Ailin & Kenneth: The Long Journey (2009-2016) of understanding
the Importance of Healthy and Sustainable Development;
leading to the birth of Philia Earth Limited
(Summer, 2009). Ailin flew from San Francisco while Kenneth flew from Hong Kong to Jakarta to see each other after their last meeting in year 2004. We were friends and classmates since 2000 when we pursuit our higher education in the United States. This was also the trip to participate in Ailin's younger brother's wedding in Jakarta. Our first dating in the city where Ailin was born and spent most of her childhood and teenage years sparked their first conversation about the hard-truth of urbanization in developing countries. City of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is a fascinating place but it is also a city where the uneven income distributions of the haves and the haves-not dramatically displayed in the built environment. The skyscrapers were built next to squatters and the inefficiency of the transportation system creates the problem of traffic jam. Having similar interests in building development and architecture, the conversations about improving the architectural styles, infra-structure development & improving cities' efficiency naturally become engaging topics in many of our dates.
(Autumn, 2010). The beautiful city of San Francisco's original name came from a Catholic Saint Francis of Asisi. The Bay Area, California has become Ailin's home-town for nearly 14 years. She has lived and worked in Pleasant Hill, Berkeley, Cupertino, Fremont, Hayward, Burlingame, Oakland, and resided the longest in San Francisco where the majority of her family members lived. Kenneth and Ailin visited many interesting buildings in our second dates, including the"California Academy of Science" designed by our favorite architect: Renzo Piano. This building leave a deep impression in our hearts about the importance of green building for the environment and most importantly for the health of its occupants. The 'living roof' at this museum pushing the sustainable concept beyond building materials, roof-garden, and other typical approaches. Our interest in sustainable building design grows...
(Summer, 2010). Best known as Asia World City, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China located in the Pearl River Delta of East Asia. Hong Kong is a densely populated (Land area: 1,106 square-kilometres; Population: 7.3 million) soverign state, but its well-established infrastructures such as transportation system(MTR), systematic city planning, organized city lay-out, create efficiency for its city dwellers. Hong Kong is the birth-place of Kenneth and the city where he grows up and dearly loved. On their third dates, Ailin flew to Hong Kong to visit Kenneth and also to consider whether this is the City where she can consider to live and to eventually settle down.
(Summer, 2010). Similar to Hong Kong, Macao is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China located on the western side of the Pearl River Delta in East Asia and was rented to Portugal from Ming Dynasty of China as a trading port. In 2006, Macao became the world's largest gambling center. Kenneth and Ailin's took a day-trip to Macao for a leisure occasion and to enjoy the various architectural features. Many of the casinos in Macao reminds them of those in Las Vegas. The resemblance, however, stop only in the casino buildings' style. Macao's city landscape has a lot more to offer such as the various Portuguese Churches, with one that becomes world-famous: "Ruins of St. Paul". It was also in Macao that an Italian missionary, Saint Matteo Ricci, first set his foot before he embarked his journey to the mainland China.
(Summer, 2011). Kenneth flew from Hong Kong where Ailin flew from San Francisco to Taipei to see each other briefly before Ailin gave her presentation at the iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) with the topic of "Global Citizenship" in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Taipei is the capital and special municipality of Taiwan. This brief visit gave them the chance to visit various architectural landmarks in Taipei including Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, National Palace Museum, and Taipei 101 (Skyrise that carries a symbolic number). We observed the city of Taipei to be clean and organized, similar to Hong Kong, with a slower pace of its city life-style. This year, Ailin completed her Masters Degree from the San Francisco State University and applied for her Ph.D. at the University of Hong Kong. 2011 is also a memorable year as Kenneth and Ailin got engaged in San Francisco.
(Summer, 2012). Guangzhou is the capital and the largest city of Guangdong Province in South-Eastern China. Recently, Guangzhou has been recognized as the 'Capital of the Third World'. Unlike other short visits, in September 2012, Ailin flew to Hong Kong to settle for a longer period of time to pursue her Ph.D. in the Faculty of Education of the University of Hong Kong.
