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IFLA Asia Pacific Congress 2017 – Keynote Speakers

 

We are excited to share with you on IFLA Asia-Pacific Congress 2017 Keynote Speakers:

Keynote Speakers: Professor Niall Kirkwood

 

Keynote Speakers: Tawatchai Kobkaikit

Tickets to the congress is available at 2017iflaapr.com

IFLA Asia-Pacific Congress 2017

Dear All Members,

The organizing committee is excited to launch the 2017 IFLA APR Congress and its theme of “Blue, Green, and Culture” that will be held in Bangkok, Thailand this November 2-5.

We are now calling for abstracts in two categories: PAPERS and IDEAS. Both categories should engage with the themes of “Blue”, “Green”, and “Culture” in landscape architecture.

We encourage you to interpret the congress themes yourselves as one of the goals of this years’ congress is to explore different interpretations of “Blue”, “Green”, and “Culture” and how they intersect in our respective home countries and practice methods.
Please download the official “Call for Papers” and “Call for Ideas” PDF briefs using the links below for more detail about the theme, submission requirements, and key dates.

For further information please contact:
2017iflaapr@gmail.com
or visit:
http://www.2017iflaapr.com

 

 

 

 

GreenUrbanScape Asia

The 4th International Skyrise Greenery Conference, held alongside GreenUrbanScape Asia, is back on 9 – 10 Nov 2017 at Singapore EXPO!
As a Supporting Organisation, International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Asia-Pacific Region members will be eligible for a special conference rate of SGD 560* (before GST).
*20% Discount + Early Bird (till 30 Jun 2017).
Usual Price: SGD 850.
Register Here: http://bit.ly/2t9bipm 
Follow @greenurbanscape.asia for more info!
Event Website: http://www.greenurbanscapeasia.com/

SUBMISSION EXTENDED – FINAL CLOSING DATE 19 MAY 2017

Dear Asia-Pacific delegates and friends,

We have received many interest and requests for the awards closing date to be extended due to some late dissemination and long holidays in some countries.

Our final closing date is now Friday 19 May 2017. Please help to disseminate this information to your members.

For more information of the awards, please visit http://iflaapr.org/ifla-asiapac-laawards2017/

Jury Panel Unveiled – IFLA ASIA-PAC LA & Luminary Awards 2017

IFLA Asia Pacific region is pleased to announce the jury line up for IFLA Asia-Pac LA Awards 2017. This year we are privileged to receive tremendous support from more than 10 presidents of IFLA national associations and 4 IFLA Regional Presidents from Africa, Americas, Europe and Middle East with Asia Pacific region President as host juror. In addition, this year we are honoured to have two special guest jury on the panel. They are Mr William Lau, Ambassador for South East Asia of International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP) and Mr Tai Lee Siang, Chair of World Green Building Council.

The Asia Pacific Region is a part of the world that has been shaped by maritime journeys and is home to a diverse tapestry of landscape architecture traditions. For many years, vibrant cultural landscapes emerged and economic competition drove cities infrastructure to new frontiers with greater sensitivity for our environment. With the objective of setting distinction for this IFLA Asia-Pac LA awards, it is important that the jury panel is a regional composition of highly acclaimed and respected individuals with years of experience and deep understanding of respective culture and indigenous context.

Similarly, the awards brief was crafted with the opportunity to embrace local and regional diversity in mind, aimed at collective exchanges of landscape architecture practice across different cities. Through the nine distinct award categories, IFLA Asia Pacific region is committed to showcase a more vibrant inter-disciplinary landscape, strengthening international recognition and optimising professional design awareness for business opportunities across our neighbouring shores and borders.

