I remember feeling particularly exuberant on my first day back at uni this year; perhaps, it was because I had survived the onslaught of assignments and exams for two years now, finally arriving at the half-way point. But just as how the effects of coffee never last, this enthusiasm had more or less fizzled out by the end of the week. The prospect of having to deal with more complicated design problems in the context of realistic engineering methodology (yes, we actually need to create designs that work now!) was a little overwhelming.
Two years into the study of landscape architecture, but I still feel as though I know too little about it. Yet, as I gave the issue more thought, feelings of despair were gradually being replaced by a calming satisfaction—I am more certain now that I had made a right choice to study Landscape Architecture.
Don’t get me wrong—I am no masochist; It’s just as how a tutor of mine once said, “If your brain doesn’t hurt, then you are wasting your time because you aren’t learning anything new.” I’m certainly glad that despite two years into the course, Landscape Architecture is still as, or perhaps, even more intriguing to me than the very first day.
The past summer was probably testament to that.
I spend the bulk of my holidays gaining some industry work experience at a range of places—and again the breadth of Landscape Architecture simply blows my mind. I worked at Randwick council nursery for a couple of weeks, where I learnt basic horticultural techniques of repotting, transplanting etc. These might seem boring to some but definitely not to me—after all, having had lived in high-rise residential blocks all my life in Singapore, I never had a chance to pick up such skills!
When I headed back to Singapore, I was also attached to a civil engineering firm for a couple of months. Whilst my daily companions were a camera, pen and measuring tape, it was a highly engaging time for me too. Comparing plans with the actual work site might be tedious at times, but it definitely brought a whole new practical dimension to all the studio work I have been participating in at uni.
Supervision and administrative tasks (like checking for safety, taking measurements of concrete slabs and reinforcements etc) at work
Visiting a completed site
Of course, a holiday would not be any fun if it was all about work, so I went on a couple of family trips to Taiwan, Hongkong and Macau. Perhaps knowledge opens one’s eyes to be more aware of one’s surrounds, (or maybe I was just more alert now that I was less sleep deprived), I began to realise and appreciate the landscapes these cities had to offer. The national parks at Taiwan, the casinos (theme-park like) landscapes and the vibrant urban scape of Hong Kong all became sources of inspiration for me.
In Hong Kong, I also had the opportunity to explore how other designers thought and expounded on their ideas directly when I visited the “2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism \ Architecture”. All their works (including an installation by the famous Shigeru Ban Architects) were exhibited across a waste field at the lesser known edge of the Kowloon waterfront. Though at first glance, the place was aesthetically unappealing, it retained a mysterious aura which fueled my curiosity about the site (which reminded me a lot of the 2008 Sydney Biennale held at Cockatoo Island). It was certainly an eye-opening experience, fun too, as I frolicked and interacted with the designed installations—to me, that’s what design ought to aspire towards. Having had been taught that landscape architects design places ultimately for people (and not self-glorification or aesthetic purposes), it is certainly a great reminder that a design cannot be judged by its cover. Essentially, it is all about what it has to offer for people to feel comfortable in, for people to interact with, in order to derive a better quality of life.
Now I remember the real reason why I was feeling partly exuberant on my first day back at uni. Not so much that I had survived the stressful times, but really because I had a great holiday applying all that I had learnt over the past two years (consciously at times, but more often than not, subconsciously appreciating this fabric of life). I just can’t wait to see how the coming year would change my life like the last two did!