Interview with Mahri Hj. Latif

Mahri Hj. Latif

Principal and Managing Direector of Gemilang Latif Associates
Class of 1993

What are some of your accomplishments to date?
I am the Principal and Managing Director of Gemilang Latif Associates, a midsized architecture firm in Bandar Seri Begawan. My company does large-scale government projects, commercial and private developments. I founded Gemilang Latif Associates in 1999. Today, I have 13 staff working for the company, including two Chartered Architects. I am one of them. I am proud to report that more than 90 percent of my staff are local Bruneians.

How did your training and experience at IBTE help to shape who you are today?
I enrolled at IBTE because I had two very distinct ambitions very early on in life. I wanted to be either an architect or a successful farmer. At that time, IBTE was the only institution in Brunei that offered practical courses related to the construction industry, so I applied. When I was at IBTE, I was exposed to a wide range of practical training from drafting to practical construction methodology. Doing practical work with my two hands reignited my passion for drawing as well as for building things from scratch.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at IBTE because even back then, the institution had brought in the best resources possible to teach us. I remember being taught by a foreigner, Mr David Hockley who was instrumental in inspiring my interest in becoming an architect. When I was at IBTE I discovered that there were scholarship opportunities available for IBTE students who were interested in furthering their studies in Japan technical colleges. So I applied for a scholarship and was accepted.

From there, I went on to pursue a six month course in the Japanese language and that was followed by two years of technical training in Tokyo. I did this to be able to follow my dream of becoming an architect. I remember when I first got there I was overwhelmed by Tokyo’s skylines but I learnt the philosophies of some of the world’s foremost Japanese architects such as Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito and Shin Takamatsu who have influenced my style of design even up to today. In 1996, as a final year student my architecture project won the best design award – this was a humbling experience for me, as I was a young person from a small country who had competed with Japanese and international students and was chosen to receive this type of recognition.

After Japan, I went on to the UK to pursue my Chartered Architecture degree before returning to Brunei to start my own company in the late 90s. Looking back to connect the dots, all of these opportunities would not have been possible without my experience at IBTE. To me, the training at IBTE was the starting point, that gave me access to many more future possibilities.

What advice do you have for the students in IBTE who are graduating this year?
I would encourage the students to follow their passion! Graduating from IBTE is not the end, it is just the beginning. If you know what you want, go and pursue it. It may require further studies, it may require you to step into the workforce first to gain more experience. Whatever the case, don’t stop asking yourself what you want to do in the future!

This article was published in the IBTE Special Issue (Oct-Dec 2015) of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!