Career Profile: Lan Yang, Creative Director at PENSON

In line with International Women’s Day, we are thrilled to welcome Creative Director at PENSON, Lan Yang to our latest Career Profile article. As a woman coming up in the Architect and Design industry, we found Lan’s journey inspirational and empowering, and we are sure you will too. Take a look at Asta Bijeike’s Career Profile, who works alongside Lan at PENSON.

Could you introduce yourself and your position at PENSON ?

My name is Lan Yang, I’m Creative Director at global Architecture & Design Studio PENSON. This year will be my 11th year at PENSON! My previous role was Associate, and before that Senior Designer.

What was your educational background?

BDes(Hons) Interior and Environmental Design at Dundee University. A wonderful place to study!

How did you start your career as a designer?

I have always loved buildings and mega structures; I can even remember the day that I told myself – that’s it! I want to design buildings! That was me at age 6, stuck in traffic on a highway bridge in Beijing, staring at the skyline and the complicated ring roads, fascinated by how people built all these things. So, I think I started thinking about my design career pretty young.

After graduating with a design degree, I was fortunate enough to land my first job with a large international architectural practice, RMJM. I was working as an Interior Designer and mostly worked on educational buildings from schools to universities, commercial offices, and master planning. I was also part of the team who created the Commonwealth Games Village for Glasgow. As it was an international practice, I also loved working on projects and pitches around the world.

After three years I wanted a change; to be more involved with projects from start to finish and have more responsibility seeing a project at all stages. I discovered PENSON by coincidence in a feature from a magazine. They instantly stood out to me as the kind of young creative, but global studio I’d wanted to move to. The minute I joined I was able to start making my own mark on the company and grew with the brand. The rest is history!

What were the greatest lessons you learnt from this stage of your career?

Not to get bogged down doing the same old. To be flexible, keep learning and evolving. Especially with the current climate; what’s happening around the world and our larger environment … I shouldn’t stop once I’m comfortable or used to a way of working. I need to keep picking up new skill sets and come up with creative solutions to cater for the forever changing briefs and challenges.

What were your project highlights of your design career and why?

The Leadenhall building in London for sure – this is a project we’re currently working on. I’ve always admired it and have now worked on multiple floors within this landmark skyscraper. It is a challenging project considering the movement you have within the skyscraper, and the structural constraints. We had to work with various specialist teams to realise the job, working closely with structural engineers, acousticians, vibration engineers and other consultants. The finished project will be a post-covid era, new form of working, just like a members’ club that has all the functions to support people in life and work. There’s full gym facility, climbing wall, fitness studios, music studios, and the most amazing thing is we managed to put in a real tree and 120sqm of real green surfaces. It caters for all types of spaces and scenarios – ranging from quiet focused work to lounges, to an events space with its own bar. We added the ability to monitor and adjust C02 levels and air quality. The lighting temperature changes throughout the day to reflect and work with the outdoor lighting conditions. The project also contributes to wider environmental issues, helping with the ash dieback in the UK as all workstations installed are solid timber. Specifying this ash helps to make use of this beautiful native species – rather than letting the timber go to waste.

How has your career progressed whilst working at PENSON?

What’s great about PENSON is that it promotes multidisciplinary design which I love. From conceptual design to running live projects on site, I’ve rapidly progressed at PENSON. I push myself, don’t settle for the status quo with my designs, and I’m prepared to take on complex tasks.

The level of trust I receive from our CEO + Founder, Lee Penson, means that I’m always encouraged to grow and take on responsibilities. At PENSON we always force ourselves to challenge the norm. And we believe being challenged is the best progression.

What do you bring to the role of Creative Director at PENSON? Do you have your own design ethos or particular passions?

Because of the multidisciplinary experience that I had early in my career, it has widened my knowledge and interest across different sectors within the design industry. I guess what I bring to the role is the experience I gained from projects and from the numerous pitch experiences too. I continue to be inspired from the way I cross fertisilise knowledge with experience.

Are there career ambitions which you are yet to achieve?

I won’t say I have one particular goal yet to achieve, but I’m always up for a challenge. New projects really excite me. I’m still waiting for that one even bigger project that could test my skills further. I’m really passionate about creating experiential design and realising it in a physical environment. I want to continue to create amazing sustainable spaces for everyone to enjoy.


About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
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