OUR JURY PANEL

Regional IFLA Presidents

  • Mr Tunji Adejumo, President of IFLA, Africa Region
  • Ms Raquel Penalosa, President of IFLA, Americas Region
  • Mr Damian Tang, President of IFLA, Asia Pacific Region
  • Mr Tony Williams, President of IFLA, Europe Region
  • Mr Mohammad Motalebi, President of IFLA, Middle East Region

Special Guest Jury

  • Mr William Lau, Ambassador for South East Asia of International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP)
  • Mr Tai Lee Siang, Chair of World Green Building Council

Asia Pacific National Associations

  • Mr Tak Wong, President of Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects (HKILA)
  • Mr Rohit Marol, President of Indian Society of Landscape Architects (ISOLA)
  • Assoc Prof LAr Dr Osman Mohd Tahir, President of Institute of Landscape Architects Malaysia (ILAM)
  • Dr Minomo Toshitaro, President of Japan  Landscape Architect Union (JLAU)
  • Prof Youngmin Kim, Director of International Affairs of Korean Institute of Landscape Architecture (KILA)
  • Mr Shannon Bray, President of New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA)
  • Mr Eric Estonido, President of Philippine Association of Landscape Architects (PALA)
  • Mr Ronnie Tan, President of Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects (SILA)
  • Ms Radha de Silva, President of Sri Lanka Institute of Landscape Architects (SLILA)
  • Dr Kuang-Yu Wang, President of Taiwan Institute of Landscape Architects (TILA)
  • Dr Vipakorn Thumwimol, President of Thai Association of Landscape Architects (TALA)

For more information of the awards, please click here.

       

IFLA ASIA-PAC LA & Luminary Awards 2017

Dear IFLA friends and delegates,
IFLA Asia-Pacific region is pleased to announce the launch of IFLA Asia-Pac LA Awards & LA Luminary Award 2017.

Objectives
IFLA Asia-Pacific region Landscape Architecture Awards, now known as IFLA ASIA-PAC LA Awards provide an international platform to showcase and promote the achievements and work of landscape architects in Asia-Pacific region. The prestigious awards aim to create continuous awareness and recognition of landscape architecture together with like-minded partners and other professions that have played a key role in shaping our cities and environment towards a better future.

In addition, IFLA Asia-Pacific region is introducing the IFLA Asia-Pac LA Luminary Award 2017. It is IFLA Asia-Pacific’s inaugural and highest honour accorded to its regional luminaries who have inspired and made significant contribution in protecting, championing, advocating, enhancing and/or sustaining the living environment and communities in their profession, region, countries or cities. This award is held in conjunction with the IFLA Asia-Pac LA Awards.

Added values for IFLA members and National Associations
– LA Luminary Award provides leverage for IFLA National Associations to recognise non-landscape architects, contributors and like-minded partners outside of our profession to foster greater partnership.
– IFLA APR will provide maximum exposure for IFLA members and awards winning projects across Asia-Pacific via different media channels and platforms.
– The awards ceremony will be held at the IFLA APR Congress in Bangkok from 2-5 Nov 2017.
– All award winning projects will be published in an IFLA Asia-Pac awards publication with full detail write up for IFLA national associations, jury panel, winning firms and sponsors for maximum regional exposure and international business opportunities match-making.

Timeline in a Snapshot
– Call for entries – 24 March
– Calling for Sponsorship – now til July
– LA Awards Submission deadline – 19 May
– LA Luminary Nomination deadline – 19 May
– Submission consolidation – May-June
– Judging – June
– Jury invitation – now til April
– Awards ceremony – 2-5 November @IFLA Regional Congress Bangkok 2017

Please disseminate this exciting news and information to your LA friends and IFLA members.

For any questions, please directly contact our Asia-Pac LA Awards Convenor, Ms Juit Lian HENG or our Asia-Pac LA Awards Co-ordinator, Ms Si Ying WONG through iflaapr.laawards@iflaonline.org.

2015 Lombok APR Congress

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The 2015 IFLA Asia Pacific Region Council meeting took place in conjunction with the Asia Pacific Region Congress in Lombok, Indonesia. Hosted by the Indonesian Society of Landscape Architects.  It was with great honour that the Congress was attended by IFLA President Dr Kathryn Moore, pictured here with newly elected President of APR Damian Tang.

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The Congress

Indonesia is a meeting point of several tectonic plates and is therefore one of the most seismically active areas on the planet with a long history of powerful eruptions and earthquake. Like the vast majority of member organizations of the Asia Pacific region (including ourselves), Indonesia lies on the Ring of Fire which is prone to volcano disasters and the theme of the Congress held in Mataram, Lombok of Future Mountain and Volcanoscape was therefore most appropriate.

