As Singapore’s public housing authority, HDB has made it its mission to redefine public housing to improve the lives of Singaporeans. The ones who work to transform this mission into reality are part of a team of diverse, talented and dedicated staff who are united in HDB’s vision of creating world-class homes for Singaporeans.
While HDB’s building research specialists drive R&D efforts towards ground-breaking technologies and sustainable building solutions, its estate management professionals roll out new policies and review existing ones to benefit broader segments of society. The planners, engineers and architects, on the other hand, continue to revitalise our older estates and towns through a host of renewal and upgrading programmes and build new estates to meet the growing demands of our population.
We speak to Zhao Rui, 25, a HDB Undergraduate Scholar and Architect, and Rachel Teo, 26, a HDB Mid-Term Scholar and Landscape Architect, to find out more about their jobs and how they make an impact on the lives of Singaporeans and the generations to come.
HDB Undergraduate Scholar
Designation: Architect, Urban Design Department, Research & Planning Group
Studied: Master of Architecture,
National University of Singapore
Tell us more about your job. What are some of your responsibilities?
Zhao Rui: As an Architect in the Urban Design Department, my areas of work are very diverse. I am involved in design-related work which includes the master planning of new areas such as Tampines North, the injection of new plans into existing areas and the drawing up of urban design guidelines for new HDB developments. Another aspect of my job is to engage in land-use consultations with other agencies and plan new developments within the area that I am working on. This involves assessing planning consultations and meeting with other agencies to work out inter-agency issues.
Rachel Teo: I am exposed to a wide range of job areas at the Landscape and Design Department. These include working on master planning projects, coordinating the landscape design of new and upgrading projects and studying ways to improve the greenery in our HDB estates.
Tell us more about your interest in architecture. Why did you choose to work in the Public Sector?
Zhao Rui: The built environment has always fascinated me. Just as an aspiring doctor is fascinated by the workings of the human body, I am simply intrigued by the relationship between the built environment and the people that live in it. I also hoped that as an architect, I would be able to make the living spaces of people more pleasant through design.
Working as an architect and town planner in the Public Sector allows me to see how my work impacts the everyday life of the end users from a broader perspective. My client for each project is not just an individual, a family, or a developer. Instead, my client is a large population of residents which in turn entails a far greater responsibility in serving their needs. This is a challenge that I relish.
Rachel: What interests me about landscape architecture is how we have the ability to shape the environment which people live in, both functionally and aesthetically. I chose to pursue a career in the Public Sector as I wanted the opportunity to apply these skills in a variety of areas and also contribute to society. Furthermore, since more than 80 per cent of the population resides in public housing estates, I know that the projects and policies that I work on will have an impact on and benefit the lives of many.
What are some particularly memorable projects that you have worked on? What was your role in these projects?
Zhao Rui: I am involved in the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) projects, which involves injecting new plans into existing areas in order to revitalise them. To date, HDB has launched two batches of ROH projects in six areas, namely, Punggol, Yishun, Dawson, Jurong Lake District, East Coast and Hougang. These projects aim to bring new life and excitement into existing areas with new homes, commercial hubs and revamped recreational facilities. Such projects also ensure that the changing needs and lifestyles of our residents are being addressed.
Rachel: One of the projects which comes to mind is the first Build-to-Order (BTO) project that I worked on as a landscape coordinator. At that time I had little experience and was excited to try anything new. While working closely with the landscape consultant, we sought to introduce a diverse planting palette and Water Sensitive Urban Design elements into the landscape. We also wanted to create a series of conducive courtyard spaces, with each having its own character. Since I was relatively inexperienced then, there were many things that I had to do research on and quickly pick up, but the process was thoroughly enjoyable and a great learning experience for me.
HDB Mid-Term Scholar
Designation: Landscape Architect, Landscape & Design Department, Development & Procurement Group
Studied: Master of Landscape Architecture, National University of Singapore
Share with us a couple of highlights from your scholarship journey.
Zhao Rui: In my fourth year of undergraduate studies, I went on a semester-long exchange programme at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, sponsored by HDB. My perspectives on architecture and urban planning were broadened as I learnt about the built environment in other cities and made friends from different countries and diverse backgrounds. And of course, I took the opportunity to go on an ‘architectural pilgrimage’ around Europe, where I visited charming cities and great works of architecture.
Rachel: I remember going back to my former Junior College to give a talk about my work at HDB. It was so meaningful to be able to relate my experiences to interested students. Another highlight would be my internship stint at HDB before my fifth year in university. During that time I had the opportunity to get involved in the design of a couple of projects, which gave me insights into the design process and fuelled my interest in landscape architecture
What is the most fulfilling part of the job at HDB?
Zhao Rui: That would probably be knowing that the work I do is very real. The plans and designs that we draw up are very tangible and will eventually be implemented and realised. The knowledge that I play a key role in improving the housing and living environment of Singaporeans really keeps me motivated.
Rachel: I enjoy having a hand in creating landscape spaces for residents. In particular, I enjoy the design process, which always involves a great deal of imagination and creativity. I also enjoy writing articles in greenery publications to publicise the landscape work we do at HDB and lend a voice to the landscape architecture industry. But I must say, the most fulfilling thing is knowing that the landscapes I work on today will be enjoyed by residents for many years to come!