Our People: 5 minutes with Mun Pheng Mak, Senior Landscape Architect
Mun Pheng Mak has been working in the field of Landscape Architecture since 2007. A LEED Accredited Professional, she holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Urbanism from the Architectural Association School of Architecture, a Diploma in Landscape Architecture and has also completed the ABC Waters Professional Programme.
As an interdisciplinary thinker, she excels at collaborating across disciplines to craft contextual solutions for complex design challenges. Having recently made the move from the Grant Associates Singapore office to working in the UK office, Mun Pheng shares her experiences of building a career in this ever-evolving profession - and what she has learnt about making the perfect cup of English tea!
When and why did you first become interested in landscape architecture?
Since I was very young, I’ve always greatly enjoyed art - especially practicing hand-sketching - and have loved being out in nature. Landscape architecture felt like a natural combination of all of my personal passions, but it was still quite a new course to study academically in Singapore when I started out fifteen years ago; now, there are so many specialisms and opportunities to progress and diversify within our industry.
As I have grown in my career, I’ve really appreciated the important role that our profession plays - both in terms of the positive impact we can make on the environment, and also how we can support society. The longer I spend working as a landscape architect, the more passionate I become.
What are you most passionate about?
Right now, my main focus is to utilise my skills as a landscape professional to make a difference in the climate and biodiversity emergency - from masterplanning to design to construction - while balancing the outcomes for people and nature.
Working in Singapore, I specialised in water-sensitive urban design (WSUD/ SuDS), integrating storm water with the wider landscape. I also have a landscape urbanism background and a variety of experiences in the field of habitat enhancement - so in all that I do, I look to use these skills to aim to help aid the future of our planet in a positive way.
What attracted you to join the team at Grant Associates?
I was attracted to join the team at Grant Associates because it is a truly design-oriented practice that takes a firm stand on environmental and social values. Whether it’s in the Singapore office or the Bath office, both studios make you feel appreciated and this makes you want to stay with the practice and grow together alongside the team.
I am also really grateful to Andrew Grant because he has given me an opportunity to transfer from Singapore to work in Bath and has been really supportive throughout the move. I initially started the conversation with Stefaan and Toby in Singapore, as I was interested in having the chance to work on some of the upcoming UK projects.
It’s been a really smooth transition to the UK; both studios share the same values and approach projects in very similar ways. The main difference is the nature of the projects and clients that we support here in the UK compared to Singapore - everything from site-wide studies to the concept design and construction documentation packages. It’s been a great experience so far to be working, in particular, on the legacy of the Tower of London Superbloom project.
What are some of the interesting experiences you’ve had since working here?
I rediscovered my long-lost love and skillset for sketching after joining the Singapore office. During the pandemic, I moved from hand sketching to digital sketching and this actually works very well in terms of collaborative working with others in the team. Throughout Covid, we were mainly working remotely from home with our design review sessions often conducted online, so digital sketching not only saved paper but also improved our efficiency - cutting out unnecessary processes like scanning, colouring, touching up or even re-sketching after the review - meaning that our work can merge nicely together.
For my first couple of months in the Bath office, I have had the great opportunity to work closely with senior associate James Clarke, a very talented Landscape Architect who can sketch beautifully. This has really inspired me professionally. He is a great mentor to me and has been very friendly and encouraging since day one. He often shares his design thought process with me and will explain, very patiently, about different stages of UK projects and their legal requirements. He constantly encourages me to sketch more, and has also recently taught me how to make a perfect cup of English Tea! I’ve really enjoyed working with him.
Where do you turn to for creative motivation?
I believe every project site is unique in its own way and each has a story to tell; that’s why I love my job as a landscape architect. I have the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, from the rich historical context of the last emperor of Vietnam to a site located along the floodplain of a river but adjacent to a highly sensitive site in Singapore.
Whenever possible, I love to visit the site, to listen, observe and absorb the surrounding environment. I do a lot of reading and desktop research to explore parametric tools and collaborate with industry experts to build up the story. My work is usually inspired by the nature of the site - including the existing ecology, water, historical and cultural context as well as science and technology.
When I am not working, I continue to build my skills and professional understanding through learning from others on LinkedIn, reading the Landscape Institute journal, watching online talks from both my university (Architectural Association School of Architecture in London) and other prestigious institutions and, whenever I travel, I aim to visit some built projects to ensure that I am continuously learning and keeping myself updated on latest trends - our industry never stands still!
Lively minds making a liveable world…
Our continued success at Grant Associates is due to the talent and commitment of our multi-skilled team.
The practice currently employs over 70 people, from over 17 countries, across our two design studios in Bath and Singapore. The majority are qualified landscape architects, working together with architects, 3D modellers, BIM and visualisation specialists, horticulturists, designers, IT and other technicians.
We are always interested to hear from talented and enthusiastic people who would like to join our dynamic teams in both offices. Take a look at our latest vacancies and get in touch.