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18 NOV 2019

My Way: Muygech Sok

Muygech Sok is on a mission to change an outdated mindset. Early in her career, she was criticised for pursuing an "uncommon career" in architecture. Fast-forward 10 years, she now runs her own Cambodia-based design studio, has been named a "Southeast Asian architect to keep an eye on", and has been celebrated for her gender-equality work in several publications.

The beginning

Growing up in the nineties in Cambodia, you hardly heard people talk about "quality of life". It is a developing country, we were struggling to simply meet our basic needs. So, there's a certain irony to me pursuing a career in architecture, a profession that has taught me so much about the impact design can have on the quality of peoples' lives.

My passion for architecture began during my first year in college. I remember being told it was an uncommon career choice for a young woman in Cambodia; I was always questioned whether I was capable enough to practice architecture — sadly, gender bias still exists.

I graduated from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology with a First-Class Honours bachelor's degree in Architecture in 2012. After graduating, I became an architect leader at a local design firm called Urban Architecture Co. Ltd., but I always wanted to take my education further and gain new life experiences.

This opportunity came when I was awarded the ASEAN Masters Scholarship to pursue a master's degree in Architecture at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. My experience studying abroad was one I remember fondly and it really helped to broaden my mind, both personally and professionally.

I returned to Cambodia in 2016 and began working part-time as a lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment of my alma mater. During that time, I also established my own design studio, which is based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia — I named it BMK Architects.

The breakthrough

While the trials and tribulations of my journey as a female architect have not always been easy, they have been a motivator for me to prove people wrong — especially in the male-dominated world of architecture. In fact, being anomalous in this world has led to several opportunities that have given me amazing professional exposure.

Muygech Sok
Muygech Sok

Timeline

  • 2012 Completes bachelor's degree in architecture, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Cambodia
  • 2014 Architect team leader, Urban Architecture Co. Ltd, Cambodia
  • 2015 Completes master's degree in architecture, University of Nottingham, UK
  • 2016 Establishes BMK Architects, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • 2018 Founder and principle architect, BMK Architects
  • 2019 Named in Design and Architecture Annual Report 2019

While my career journey has not always been easy, it has been a motivator for me and has led to several opportunities that have given me amazing professional exposure.

Muygech Sok, Founder & Principle Architect, BMK Architects

In 2018, I was interviewed by Phnom Penh Post as an architect who is "pushing the boundaries of sustainable architecture"; I took part in a video by the Ministry of Women's Affairs of Cambodia about "leading the way for gender equality"; and I was featured in Khmer Times Media for building a name for women in architecture.

This year has been equally as exciting. I was listed as a "Southeast Asian architect to keep an eye on" in Design and Architecture's Annual Report 2019. And, last February, I was a speaker for TEDx, where I delivered the presentation: 'Why design matters for our indoor generation'.

The present

A lot of my time is taken up by the studio. As Founder and Principle Architect at BMK Architects, I develop and nurture project relationships to determine goals, establish requirements, and set timelines and budgets. I also take part in business management and supervise my team, who work across finance, human resources and marketing.

Even so, I do still make time to "give back" and volunteer at workshops whenever I can. I'm a real advocate of mentorship and try my best to foster a culture in the studio that is both friendly and supportive — a positive work culture is so important.

I am delighted to add being shortlisted for the Property, Infrastructure and Construction category at the Women of the Future Awards Southeast Asia to my list of achievements. It's affirmation that my efforts are being recognised by an international community.

My hope is that this will help me inspire others through my career story, especially younger generations, who must be as innovative and as skilful as possible to succeed in today's competitive world.

View the shortlist for the Women of the Future Awards Southeast Asia 2020

The future

My ultimate vision for the future is a world where everyone has a place they can call "home". However, today's homes cannot only be about functionality and comfort, they must also be sustainable. In the age of global warming, it is vital to stress the importance of passive design and to introduce solutions that improve life while significantly reducing our carbon footprint.

Being an architect in a developing country like Cambodia, I know from personal experience how challenging it can be to get clients to embrace new design solutions. One of my visions is to trailblaze innovative and conscious design that creates better places for people to live in — this is one of the reasons I started my own studio in the first place.

I hope that my hard work and determination will bring about positive change in Cambodia and abroad, especially as I look to gain more international exposure for BMK Architects.

Connect with Muygech Sok on LinkedIn