The Congress was held in conjunction with a celebration of the 200 year anniversary of the largest volcanic eruption recorded in modern history, the eruption of Mount Tambora in the year 1815. This eruption created new landscapes, buried three kingdoms, killed about 17.000 people, and produced global climate anomalies and triggered political change. This celebration highlighted the relevance of this topic for landscape architecture and the exploration of landscape change and how to plan for and manage natural disasters and the inherent impact they have on communities and landscapes.

Pictured below are members of the ISOLA Congress organising team and outgoing APR President Dato Ismail Ngah, IFLA President Kathryn Moore and incoming APR President Damian Tang.

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A field visit to the active volcano Mount Rinjani was a highlight of the Congress, where the agricultural landscapes of the lower slopes of the mountain (growing rice, peanuts and soya bean) contrasted with the stunning natural forest landscapes of the Mountain.

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The Indonesian’s have been living with active volcanoes throughout their history and some fascinating insights on how this relationship has shaped the community were evident throughout the Congress.

A visit to one of the last remaining traditional Sasak villages was a particularly relevant exploration of a long established cultural landscape. The Sasak people live mainly on the island of Lombok and there are about 3.6 million (forming about 85% of the population). The majority of Sasak are farmers and their traditional villages are formed from using the natural resources around them (rice husks mixed with clay and cow dung form a brilliantly hard construction material). Their houses rise in tiers up the hot bare hills of Lombok’s southern peninsula. The majority of the traditional houses in the more developed parts of the island are no longer used. However, in the southern part of the island they are still lived in and we were priviledged to be invited into and shown around one of these villages, which was home to 700 people living in 150 houses.

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Villages are clustered on low escarpments to conserve arable land. A village is approached via a path leading to a narrow gateway, and the village rises to the crown of the hill with a few lateral paths and many labyrinth like trails accessing all the houses. Bonnet-rice barns known as lumbung are the most dramatic and impressive of the Sasak vernacular architecture. The structures specifically designed to protect the vitally important rice crop.

APR Council Meeting

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The APR Council meeting meeting saw the handover between the outgoing Executive Committee and President and the welcome of the newly elected Executive Committee. Dato Ismail Ngah, the outgoing President of APR, has provided a great service to the Region for over 3 years and has put forward the Regions views during the strategic re-alignment of IFLA. Ismail, will continue to assist the region by Chairing the     Advisory Group – a new regional initiative which aims to increase dialogue and involvement of Member organization Presidents with the APR. The newly elected President of APR is Damian Tang (SILA) who will work alongside his Executive consisting of Treasurer, Greg Grabasch (AILA) and Honorary Secretary, Renee Davies (NZILA).

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Elections for Chairs of the APR Committees (which align with IFLA’s Committees) will be held shortly. These postions and the associated committees can be filled by non-delegate members of the regions member organisations.

At the APR meeting in Lombok, the APR council took the decision not to become a separate entity of IFLA as the implications behind such legal corporate formation under such law requires a different or a new set of constitution for the region to undertake and considerable financial responsibilities. Supporting a ‘one entity’ approach, the decision reflected the wishes amongst the APR Exco and Council members for IFLA to become a strong collaborative and inclusive global organization, a single, united, international organization (as stated in the by laws approved in Buenos Airies 2014).

It was understood that several years ago the impetus for decentralization came at a time when IFLA was far more wealthy and before the global financial crisis. Times have changed. Governments and institutions around the world are now becoming out of necessity, more streamlined and centralised in order to work more efficiently and effectively.  IFLA-APR will maintain their separate bank account, however IFLA-APR will be required to align their strategic plan to IFLA’s as we strive together to build a collaborative and inclusive leadership model and ultimately a more effective globally recognised organization.

