Drea Lai Jie Ning SP Graduation 2024

Drea Lai Jie Ning

Diploma in Architecture (DARCH)

  • Toh Chin Chye Gold Medal
  • Singapore Institute of Architects Gold Medal

Designing her own blueprint for success

If one did not know any better, one could say that Drea Lai Jie Ning’s architectural talent was due to sheer luck. However, nothing could be further from the truth. As a child, the Tanjong Katong Girls’ School alumna always had a vivid imagination of what could be done with any given space and how things could fit into the surroundings. Dealing with dyslexia from a young age was no easy feat, but good support networks went a long way in helping Drea overcome the challenges she faced. Fortunately for her, she had very strong family support.

When Drea was in primary school, her parents’ research found that some of the unique strengths of people with dyslexia were very relevant and useful in architecture. This discovery, coupled with her keen spatial imagination, led them to expose her to the world of architecture. Although some may see it as a hurdle to learning, it became her biggest strength as her thinking skills thrived in a creative environment where she could view and interact with information differently.

She attended all of Singapore Polytechnic’s (SP) open house events and Early Admission Exercise (EAE) programmes, starting from Secondary 1, which only cemented her decision to enrol in SP’s Diploma in Architecture (DARCH) . SP’s progressive curriculum helped her build her foundation, starting with smaller buildings and moving on to larger ones. This came in handy during her internship at ADDP Architects, where she worked on high-rise projects such as mixed-use commercial buildings and new launch condominiums.

Having experienced an architect’s working life and momentum, Drea did not shy away from the field, but it affirmed her decision to pursue it as a career option. “As designers and architects, we have the ability to shape how people live. I really enjoy the work, which is also very meaningful.”

Her time in SP also enabled her to interact with peers from various backgrounds. The self-professed introvert realised she had a knack for presentations and slowly discovered that they were not as intimidating as she thought. Working with people from diverse backgrounds also helped in her learning journey, especially during group work, where soft skills such as project and people management could be applied and picked up. She remembers her first-year common foundation programme for students from the Diploma in Architecture, the Diploma in Landscape Architecture, and the Diploma in Interior Design. Although they were from different courses, it was a fruitful exchange where everyone could learn and understand things from each other’s perspectives.

Outside of schoolwork, she volunteers actively to help underprivileged children with their academic work. Growing up with dyslexia, she recognises the struggle in developing her learning style and understanding compared to what was taught in mainstream schools. Despite challenges in acquiring knowledge, it did not deter her from reaching her goals. Instead, it taught her to be resilient and adapt to different situations by finding ways which best suited her learning style.

After graduation, the Toh Chin Chye Gold Medallist plans to further her studies to broaden her horizons and gain global exposure. She has set her sights on using her skills and knowledge to positively impact communities by improving living spaces for the less privileged.

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