With a love for history, culture and art, the fusion of Western perspectives with her own Asian origins has fuelled Helen Smith-Yeo’s inspirations for transformative creativity as well as timeless designs.
As principal at STX Landscape Architects—a Singapore-based firm of landscape architects and urban designers—Smith-Yeo is very hands-on in providing direction in the design, management and planning for diverse landscaping
projects throughout the region.
She shares her thoughts with Construction+.
What has inspired or shaped you as a landscape architect?
I’m very interested in cross-culturalism and how ideas, traditions and historical norms get transplanted from the country of origin to a completely different environment and context. I do not believe in being chained to one culture, one country or one belief system or way of thinking.
This is why—after studying architecture at the National University of Singapore, earning my Master’s in Landscape Architecture at Harvard, and working for more than 26 years in Asia—I decided to go back to school in 2017, but this time in Europe (at the École Nationale Supérieure de Paysage at Versailles, France).
I felt the need to be exposed to the European way of thinking to round out the experiences and the inputs I had from Asia and America. For this I studied French from scratch to university level, and through it, I gained indepth knowledge of a new culture and exposure to how Europeans regard the landscape and the practice of landscape architecture. This was a personal quest to enrich my own mind.
How would you describe your design philosophy?
My fundamentals are fairly simple—our landscapes should enhance the quality of life and serve the common good of their users and the earth. I feel strongly about the creation of beautiful environments because I believe we can contribute to human existence when we design landscapes that not only nurture and heal but are also timeless—in the sense that they are designed for functional longevity, rather than following fad or fashion.