Cracknell’s Chia Wen discusses the qualities in Japanese landscape design that inspire her

Malaysian landscape architect, Chia Wen, has promised to bring something a little different to the market in the GCC. Having worked in her home country with a Japanese firm following graduation, as well as in Vietnam, before relocating to Dubai in April 2017 to work with Cracknell, Wen came with a particular background that distinguishes her from her peers.

“The Japanese approach to landscape design is very different than what you find in the rest of the world,” said Wen. “They think of every detail, and they use elements in the landscape design to coach people in terms of how to behave. But for the rest of the world, they design outdoor spaces in terms of how they think the people want to use it.”

According to Wen, Japanese landscape design uses environmental elements, from the way rocks are laid down by a stream to the placement of trees, to encourage (or discourage) interaction and exploration.

“I think it has to do with Japanese culture. People don’t like to be consciously coached, so landscape design there is about coaching through the subconscious. During my time working in Malaysia, I went to visit a project in Japan. It was designed in such a way that they have things that attract you to go close to a specific area and get closer to certain parts of the environment. They help you make great use of the space,” said Wen.

According to Wen, GCC landscape architects are ambitious, and she’s enjoying her work here. Her first project in the GCC was a large-scale, private residential project in Saudi Arabia. Responsible for the detailed design, reports and so on, Wen strived to consider how to meet the client’s needs. At the moment, she is working on a confidential large-scale masterplan in the UAE.

“I’m surprised by how ambitious people are to turn desert into liveable space, and by the amount of money they invest. When I was in university, one of the ideas that stuck is how to make outdoor space comfortable for the users,” she said. “It also needs to be aesthetically attractive, because everyone likes to see beautiful things. Aesthetics is how you attract people to a space, and then the comfort of using that space is what keeps them there.”

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