Kenneth scheduled a day-trip to Guangzhou, a city that rich with cultural history and has a personal meaning to Kenneth's family. Kenneth's grand-father who was one of the leaders of the overseas Chinese in Japan was honored a monument at the 72 Martyrs in the Huanghuagang ('Yellow Flower Mound') Mausoleum by Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the founding father of China. Guangzhou is also the site for Kenneth's earlier project the 'East Tower' (when he was still working at the P&T Architects and Engineers Ltd). Guangzhou has many other interesting architectural projects such as the Guangzhou Opera House, designed by Zaha Hadid, the first female architect who won the Pritzker Architecture Award. 2012, is also the year where Ailin visited the 'Green School' in Bali for the first time, which gives her valuable experiences to witness first hand about an engaging holistic learning conducted in a natural environment. Upon her returned to Hong Kong, she modified her research interest to incorporate 'sustainability' aspect to her thesis.
(Autumn, 2013). Shenzhen holds sub-provincial administrative status, with power slightly less than a providence and it was known as China's first Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Ailin's first encountered the name of Shenzhen from a documentary that she watched about a decade ago at UC Berkeley in the City and Regional Planning Class. It has been her desire to visit Shenzhen and to witness for herself how the rice paddy area can be transformed into a city just within three decades. The infrastructure in Shenzhen is booming and many of the shopping malls here were constructed similar to those in Hong Kong. This trip gives a good understanding of the rapid development of a city and a good sense of the city landscape. 2013 is also a year where Kenneth and Ailin started to educate themselves with sustainable development through reading different materials. Ailin published her first academic paper "Negotiating the Meaning of the Green School". Kenneth started to design new type of buildings such as elderly center and factory to add on to his existing port-folio of sky-rise and boutique hotels. Both of them started to view real-estate development and architectural design beyond comfort and aesthetic for the select elites, but more importantly how to design in order to serve the community at-large and to improve environmental quality.
(Spring, 2014). Bali, also known as Pulau Dewata or The Island of the Gods", is an island with a strong tourism appeal because of its beautiful beaches, sophisticated arts (sculpture, painting, metal-working, and traditional dance). It was in Bali that Kenneth and Ailin were able to learn more about the significant impact of educating the young ones to acquire sustainable perspectives through the interviews and site visit while assessing the learning environment in Green School-Bali (The First Greenest School on Earth Winner awarded by the World Green Building Council in year 2012). It was also in Bali that they got to visit many of beautifully designed 5 stars hotels, resorts, and restaurants. The problem that they saw in Bali is the lack of infrastructure to connect one area to the other, such as the street lights. Our experiences in Bali leave a deep impression about 'sustainability' and it has certainly changes their mind-set about city development in general and incorporating environmentally friendly attitude for students in specific. The idea to improve the soft-ware (educational system) first before putting more investment to improve the hard-ware (architectural design) was discussed all the way through during their trip in Bali. In the Summer of 2014, Ailin also gave a presentation at OMEP (World Organization for Early Childhood Education) International Conference with the topic of "Sustainable Learning Environment" integrating architecture and education to report the preliminary findings of her Ph.D. dissertation in Cork, Ireland.
(Spring, 2015). This is the year when Ailin and Kenneth finally ties the knot as a husband and a wife. They have traveled to various places while keeping their promises to GOD to stay pure until they committed to each other. In all the short-term travels from Hong Kong such as Macau, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, they only took a day-trip to these cities. In a rather further away travels such as Taipei and Bali, either Ailin's parents or family member(s) joined them in this travel. Their 'Holy Matrimony' and 'Wedding Reception' took place at the Renaissance Hotel in Hong Kong. Soon after the wedding, both of them embarked in a new journey to build a house-hold centering on Christ as the ultimate head of their household. They were also honored to have their close friends and family members (particularly those who travelled from Jakarta and San Francisco to Hong Kong) to participate in this intimate wedding reception.
Prior to the honeymoon, both of them spent time at their own offices until late in the evening to get a lot of work finished before joining a 'Mediterranean Cruise' that took them to many cities in these 4 countries (France, Monaco, Spain, and Italy).
Throughout the visit of each city, they got to see some of the buildings that they learned from architecture textbooks back in their undergraduate years at the University of California Berkeley. They also got the opportunity to witness the endurance of certain building materials, but also the unnecessary of lavished spending on luxurious items. Gradually, their thinking have changed as they saw dirty marbles in old shopping malls in Polermo and encountered many homeless even in a beautiful and sacred city of Rome. Once again, they were pushed to think beyond comfort and indulgence. This realization is something that brought inner challenges to actually shift their very own thinking before trying to convey the message of sustainability to others.
