Legacy Series: TK and Jonathan Quek

Special feature by The Macallan
25 Jan 2018

Father and son architect duo, T K and Jonathan Quek, on the importance of continuing family legacies

Legacies are important in the Quek household, as demonstrated by the year-and-a-half-old home that father and son T K and Jonathan built together. In addition to taking the place of the original bungalow that once stood there, it is also a multi-generational house that acts as the perfect representation between the Quek gentlemen and their respective families.

T K is the co-founder and director at RT + Q Architects, while Jonathan was recently appointed as a director within the firm – yet another example of keeping legacies within the family alive and well. “Architecture is not an easy profession and I admire my son for continuing on with the company because he could have done something else. But I am happy where he is now and has the skills perfect for the job and is already much better than I was when I was his age.”


Makings Of A Mentor

When asked about important life lessons learned through the course of his decades-long architecture career, T K interestingly brings up the topic of mobile phones — from gigantic Motorolas and clamshells to coveted smartphones like the iPhone X and Google Pixel. “All of these mobile phones were inventions that were ahead of their time and the people at these companies constantly innovate. And these lessons are what I find important – innovate, never stay still, and always be curious. By doing so, you will always learn something new everyday.”

But beyond his steadfast belief in curiosity and innovation, he reveals that imparting knowledge to younger people, whether it’s his son or his staff, is perhaps of equal, if not greater, importance. “If I’m able to cook the best fried rice, I will not keep the recipe with me and bring it to my grave. It is better that the fried rice recipe be given to somebody else and hope that they can make it even better. Many years ago, cooks died with the recipes and I don’t want that to happen.”

And as the default mentor to his son and protégé, he had this to say: “Jonathan has been with the firm for a number of years and he’s already well trained. And my view for RT + Q is that one day, the current Q will go, but there will be a small Q that takes over. So that is the legacy I leave behind for him.”


Following Footsteps

“I think I had no choice in being his protégé since I’m his son,” exclaims Jonathan with a laugh. “The profession was introduced to me at a very early age and his actions and work ethic was something I looked up to.”

“Just by default, it’s actually tough to pick a mentor out of the box,” reveals Jonathan. “I am lucky that I have a very good relationship with my father – both from a personal and professional standpoint. I seek his advice especially when there’s no one true answer or by-the-book answer when it comes to dealing with problems. That is definitely something that can only be resolved through his experience, which you can’t learn in school. That part is invaluable to me.”

This relationship was evident throughout the interview session, where we saw T K and Jonathan engaging in casual banter, as well as going through e-mails together and briefly discussing ongoing projects. Shades of T K were definitely present in Jonathan, a good sign that one day, he too will become a mentor to both his children and the people he works with.

“I do foresee myself being a mentor one day. Echoing what my dad said, I think the recipes he has imparted onto me, I can one day transfer to someone else. Hopefully, the recipe becomes better, more flavorful, tastier, and a new version of it all. And of course, to share it – that’s the most important thing!”