IFLA-APR will essentially run as a ‘branch’ of IFLA which allows them under the Not for Profits (NPO) to maintain their separate bank account (already established) and if required in the future have an office address but does not require a separate legal identity (APR will be an extension of the parent company IFLA and therefore adhere to IFLA’s Strategic Plan and associated companies documentation).  APR will continue to work on activities that build the profile of the Asia Pacific Region (eg. APR Awards, Website, Sponsorship, Congresses) but these will be aligned with IFLA’s strategic plan and resources (including the website) and will strive to increase IFLA capacity and resources as a whole. The points of difference will be for specific regional approaches and resourcing. IFLA APR will ensure high quality communication and engagement within the Region for both regional and global activities.

A range of other topics were also discussed, including the newly branded APR Awards, which will be advertised soon for entries with announcements next year.

A full account of all decisions and discussions from the meeting will be available shortly on the IFLA-APR website as part of the meeting minutes and a range of photos and summary of the Congress will be on the website also.

Next Congress

The 2016 IFLA-APR Congress will be held in conjunction with the 50 year celebrations of the AILA in Canberra in October 2016 (27th – 29th). This is gearing up to be a fantastic celebration of landscape architecture with Richard Weller being announced in Lombok as the creative director for the 2016 International Festival of Landscape Architecture in Canberra. Australian-born Weller is the Professor and Chair of landscape architecture at The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (USA).

Mark your diaries now and take this opportunity to attend a nearby IFLA-APR congress that has a Festival program designed to educate, inspire and engage landscape architects, students, universities, government, the community and the public. Events for the 2016 Festival of Landscape Architecture in Festival in Canberra will be wide ranging and include a Research Summit, Student Charrette, Welcome Reception, a two-day IFLA Asia-Pacific Regional Congress, the AILA National Awards Gala Dinner, public talks, tours and exhibitions. It expects to attract 500 delegates from Australia and the Asia-Pacific.

 

 

 

Free International Competition to Design a Beautiful House

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WANT TO DESIGN A HOME THAT IS A LIVING WORK OF ART?

Overview
BWi International is now accepting entries for its Design a Beautiful House competition, an international call offering £25,000 (about $39,000 USD) to winner(s). The competition is open to all designers, landscape architects, architects, students, artists, and others from anywhere across the globe, and requires no registration fee.

Aim
Entrants are asked to think about the definition of beauty in order to create a design that considers the ways that beauty and aesthetics can enhance the function of a home whilst creating a living work of art.

Site
The site of the project was formerly a golf course and club house, and is now composed “of one residential dwelling with several out buildings, a boat house and jetty that is surrounded by larger lakes and agricultural/ forestry land.”

Brief
Home designs should accommodate four adults and three children, along with room for guests, and needs to take into account environmental considerations, the relationship between built and natural spaces, practicality, and the needs of the seven residents, whose concerns include noise, flexibility, accessibility, and light, among other specifications.
A key factor of the competition is anonymity, so entries—which include design statements, digital A1 boards, site plans, drawings, and a 3D representation—must be submitted under a username that does not disclose the identity of the participant.

Jurors
The Judging Panel is comprised of highly acclaimed international members of the fields of art, design, architecture and landscape: Fokke Moerel of MVRDV, Neil Porter of Gustafson-Porter, Mick Finch of Central Saint Martin’s, and Ed Hollis architect and author of the School of Life’s ‘How to Make a Home’.

Key Dates
Registration and entries will be accepted through September 30. For any registered individuals or teams, questions about the competition must be submitted by August 15.

REGISTER, SUBMIT AND SHARE
www.designabeautifulhouse.com

 

Interview with Rick Rowbotham

Rick RowbothamRick has over 35 years experience in the field of Landscape Architecture. In 1980 Rick worked under the direction of Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe before establishing his own practice Urban Red in 1983. His keen interests in a design led artisan culture prompted the formation and management of a design and build construction company that now operates in the UK. In the late 1980’s Rick formed a practice based in Kuala Lumpur to manage projects throughout the Pacific Rim. He now works on various projects throughout the world expanding his role beyond the traditional definition of Landscape Architecture.

I caught up with Rick early in 2013 and then again this year to get an overview on his experiences working as a Landscape Architect and the diverse roles he has played:

Initial interview: Feb 2013

Why did you pursue a career in landscape architecture?

