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30UNDER30’s Sarah Yap on bridging her interests through architecture

30UNDER30’s Sarah Yap on bridging her interests through architecture


Australian Design Review (ADR) recently travelled to Bali with the 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World for 2023/2024. To celebrate, we are getting to know this exciting multidisciplinary cohort, the passions that drive their work and what makes them tick creatively.

Sarah Yap, registered architect at Sydney’s EM BE CE Studio, sees design as the language that empowers her the most. For Yap, architectural practice provides an opportunity to think broadly and diversely, inviting insight and opinion. It’s also a language that can transcend borders and shape communities for the present and the future through applied creativity, analysis and thoughtful aspects of design to find solutions.

ADR: How did your love for architecture originate?

SY: Both of my parents are architects. I grew up watching them sketch on yellow trace as a child, but I didn’t seriously consider a career in architecture until it came time to decide what to study at university. 

I’ve always loved being creative, from visual arts to mathematics. Architecture seemed a logical, and perhaps inevitable path, to bridge these interests while contributing to our communities and the built environment in a meaningful way.

ADR: What does sustainability mean for you?

SY: To me, sustainability means making the most ethical decision you can make now to meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of others to meet their needs in the future. It encompasses considerations of the environment and natural ecology, but also changing social, cultural and economic factors. It involves understanding and appreciating the value of how we live now and ensuring that our actions protect or improve this for generations to come.

ADR: Is there a particular project that you’ve worked on that has been the highlight of your career so far?

SY: 6 & 8 Parramatta Square was an exceptional project to be involved in so early in my career. Over the course of five years, I worked on the project from concept to completion. 

To contribute to such a significant, city-shaping building is an absolute privilege. It was an experience that profoundly influenced the way I approach design and the appreciation I have for how architecture can transform our cities and communities.

6 & 8 Parramatta Square
6 & 8 Parramatta Square. Photo: Joe Cheng
ADR: What drives your work and what do you hope to achieve in your architecture career?

SY: What drives my work is a fascination with how others think and perceive their world – understanding how we live, how we see others live, and how we want to live. I love learning from others and engaging with different perspectives in ways that are constructive and enlightening. 

In my architectural career, I hope I can make a lasting and positive impact on our cities and advocate for better outcomes for our changing communities and the environment. But I also hope that I can shift the profession and the way architects see their practice. This encompasses everything from how we implement technology and computational thinking, to promoting equity and making space for other voices to be heard.

ADR: How did it feel to make it into Australian Design Review’s 30UNDER30?

SY: Humbled and very grateful. To me, it affirms that others see value in how I approach my practice, the work that I do and the ambitions I strive for. It’s a fulfilling feeling to know that your point of view resonates with some of the most esteemed leaders of our industry.

Lead image by JPW.

ADR’s 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World stream is brought to you by major sponsor Neolith, alongside Miele, Interface and Tongue & Groove. The program is also supported by practice partners BVN, HDR Inc, SJB, Richard Stanisich, Williams Burton Leopardi, and Billard Leece Partnership. To find out more about the final 30, including their places of work and discipline areas, head to the 30UNDER30 page.


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