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20th Jan 2022

Our People: 5 minutes with Ashley Sun

Ashley Sun, senior landscape architect at Grant Associates in Singapore, strives to design for a sustainable future. Growing up in both the cityscape of Singapore and Taiwan, Ashley enjoys being surrounded by nature and interacting with wildlife.

Through her work at Grant Associates, Ashley looks to imagine and reinvent public landscapes to be ecologically constructive, socially vital and built to endure. Ashley shares her thoughts on purpose-driven landscape architecture and the possibilities that the Metaverse could present to the future of design.

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When and why did you first become interested in landscape architecture?

I was inspired by the many possibilities of landscape architecture way back when I was still at school. For me, landscape architects are “artistic scientists”, presented with the dual challenge of trying to solve complex environmental issues such as biodiversity loss while also ensuring designs are aesthetically-strong and in keeping with the environment in which they will ultimately sit.

Designing landscape requires you to produce something out of nothing; for us as a practice, it’s about crafting beautiful spaces that work hand-in-hand with nature and the wider world. One of my professors at school inspired me with the perspective that the role of landscape architecture is to listen, observe and bring together a proposition that can lift users’ spirits and make the lives of other people better. There’s great joy that comes with meaningful landscape architecture; it’s a very rewarding profession.

What projects are you most proud to have worked on thus far?

I really enjoyed working on The Reef at King’s Dock - a high-end, residential estate in Singapore that features a 180m floating deck, capitalising on its proximity to the existing dock and providing biodiversity experiences for residents. Through the project, I worked closely alongside Stefaan to design a green sea coastal wall, which is using a carefully-selected planting palette in place of applying paint to the wall to make it more aesthetically appealing and in keeping with the wider ethos of the development. This project was particularly interesting as it gave us the chance to carry out our own extensive research into planting for the wall; our vision is now becoming a reality as construction continues.

The Reef

What attracted you to join the team at Grant Associates?

I joined Grant Associates back in 2018 after being blown away by Gardens by the Bay - an architectural expression that had never been seen or done before. Gardens by the Bay is a national icon that is synonymous with Grant Associates, and I wanted to be part of the team behind it. I feel like, in our practice, whatever you can think of and dream of, you can create: that’s what is so refreshing and exciting about design.

We sketch a lot and spend quite a bit of time exploring design narratives for our complex projects, but it’s always worth the time invested. The team here at Grant Associates are always willing to push the boundaries and try new approaches and ideas and are also very supportive: the practice has encouraged and aided me in my journey to become an Accredited Landscape Architect from the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects, which has both helped me gain more confidence in my own design skills whilst also providing me with a wider insight into the profession.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It varies day-to-day, but I always look to go for a run first-thing before beginning work, to guarantee me some time to myself and away from my desk before the day starts. As part of such a busy design team, my day will be spent developing a lot of sketches and participating in collaborative meetings with others in the practice, as well as attending site visits to scope out areas and keep tabs on ongoing construction.

What trends do you see influencing the future of landscape architecture?

I’ve been increasingly drawn towards the Metaverse recently; while it’s still a relatively new concept at present, I feel like this virtual world could give great freedom to architects and offer endless possibilities. As a place of great creative inspiration, the Metaverse could open up the doors for many more designers to engage with landscape architecture - while the craft of our profession takes many years to learn and master, the Metaverse could bring the varied ideas of many more designers into the mix. With anyone able to be a part of the Metaverse and contribute, this could really build collaboration opportunities in the not-too-distant future, which is very exciting. Changing lifestyles during the pandemic, with so many of us staying at home during the lockdowns, has also increased the creative ways to get designs ‘out there’, including the use of immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality for landscape architects; we now realise that it’s fully possible to see and interact with the world from the comfort of our own homes.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in landscape architecture?

Seek inspiration from multiple sources: landscape architecture cannot be seen as an individual entity, so as much as possible, as landscape architects we need to be well-versed in current affairs and society’s needs. We need to know what’s going on in our environments and communities, expose ourselves to diverse ideas and thoughts, and look ahead to what’s on the horizon. An appreciation of nature is also important for landscape architects; I share very similar interests with my colleagues, who all care deeply about plants, observing the behaviour of animals and birds, and designing for the environment.

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.