I wanted to be an artist actually.  I was persuaded by my parents that I would never make a living as an artist, and I was interested in the natural sciences.  So, I thought, what can I do to bring the combination?  In the 70s, landscape architecture was not really talked about. But I went to a career advisory board, and they suggested landscape architecture.

I always had a practical side to me so I’ve never been shy in understanding how materials worked.  I had this intuitive interest, and I was able to focus that into my career. I became very interested in the Architectural and technical side of landscape architecture which was much more akin to architecture rather than landscape architecture.

 

Where do you think, in the coming years, has the most potential for landscape architecture?

Well, I think China springs to mind immediately.  Personally I feel it’s a difficult environment to work in.  Culturally and from the point of view of economic management, the way they work there is quite different from the way we work in the UK.  Aspirations there are different to here.

We can compete on the creative side, but we can’t compete when it comes to manpower and churning the work out. However what we can do is to bring in the creative angle and unlock the initial problems when forming a new concept design.

I there are fewer preconceptions in China about how design should be. If you’re in competition with another developer or neighbor or city, the more extravagant, the more esoteric the project becomes, the better.

 

How was your experience establishing a practice in Malaysia?

It’s not a big market but it’s a market where little gems can grow.  That’s my feeling.  When I was working in KL  In the late 1980’s there was a tremendous problem with corruption.

Political power and economic power was vested in different factions in society. In broad terms, the Chinese are the economic engine, most industrious and most prolific.  And the indigenous Malay are much more to involved with the political aspect.  I think that’s festered in the way the constitution works as well. If you’re not born and bred there and you’re not Malay it’s difficult to get into a seat of power. This was  my feelings and recollection in the 1980’s.

 

How many years did you have a practice in Malaysia?

Ten years.  It was an economic disaster for us.  We lost money, but the experience was second to none.  It was particularly good for me because I went back to my home, my birth place in Sarawak, and went to see people that my father still knew. I’m lucky for that, but we didn’t make any money there.

 

Do you think there’s too much legislation in UK preventing innovative design?

I think there are a number of points here.  Firstly is the Planning regulations, which has hugely overloaded the planning system.  A lot of decision-making is left to the inquiry process which, in effect, uses up the planning process.  Planners cannot keep up or are unwilling to keep up with the amount of demand on their local systems.  When decided through inquiry is can a long painful process.

The second point is that there are a lot of constraints in terms of building codes and regulations, which are a good thing on one hand, but they are incredibly stifling in another because they do repress the creative urge and the creative angle on all process.

The third point is the health and safety aspect which is a good thing because it saves lives in the industry, but it’s almost gone too far.  I think it’s cleaned up the building industry, and that’s a good thing, but it really has slowed up the business building here in the UK. This is really a transitional process as people adjust to new ways of doing things (for the better when it comes to safety) the system is now bedded in and moving faster.

I think actually, more than Europe, in the UK, extensively, we’re very conservative about what we really like, and it’s quite difficult to push the boundaries in design terms.  Whereas, I think in continental Europe, is a little more relaxed about what they can do, and in the Asia Pacific is also the same.

China, the Middle East and most the Soviet countries have some awful legacies of really dreadful design, but every now and again, a little gem comes to light and you can see the opening of minds and possibilities which I think is to be encouraged.  In this way I wish the UK would be less conservative.

 

What is your most rewarding project to date?

I started my career here in Guildford with Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe.   In the late 70s, early 80s, he was the principal designer, landscape architect for Sutton Place, which was owned by an American, Stanley Seeger who was a wealthy industrialist, great collector, patron of the arts, and commissioned Jellicoe.  The scheme was a tremendous introduction to the world of architecture for me.  So, that was very rewarding, and I’d say the legacy’s still there today.

Also a lot of my rewarding work was in the Docklands, the London Docklands.  Again, that was a huge restoration project, revival of a huge industrial derelict part of London, the docks (The Isle of Dogs around Canary Wharf), in the 80s.  It was interesting from the point that there was a lot of money to be spent, new ideas to be explored in the public and urban realm.