(Winter, 2015). Upon their returned from Jakarta, Kenneth and Ailin participated in World Green Building Council (World-GBC) Congress 2015 in Hong Kong. This congress brought many intellectual and experts, mostly from the built environment field who are passionate about 'Green Buildings'. They got to learn significantly from this conference about: Sustainable Cities, Green Buildings, Green Infrastructure, Green Products Labeling, and so many other related areas that can help to preserve the Earth's resources. At the same time, Kenneth and Ailin were following closely the COP-21 conference and the issue about the Climate Change because they realize that to solve anthropogenic problem, it will need the efforts of many people to think out-side the box and to acquire a global perspective in preserving our planet's resources to ensure a bright future for our next generations. The discussion around sustainability, green-living, and how to offer our talents and abilities for the society at-large becomes a norm in their dinner and lunch gathering as a newly-wed couple.
(Spring, 2016). In our trip to Kuala Lumpur in January 2016, we submitted our abstract to participate at Healthy City Conference. Then, in our trip to Macau to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, we discussed again about the aspiration to start our own company and suddenly our vision became more real. Both of us agreed that, we wanted to signify the date to commemorate our planet earth and thanks to GOD that our wish to register the company on April 22, 2016 (The Earth Day) came true. We name our baby project as: Philia Earth (The origin word of Philia comes from Greek with the meaning as Friendship Love), we would like to convey the message about being environmentally friendly (loving our Earth) and also to build loyalty and trust among our partners, clients, and whoever we will be working with. The journey to understand "sustainability" continues as we visited Singapore, stayed at an award-winning hotel designed by WOHA for its sky-garden 'Park Royal Pickering' and visited Garden by the Bay. Singapore impressed us from the time we landed at their airport that was decorated with vertical greenery. Upon coming back to Hong Kong, we were excited with more ideas to improve our own beloved city.
2016 is also a huge milestone for Ailin as she completed her doctorate degree that she started from 2012. Kenneth has been instrumental in her scholarship journey. Ailin is extremely thankful for her parents: Mr. Susanto Iwan, Mrs. Oey Suzy Wirawaty for their unconditional love and support. She is grateful particularly for her primary supervisor whom she deeply respect: Prof. Nirmala Rao and her co-supervisors, Prof. Stephen Lau and Prof. Li Hui. Both of them are also very thankful for many of their closest friends (Mrs. Fiona Lee & Mr. Lobo Lee; Mrs. Caroline Huang & Mr. William Huang; Mr. Kenneth Lee & Mrs. Pauline Lee, Mr. Enoch Sun & Mrs. Katherine Sun; Mr. Samuel Lam & Mrs. Stephanie Lam; Mrs. Donna Sun & Dr. David Sun; Mr. Frederick Chan & Mrs. Jackline Chan; Mr. John Ariwi & Mrs. Beatrice Ariwi; Prof. Samson Tse & Mrs. OnYee Tse; Mr. Kenneth Lam & Mrs. Vivian Lam; Mrs. Veronica Tso & Dr. Raymond Tso; Mr. Thomas Lam & Mrs. Lena Lam; Pastor Alex Mc. Coy & Mrs. Megan Mc. Coy; Pastor Al Gibbs & Mrs. Esther Gibbs; Sr Wong Bay; Prof. Wing-Wah Law; and many more friends in Hong Kong) who have become like family members to them. Last but not least, Ailin is certainly thankful for Kenneth's family (Mr. C.Y. Poon & Mrs. Winnie Poon; Dr. Michael Coth & Dr. Kammy Coth; Miss Amy Poon & Mr. Cliff Lee) for their love and supports.
The knowledge about sustainability and the strong vision to improve people's quality of life through educating the next generation about sustainability and designing quality green buildings become our life-time goals to dedicate our God-given talents. We feel the urgency to be more diligent and professional in everything that we do because we realize the amount of responsibilities will simply increasing to push forward beyond our comfort zones. We look forward to collaborate with those like-minded people with similar goals and passions to transform our world to become more sustainable. We believe together, we can achieve this goal with the "Philia-Spirit" (the spirit of collaboration and friendship).