Singapore landscape architecture students reflect on internships
The Singapore office of Grant Associates recently took on two Landscape Architecture students from the National University of Singapore for three month internships.
Here, Ge Wenxi and Rui Xue reflect on their work experience as they embark on their final year of studies for their Masters.
When and why did you first become interested in landscape architecture?
Wenxi: "I have been interested in landscape architecture since I was a kid because I grew up in Jiangsu province in China, famous for traditional Chinese gardens. I visited them quite often. Sadly, many of these charming gardens in my hometown have been destroyed during urban development. Meanwhile, urban development also keeps people away from nature and our roots. It is a pity that our next generation will not be able to see these gardens, so I hope to contribute to inspiring new landscapes in the future. What’s more, landscape blends into our daily life, which makes landscape design more important. When we walk outside, we are experiencing the landscape. Our special memories of places often come from a specific landscape design. That’s the reason why I decided to choose Landscape architecture as my major."
Rui Xue: "I first got to know about landscape architecture at my senior school. There was a TV show in China called Houses Exchange Program. It was a house renovation show between two families with the help of interior designers, landscape architects, and architects. I was amazed how those designers can magically turn an abstract concept into a real well-designed house within 48 hours. So, I pursued landscape architecture as my major in both bachelor's and master’s degrees. During my advanced study at the National University of Singapore, I become more interested in this field. Every semester, I can sell an idea based on the studio topics through visualized diagrams and physical models. I do enjoy the process of achieving a specific goal and turning it into reality within time limitations."
What attracted you to Grant Associates?
Wenxi: "I noticed Grant Associates when I first began my landscape study because it is a globally famous landscape design company. I’m intrigued by many diverse and creative landscape projects the company has finished, such as Gardens by the Bay, which is often shown as a case study during our school study as well. I am also impressed with the company’s focus on ecosystems and our impact on nature. After finding out more information about the company from social media, I can clearly see how my goals align with the company’s proposals. For example, I strongly agree that we need to reconnect humans with nature."
Rui Xue: "I first heard about Grant Associates in a class on urban farming. When I was doing case studies about vertical greenery and rooftop gardens in Singapore, I was impressed by the Funan Mall and its lush exterior and cyberpunk structures inside. The design was not just to upgrade the old shopping mall into a fancy modern one. It also considered how to provide a functional green space for residents in the CBD area. The perfect balance of human and natural interests in this project made me want to find out more about Grant Associates."
Funan Mall, Singapore. Photography by Raphael Olivier
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your internship?
Wenxi: "The biggest lesson I learned from this internship is that it is OK to make mistakes if you learn from it. Since I am not very familiar with the actual industry’s workflow, I made a few mistakes when I first began, such as forgetting to save a file in the right location. I always set a high standard for myself, which makes me feel frustrated. My friendly colleagues at Grant Associates were great in helping me solve these problems patiently. After a few weeks, I grew in confidence and also learned not to be afraid of asking questions because a timely question can help you save a lot of work later."
Rui Xue: "The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is how to be professional. Since the COVID situation, I spent most of my time working from home. That means a lot of online communication with other colleagues. It’s important to make sure the message you send is clear. Sometimes a screenshot with some sketches is easier to understand than a long paragraph of words. Another thing is time management. If there are multiple tasks, it’s essential to plan and estimate the time you need in advance. Also, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If the assignment is too difficult for you to complete, just tell your colleagues which part you can do, and which part is beyond your capabilities. Do not waste time figuring it out all by yourself. It’s fine to ask for help, and the senior designers at Grant Associates were very open to questions on anything I needed help with."
How will the experience help you approach your final year of studies?
Wenxi: "Through this internship, I have discovered I am more interested in planting than before, and I realise the significance of planting design. I will read more books and articles to enhance my understanding of plants and their role in landscape design. I have also learnt about a number of new software packages which will help me improve my future school work. Above all, I found that although professional ability is important, good communication skills are essential for successful cooperation. Improving my communication skills in my final year will play a vital role in my future study and work process."
Rui Xue: "The internship showed me how landscape architects work in the real world. Unlike the individual design in the school studio, there are lots of collaborations with engineers, architects, lighting designers, and constructors. I now have the awareness to consider those missing parts in my design. For example, for planting design assignments in Singapore, using accurate local plant images is better than using random good-looking plant images for photoshopping renders. Meanwhile, the real skill is a client-oriented design. Designers need to meet the demands of different stakeholders. It’s crucial to find out the target audience and understand what they want. This internship provided several tutorials on translating the design into understandable results that clients expect with different software. Those professional skills in storytelling and design visualizing are useful for class presentations."
Stefaan Lambreghts, Associate Director at Grant Associates in Singapore, comments:
“We very much appreciated the help of Wenxi and Rui Xue over the last months. As final year students of the NUS Master of Landscape Architecture programme, they quickly adapted to our design approach. Soon after they started at Grant Associates, there was a surge of local Covid cases. As a result, we sent them home to work remotely, which was not ideal for interns.
"Wenxi and Rui Xue adapted remarkably well to the new challenges, as did the staff who guided them on a daily basis. We also kept them connected with the wider office and not just with their immediate team members. It is of course a pity that the interns couldn’t benefit of any face-to-face or social contact in the office. It will have been a completely different learning experience than intended, but for Grant Associates it has been very rewarding and we are looking forward to welcoming more interns or graduates in the future.”