LAWB's A Conversation With: SILA's Anna Yap

Singapore | Anna Yap Lai Fong

Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects





“These open spaces in an urban city act as breathing and release spaces that help citizens to maintain their mental health.” 


Our profession needs to shift from the act of just ‘greening’ up of urban spaces to incorporate the understanding of ecosystem services in our design – understanding the balance between hard and soft surfaces, encouraging coexistence between humans and biodiversity. In return, we will be able to maximize the use of space and reduce the need for maintenance making landscape spaces more sustainable in the long run. How would you describe the COVID-19 pandemic situation in your country?


Singapore found herself on the list of growing Covid-19 cases very early on (23 Jan 2020). While the authorities have managed to keep the pandemic situation under control, this pandemic also showed how Singapore is also very much dependent on other countries for items like food, raw materials, labor, etc. As a small city-state, this pandemic period forces Singapore to take a huge leap forward on initiatives to be self-sustainable and more resilient especially in terms of food security and land-scarcity issues.


What are some of the hardest-hitting impacts of COVID-19 for the community of design professionals in your country?


In Singapore, during the Circuit Breaker period, the construction industry came to an almost complete halt as the number of cases rose among construction workers and this indirectly affects design professionals as most of our services payments are pegged to a project development stage. In the future, one of the challenges for us as landscape architects is to have considerations such as higher productivity, lower maintenance landscapes during our design process. 2.2 It will be challenging to teach the art of idea communication, presentations, and teamwork. As in most design schools- the studio culture had always been an avenue where students, educators and practitioners come together to discuss, exchange, and debate ideas. With ‘social-distancing’ and physical meetings becoming the new norm, this also means that studio culture can only be conducted online.


Who is the most vulnerable population in your country affected by this aftermath? And what can we as landscape architects do to provide help?


While most of Singapore’s COVID-19 cases are from the migrant workers' cluster, Singapore’s aging population also puts the elderly as one of the vulnerable groups because of existing health conditions, being the least tech-savvy age group and the challenge of loneliness due to social distancing resulting in mental health issues. As landscape architects, we can design spaces that bring a sense of identity, can help the elderly maintain their mental health through activities while socializing with their friends and family in a safe and comfortable manner.


How can we maintain our sense of community and togetherness during this time?


We can have a platform where we can share our thoughts and ideas to have discussions on any topic that is of interest. We could also hold simple activities like sketching or mind-mapping activity where we can share not just within ourselves but with the public to raise awareness about the profession.


"COVID-19 came quite suddenly, forcing us to change our habits in a very short period and rethink how we view open and green spaces. Let’s use this change to improve what we do as Landscape Architects, redefining, planning and creating spaces that are safe for both people and biodiversity."


*Please join us in shaping our post-pandemic world and landscape architecture profession ,by sharing your thoughts and idea aspirations for the new world you envision. We will be collecting everyone's ideas and sharing them with our Landscape Without Borders Community. It is time, we look forward to hearing from you.


Produced by: IFLA APR Landscape without Border, Kotchakorn Voraakhom, TALA and IFLA Secretary team

Text editor: Assoc. Prof. Mike Barthelmeh NZILA

Graphic: IFLA APR Landscape without Border, Watcharapon Nimwatanagul  ,TALA

Communication: Bosco, So Ho Lung,HKILA