural, and societal needs. Now based in our Singapore office, Ian recounts his experiences over the years and shares more about his diverse design philosophy. 

Portrait of Ian Simpson

What was the first design project you ever worked on?

As a junior at Richard Rogers and Partners, my first major project was Terminal 5 Heathrow. I wasn’t in a position of contributing much but was able to experience the indescribable energy that comes from working in a leading design company on large-scale, impactful projects. I still use that as a benchmark today and will never forget the feeling of sitting in reception with models of the Pompidou Centre, Paris, the Lloyds Building, London, and more. 

When I was more established, one of the first projects I led on was the Aspect in Cardiff, UK. It was a conversion of a 1970s office building into residential apartments. It was 12 plus 2 stories, which I at the time thought was a skyscraper. This project has remained interesting to me over the years, as it ignited my interest in conversions, repurposing existing structures and skins, and inner-city regeneration. It was also my first RIBA award, which led onto working on the Phase 1 Regeneration of the Paddington Basin in London. 

Cardiff Bay

What is the biggest career risk you’ve ever taken, and did it pay off?

It would have to be jumping onto a plane to Singapore almost 15 years ago and setting up a business [Broadway Malyan] with no jobs and no clients. I fell in love with travel, especially Asia, when I took a break from my studies and spent a year exploring the world, so I guess it isn’t a real surprise that I ended up here permanently. My propensity to say yes to difficult requests and challenges helped a lot. 


A large part of your role in design is to shape urban and leisure destinations. What is your favorite place to visit?

Not a favorite place, but rather an experience. I always love to see a project start to come together – when the frame is up, and you can observe how it is interacting with a site or city. It is kind of magical seeing these spaces come to life before they are finished. It is also why I love regeneration projects so much because you can see the biggest transformations and uplifts of place – often long before the people come. 

I also love big cities and big sky. Think Mumbai and Utah. Both affect your emotions in completely different ways. 

Double Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

What three things do you always take on a business trip?

My eyes, ears, and sense of smell. You must take things in! 

Aside from that, the bare minimum: passport, credit card, and phone. Tech support: battery pack, sketchbook, local currency. And I’d also be lost without my AirPods and running gear.  


One piece of advice to aspiring designers?

Draw and paint. It helps you think as you design.  

Move out of your comfort zone. A new country for education, or a change of sectors or expertise (like I’ve just done, 30 years into my career!).

Keep learning. 

To me, the most important thing you need to appreciate as a designer is that the built environment is a team effort. The strength of the output is entirely dependent on the effectiveness of the whole team, and this shouldn’t stop when people move on, or when you miss out on a competition. Learning that it is okay to say no sometimes is also a key skill (and something I find much harder than yes!). 

About The Author

Portait of Ian Simpson in black and white

Ian Simpson is an award-winning architect and seasoned leader, with a vast portfolio spanning sectors including retail, residential and mixed-use.

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