Ian Tan specialises in the conservation of historic iron structures. He is undertaking PhD research in this subject, focusing on 19th and 20th century development of iron building types in Singapore and Hong Kong. His research and teaching engage in the parallel development of architecture and conservation during the 19th and 20th century, and the intersection of other corollary fields, such as building craft, archaeology, and museum management. He is particularly interested in the exchange and localisation of building traditions across Southeast Asia.
He works as an Associate Director with One Bite Design Studio, an architecture-based design company that strives to bridge the gaps between space, place, and society through placemaking, community engagement, and exhibition curation. He collaborates with a multi-disciplinary team of architects, designers, researchers, and community managers that reflects the diverse expertise and perspectives needed to generate new urban ideas.