From Garden City to City in a Garden – This is the vision that the National Parks Board (NParks) has for Singapore’s future. Singapore is known as a country where greenery abounds, an achievement accomplished through the efforts of the community working together with NParks.
Conserving and enhancing native habitats and nature areas in our urban landscape is a calling that demands a passion for the environment and knowledge to implement initiatives that fit our sunny island. 28-year-old Kee Wen Yu is one of the talents driving the NParks vision. Her number one advice for those interested in a career with NParks is to be inspired by nature, and she shares more about what her current journey with NParks is like.
What motivated you to pursue a career and scholarship with NParks?
I didn’t know about Landscape Architecture until I chanced upon the scholarship by NParks listed on the BrightSparks portal. It caught my attention as I have a love for nature and an interest in design. While I was initially afraid to pursue this course of study as I had no prior background in art or design, I decided to give it a try. NParks gave me the confidence to delve into designing with nature and supported me through my studies; empowering me to use my new skills and knowledge for my work with NParks.
Kee Wen Yu
NParks Overseas Undergraduate Scholar
Senior Manager (Development Management)
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture,
First Class Honours
– University of New South Wales
What are the development opportunities that your scholarship has given you academically and outside of your studies?
Throughout my studies abroad, NParks supported the exchange programmes that I signed up for. I managed to explore and live in the inland desert in New South Wales, Australia, participate in a cross-disciplinary design programme in the major cities of Japan, and even studied a semester in Cornell University, USA.
These programmes have widened my perspective and also introduced many ecological concepts that allowed me to gain not only knowledge but experiences that influence me to adopt more eco-friendly choices.
Since I started my job in NParks in 2013, I have been exposed to many exciting projects of different scales, inter-agency projects, and hands-on designing of gardens with communities which allowed me to put to test the ideas I picked up during university.
Working in NParks keeps me constantly engaged through learning about park operations, volunteering for events, and outfield research beyond of my scope of study. Working with people with a passion in nature conservation is definitely what inspires me most in NParks.
Other than the exposure to a wide spectrum of projects, NParks has also given me the opportunity to take on a second posting as a Development Manager, allowing me to follow through on some of the projects that I helped conceptualise. This addition to my job scope has been most fulfilling as I now have an overview of the entire park development cycle.
What are some of the memorable milestones in your career so far?
When I started off as a Landscape Architect, the first projects were to conceptualise, design, and implement the first fenceless community garden in Choa Chu Kang and the first SG50 Community In Bloom (CIB) Garden directly with the community gardeners. These projects were both pilot projects for NParks and there was a steep learning curve as we had only tested out design concepts in theory. These projects are meaningful to me as I gained valuable hands-on experiences creating projects with community gardeners to deliver gardens that foster long-term ownership and a sense of belonging.
How have these experiences helped you excel at your career?
They built up my confidence to take on larger, more complex, and nature-sensitive projects, such as Rifle Range Nature Park and the Rail Corridor which I am currently working on. The high level of teamwork required for NParks projects has not only helped me identify and strengthen my niche, but also provided me with opportunities to work with knowledgeable and passionate colleagues who keep me inspired.
Why do you think natural spaces are important in the midst of Singapore’s urbanisation?
I am a strong believer of the theory of Biophilia, which, according to biologist E.O Wilson, is an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with nature. The biophilic City in a Garden concept is especially important in our increasingly urbanised island to cater to the innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other life forms, and to improve physical and psychological well-being.
Could you share more about your current roles and responsibilities?
As a Development Manager, I help to conceptualise, call, and review consultancy and construction proposals to build parks. I collaborate with other built environment agencies such as URA, LTA, and PUB, design parks together with private-sector consultants, and learn about construction from contractors. My main responsibility is to make sure that the projects run according to the planned timeline and keep within the budget. The new parks also have to be enjoyable for everyone.
How would you describe the working culture at NParks?
Various NParks projects require multi-disciplinary teamwork. I enjoy working with colleagues of different backgrounds to conceptualise, design, and implement parks for communities to enjoy. It is enriching to learn more about nature and design from different experts in NParks as they often bring in new and exciting ideas to every project.