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Lifetime Leadership Award Winner 2012

Chair of Lifetime Leadership Award

Prof Alan Dilani
Director-general, International Academy for Design & Health


Awarded to a healthcare leader and visionary who has shown an ongoing, lifelong commitment to enhancing the health, wellbeing and quality of people’s lives through their dedication to healthcare design. The award recognises the human and personal qualities needed to push back the boundaries of progress and inspire future generations.

Ar Tan Eng Keong

Ar Tan Eng Keong, KMN, Professional Architect, Fellow, Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM)


Born in George Town, Penang, Malaya in 14 March 1935, to a medical officer father, Ar Tan Eng Keong grew up in a healthcare environment. Starting school at a late age of 10 years old in October 1945 due to World War II, he sat for Cambridge School Certificate/O-Levels in Malaya in December 1951 and A-levels in the United Kingdom (UK).

He studied at Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London from 1953 and graduated as an architect in 1959 with a Diploma in Architecture (UCL). Prior to his return to Malaya, he worked in the UK as assistant architect at Manning & Clamp in London from 1958-1960. On his return to Malaya, he worked as an architect at Palmer & Turner, Kuala Lumpur, a well-known architecture firm from1960 until Malaya’s war with Indonesia in 1963.

Seeking more stable employment, the opportunity came when the Prime Minister of independent Malaya of the time, Yang Amat Berhormat Abdul Razak Hussein (the father of the present Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Abdul Razak) embarked on a huge development plan. Ar Tan Eng Keong was accepted for the Public Works Department’s (PWD) architect’s post in the architecture department. One of the major programmes for the 2nd Malayan Development Plan was the renovation and building of new hospitals for the nation. The PWD were looking for staff to volunteer to undertake a hospital development programme, creating the opportunity for Ar Tan Eng Keong to specialise in healthcare planning and hospital design. Working for the PWD, he has been involved in planning and designing a full range of healthcare and hospital projects.

Supporting the Ministry of Health Malaysia’s agenda towards ‘Health for All’ by 2000, From 1978 until 1986, Ar Tan Eng Keong was named the first director for the newly formed Medical and Health Works Branch in the PWD, which he helped to establish. A dutiful director, he set a weekly class every Friday afternoon on healthcare facilities planning and design sessions to equip his staff. His effort had produced many health facility planners and architects in the industry today from the Medical and Health Works Branch. He was promoted to Director for Buildings Branch in 1986 and worked there he eventually retired in 1990 at the age of 55 years old. From 1990-1998, he joined construction company Yeoh Tiong Lay as the chief architect in the architects department responsible for handling the 12 district hospitals using the nucleus concept turnkey project approach for the Malaysian government.

In the government service, as a Malaysian architect from the Merdeka period, he was appointed by the Minister of Works to Registrar to the Board of Architects Malaysia in1977-1981 and later as President from1983-1989. At the same time Ar Tan Keong was elected by members of the Institute of Malaysia Architects/PAM as the President from 1981-1983. Today he is still the only architect to have held both the Presidents post in LAM and PAM.
Continuing his dedication to social causes into the private realm, he won the gold award as a private architect in collaboration with YTL Design Group in the design of Centrio, an innovative SoHo concept that combines living and work spaces with gardens.

Ar Tan Eng Keong has made a rich contribution to public healthcare facility design and the development of a healthy Malaysia today, marking the span of Malaysia’s achievement in the field since gaining independence.

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