Royal Albert Dock Piazza, Royal Docks

Royal Albert Dock Piazza, Royal Docks

 

What do you believe the most important skills for new graduates are?

 All the way through my career I have employed young graduates who didn’t know much about the elemental aspects of the discipline they were operating in.  They didn’t know anything about plants or materials, and I always implored them to go out there and build practically.  Do your own thing, whatever it is.  Go and visit the National Garden and learn your plants.  Just get knowledge of it.

Obviously, you’ve got your creative side which is something else.  However there nothing worse than somebody who comes in to a building site who knows absolutely nothing about the building process.

Also I think practices should have the capability of a workshop-type environment where they’re not afraid to experiment with materials and involve new graduates.  Build models, get the real materials together, and see how they work.

I’m all for that even if the practices can’t afford it.  There ought to be schemes where they can share machines which can help inform the design process.  They need to be much more inquisitive, pushing the boundaries in technology and getting to grips with what’s possible.  That’s actually a very exciting part of the profession.

Also if they have a particular passion for anything, get really professional about it.  Become an expert and sell it as your main specialty, and with that comes better value.  Find a way out of the maelstrom of generality of the design practice (which is I think can be soul destroying) and go into areas where you could excel and be recognized.

 

Could you give an introduction to you project in Ukraine and what has happened there.

Izolatsia is a foundation for the culture and the arts, primarily contemporary art, developed on a site of approximately 20 hectares. It’s really reviving a derelict industrial site which is polluted.  It’s decrepit, actually.  Some buildings had to come down, some are restored, and some are left alone.  It’s a very broad brief, and there aren’t very many examples of this sort of initiative in Ukraine so it’s a trailblazer, and we’re getting quite a lot of publicity.

The client wanted British landscape architects to get involved in the master plan, and they came to London and interviewed several practices, one of which was Form Associates.  Because of our connection with art and architecture, they selected us, we were taken out to Ukraine and shown the site and it developed from there.

We’re chasing ourselves in the sense that the master plan’s being developed, but, in parallel, we’re also developing buildings, restoring buildings that we know will have an established use.

I find it refreshing from the sense that, from the point of view that you don’t have this overwhelming burden of legislation hanging over you which I think docks projects here in the UK.

Izolyatsia General Arrangement Donetsk Ukraine

Izolyatsia General Arrangement, Donetsk, Ukraine

UPDATE 9/10/14

I caught up with Rick again to get an update on his work, in particularly Izolaytzia (http://exile.izolyatsia.org/en/) and also his recent success at the Chelsea flower show.

Can you give an update on Izolatzia?

The former Izolatysia site is currently a Russian stronghold, it was taken over by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.?We have moved to Kiev and. found a new sight in the old Kiev docks. Because of my experience from designing the London docklands I knew there was going to be something there. We found an existing creative community already using part of the Docklands and have found good potential for growth. Were in there at the moment and would like to develop the site further that if I can persuade the founder.

Kiev is more cosmopolitan and we are new kids on the block. If we can invest there we will put our roots down. But the big questions remain, what will happen with the former site at Donetsk. If the Ukrainian army pushes through we may be able to get it back. However the founder does not want to go back and face the mess of stolen and destroyed artwork and equipment etc. So we probably will not be able to go back for another for 3-4 yrs. Another possibility is that if a full scale fight breaks out, the army will bomb the site destroying it completely.

What is your current role in all of this?

I’m on the board of the foundation.  I have an overview of the whole process and I’m not really working as a Landscape Architect at this point. However this suits me as I am more interested in now developing a diverse skill set. It really goes to the heart of why I was interested in Landscape Architecture in the first place: A holistic view of the environment. I have always been interested in the overall response to a project. It’s just ironic Ukraine gave me that opportunity to develop these skills which help me work towards my personal ambition is to become a developer, designing and building the built environment holistically. 

You also won gold at Chelsea garden show this year, how did you find that experience?

We entered under LDC, my company based in Guildford run by my business partner based here. We were awarded “Best Fresh Garden”, “People’s Choice” and a “Gold Medal” for “The Mind’s Eye” garden designed for the RNIB in partnership with Countryside. My business partner Nigel Prince with help from me drove the project whilst 2 young Landscape Architects, Alex Frazier and Tom Prince fronted it.  It was quite manic but a good experience. We had about 5 months to complete the design, build, test and fabricate offsite and then bring everything onsite.

