Appointed Director of Design of the National Parks Board of Singapore in January 2014, Damian Tang is keen to contribute towards greening Singapore and transforming it into a sustainable ‘city in a garden.’
As Director, Damian leads a team of landscape architects, landscape designers and graphic designers in garden design projects, environmental planning and the master planning of Singapore’s parks, waterways, public spaces and streetscapes. Recent projects include Singapore’s round-island recreation network; the Streetscape Greenery Master Plan; and the PUB Active Beautiful & Clean (ABC) Waters Master Plan.
Since graduating from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture in 2003, Damian has become a leader in his profession. President of Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects, Damian is passionate about his career and about elevating the industry’s professional standards and its value in landscape design and greenery planning.
“I believe that being a good landscape architect is important, but being a good leader in landscape architecture is equally important.”
Damian has represented both the design industry and landscape industry in various roles including his Presidential Advisory Commission role for Design Business Chamber Singapore; International Presidential Advisor for Asian Creative Industries Alliance; Chair of IFLA World Congress Singapore 2018 and International Skyrise Greenery Conference 2013. As a representative for the landscape industry he has been invited as keynote speaker for several expert forums ranging from AILA National Conference; BCA International Panel of Experts for Universal Design 2010, 2012; Taiwan Smart Green Cities Summit and World Green Roof Congress in China. He has also received numerous awards including for SILA Professional Design, ASLA Honorary Awards, 2012 MND Minister’s Team Award, and was nominated for a President Design Award. Recently he was appointed the Chair for Finance and Business Planning for IFLA Asia-Pacific Region and represented in the World Standing Committee.
Besides shaping Singapore’s public greenery and influencing landscape policy, Damian has participated in two recent international garden shows, where his unique and creative approach to landscape design was showcased. “The Singapore Garden Festival – regarded as the Chelsea Flower Show of the East – offered me a platform to create two fantasy gardens, the Mysterious Jungle of Pandora (in 2010) and Garden of Tales (in 2012),” says Damian. “These projects won Gold and Best of Show consecutively which was great as the Festival attracts top landscape designers from around the world.”
What made you choose the University of Melbourne to study architecture and landscape architecture?
DT: I heard of its good reputation and that it has an excellent campus environment. It is also one of the best universities in Australia. In fact, it was the university that many recommended.
What steps did you take to get yourself to University here?
DT: I completed a four year Diploma course in Singapore before applying to the University of Melbourne. As I had merit awards with outstanding grades and 4 years work experience, I was given considerable exemptions in my course. Preparing myself mentally and emotionally because moving to another foreign country was something I had mixed feelings about. Financial support from my parents was also one aspect that I had to work out.
What was your first impression of Melbourne?
DT: The campus is beautiful. It is really conducive for study – lying on the green lawns, being with friends, and finding quiet corners to read or study with a nice cup of good latte. I still love the campus, and try to make it a point to visit when I return to Melbourne each year. I only wish I had the chance to study in the new Melbourne School of Design building.
What did you take away from your studies in Melbourne that you still use every day?
DT: There are many dedicated Professors and teachers in the Melbourne School of Design who bring passion to their teaching. Aside from the knowledge I gained from them, it was their passion and commitment to their work that still resonates with me.
What was your first job when you returned to Singapore?
DT: My first job was working as a landscape architect for the National Parks Board. And I am still with National Parks Board after 10 years.
How has Singapore’s landscape and recreation spaces changed over the last decade since you’ve been working for the National Parks Board?
DT: As a citizen living in Singapore, I notice that people were more appreciative and in touch with nature and spending time in outdoor recreational activities. Designing parks, streetscapes and greenery in Singapore, from a holistic and integrated approach with different agencies, has made Singapore more liveable. People get the experience of living, working and playing in a city in a garden setting. We are also beginning to see more of our concrete canals turned into beautiful waterways – places where people are drawn closer to the water. Importantly, we have more wildlife, birds and butterflies in many urban areas in Singapore. The increase in biodiversity is one of the key results of the concerted greening efforts in Singapore over the last decade.
What do you hope to achieve in Singapore as Director of Design of the National Parks Board?
DT: I definitely hope that I have contributed to my country and will continue to contribute through my profession, connecting people with the environment. Sometimes it is not the big ideas I go for when designing landscapes; sometimes it is the small ideas that could potentially turn big when executed well. For Singapore, I hope to achieve sustainable living systems through designing landscapes and living environments for people. And by sustainable living systems, I mean a holistic and integrated approach from planning to design and implementation. I have a responsibility, both as a professional, and a leader in the profession, to drive it.
What advice do you have for young people interested in a career in landscape architecture?
DT: Landscape architecture is a profession that is so wide and encompassing, and it is up to you to define and discover. It will be a profession and career that will leave you driven, fulfilled and developed as a better human being. Whatever dreams you have as a landscape designer, be committed and stay focused on them. Your experience and professional journey will be borderless and rewarding, not just for you but for others as well.