2014 Chelsea Flower Show Garden

2014 Chelsea Flower Show Garden

Further information on the award winning garden can be found here:

http://www.ldcgardens.co.uk/gdn-chelsea-2014.php

What does the future hold for you?

My final ambition is to start painting. My brother and sister in law are immensely successful artists  and I am quite envious. It is something I have always wanted to pursue. Also as previously mentioned I would like to become a small time developer to realize my ethos, a holistic approach that brings together all my experience across disciplines. The trick is getting a margin of capital between you and reality. Building up collateral to allow yourself some space to take risks. Now, I have a bit of margin so I will try and pursue those goals.

Canary Wharf, London Docklands, UK

Canary Wharf, London Docklands, UK

 

Interviewer: Andrew Slater

Interview with Jasmine Ong

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Jasmine Ong

A former director at Martha Schwartz Partners, Jasmine Ong, has experience running projects of all scales from concept design through to site overview of construction works as a Landscape Architect. With a career that has spanned across Australia, China and Europe, she holds a unique perspective on the differences of working in the Asia Pacific Region and the EU.

I was fortunate to meet Jasmine and ask her a few questions about her experience as a Landscape Architect. In this interview she shares her thoughts on what Landscape Architecture means to her and the difference of working on projects in the UK and China:

 

 

What was it that brought you to landscape architecture?

Since young, I’ve been drawn to Japanese gardens, particularly the promenade garden (kai-shiki-teien) and small courtyard garden (tsubo-niwa) styles. I was fascinated with the beauty achieved through replication of nature in a miniature form, as though you are wandering through a 1:10 model of what you would see in the natural wilderness. I was also impressed at the level of perfection sought, whether it was the still reflection of water in a lake or fallen leaves in position. I also wanted a career that combines environmental sustainability with design.  Both are important to me and I wanted to combine the two in a profession that would keep me passionate for a lifetime.

When you graduated, did you go straight into working for a Landscape Architecture firm?

I started working while I was studying because I felt the need to apply what I was learning at university. I was fortunate enough to work at a small landscape design and build firm, which gave me the opportunity to see my designs being realised and understand the practicalities of construction. This helped form a good foundation for my landscape architecture career.

When you started off what type of projects were you working on?

My first job was at Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Melbourne, Australia, which was hugely inspirational in its design process. I worked closely with the director Perry Lethlean, building models for parks and residential developments. I then moved to work on private residential gardens for a design and construction firm. And then felt the urge to explore the world and ended up in the UK, where I worked on a mixture of residential, commercial, recreational, institutional and urban projects around the world, with my last workplace at Martha Schwartz Partners, focusing mainly on business development in China to expand our Chinese portfolio.

Are you currently working on any projects in the Asia Pacific region?

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Fengming Mountain

As Projects Director at Martha Schwartz Partners, I was overseeing most projects,  predominantly mixed-use developments in China. My recent projects in China included Beiqijia Technology District, which consisted of sunken courtyards, a large central water feature to cool the site in summer and gateway structures; and Fengming Mountain, a sales centre/ demonstration zone within an urban escarpment park with a visitor route sign posted with cloud pavilions.

How do you find working on projects in China compared to the UK?

Chinese clients are big into branding and the design narrative, often focusing on how they market their developments. This means signature designs and a more experimental approach.  They also set demanding time frames, which relies on excellent project management to avoid abortive work, but the advantage of that is you get projects realised at a much faster rate than you would in the UK where statutory bureaucracy can sometimes constrain innovation and prolong time frames. I find the development ethos in China slightly unnerving, in that the rate at which development is coming up does not always respond to demand, and the way in which development sites are acquired often lack consideration for existing residents and cultural heritage of the site. In general, the pros of the design process on UK projects, are owing to a more generous time frame, allowing thoroughness and careful design consideration and better coordination between consultants.

Do you find clients you have worked with in China open to sustainable design?

There is a desire for sustainable design, but more for a marketing tool. As there is minimal statutory requirement to adhere to environmental sustainability, this desire is quickly lost once we discuss associated costs. If more sustainability champions are involved in projects, and more sustainable projects are successfully built and maintained, this could lead a trend or benchmark that others will follow. The Chinese are competitive and want each project to be the best, which is incentive for constant improvement. An argument needs to be formed where the client/ funders of the development have a stake in the post-construction management regime and subsequently the longevity of the project, for the benefits to be understood from a financial point of view. It is challenging  to engage international ecologist or sustainability consultants in a Chinese project, however, as they usually have concerns over intellectual property rights and tendency for ideas to be replicated without permission. As introducing sustainable ideas, such as Sustainable Urban Drainage strategies or water harvesting, proved difficult, our main objective on most Chinese projects was to use local materials and create a robust design that was fairly straight-forward to construct and maintain, with the objective to improve people’s life, create better communities and increase the value of the area, which in turn lends itself to a sustainable development.

What type of projects are you working on in the UK?

I am currently working on a high-end residential development in central London, consisting of ground and podium landscapes, a sun deck and a sunken courtyard, with challenging weight loading and buildup restrictions.]

What is the most rewarding project you have worked on?

Beiqijia Technology District, as mentioned above, is one of the most rewarding projects I have worked on at Martha Schwartz Partners. It had an extremely demanding time frame that required us to rethink our project management process and methodologies in order to keep up with the client’s expectations. The systems and project management tools we developed for the project set a benchmark for the studio and ended up being used for all projects that followed.

beiqijia_technology_district_Jasmine_Ong

Beiqijia Technology District

Beiqijia is a mixed-use development incorporating Sustainable Urban Drainage systems (SUDs) to comply with LEED Gold accreditation. The site is 60,000 sqm, including a demonstration zone with accompanying show garden. The benefit of having a demonstration zone with a faster timescale for completion than the rest of the site was that we were able to test our palette of hardscape and softscape materials in a smaller area before applying it to the rest of the site.  This allowed us to see what materials and plants worked well together, and to fine-tune the design and construction of bespoke furniture and structure. The demonstration zone phase of the project was built within 12 months of commencing design, which was gratifying. The most difficult part of the project, which is often the case with projects in China, is being confident about construction quality as our role in this stage of works is limited. Chinese clients prefers to be the central point of contact for all consultants, so communication is subsequently disconnected or miscommunicated as the right people are not speaking to each other to sort out technical issues.

beiqijia_technology_district_Jasmine_Ong

Beiqijia Technology District

Another rewarding project was Tooronga Village in Melbourne, Australia, where I worked at Murphy Design Group. This was a mixed-use retail, office and residential development that created public spaces for visitors and a private communal garden for the residents, blending street level to podium using a complementary palette of materials. The design and coordination processes were very thorough.

Tooronga_Village_Jasmine_Ong

Tooronga Village

Do you have any other interests that intersect with your work?

I practice Feng Shui, which is a Chinese traditional science that dates back over 7000 years and engages in the essential creation of good chi energy for living in harmony and balance with our surrounding environment. I am now a certified Feng Shui practitioner, you can find me on www.yingyangtian.wix.com/fengshui. I have applied Feng Shui principles in several large mixed-use landscape architectural projects in China to meet client expectations and the needs of the end users.

What is the most exciting thing in your career?

Making a difference in people’s lives. A well designed landscape has the power to  psychologically change people’s impression of spaces, how they use it and interact with each other.

Within a team environment, the things that motivate me are good interpersonal relationships, and an understanding of team members’ skills, values and how they work. Having a strong team with relevant experience and skill set are crucial, but so is having fun while working to maintain good team morale.

What is the most challenging for you?

The most challenging thing I find is combining the clients’ aspirations, sustainable design principles (as part of our responsibility as landscape architects) and the needs of the end users in each project. Sometimes it takes a bit of persuading to get clients on board for the latter two aspects.

What are your plans for the future?

To maintain a balance between family, career and spiritual life.

 

Interviewer: Andrew Slater

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