I believe that a lot of urban design involves keen observation and an eye for detail.
I think that the process for creating great built environments involves watching and considering how people use, interact and enjoy the spaces around them, as well as understanding how buildings function. Then, it is about applying the key urban design principles of permeability, variety, legibility, robustness and richness.
I first became interested in the urban environment when I cycled around my hometown of Fuzhou, in China, with my father as a little boy. We explored its canals, historic buildings and bridges. At high school, I started thinking about notions such as how environments influence the way people live, what people do and create in different spaces, and how nature interacts with people.
I spent a couple of months of the final year of my Bachelor’s study in Singapore working at an international planning consultancy. It was a great place to start my career. Singapore is an ideal example of how comprehensive master planning can successfully manage population growth, and integrate land use and transport systems.
I now live in the Auckland CBD and mostly walk, bike or use public transport to get around, so I’m surrounded by inspiration. Even when I’m not working, I am always immersed in the urban planning mindset.
I am an advocate of sustainable design. To me, that means a design should be environmentally-sound, ensures affordability to those who want to live there, and ultimately delivers commercial profitability to the client. I also believe that sustainability can, and should, be achieved through some basic and long‑lasting conventional design features. That includes permeable street-block size, regular grid patterns, perimeter blocks, human‑scale building heights, sufficient building-to-building distance and naturally cross‑ventilated dwellings.
I really enjoy researching and reading about different pioneers and leaders in urban planning such as Ebenezer Howard, Ian Bentley, Peter Calthorpe and Ildefons Cerdà. I think we can learn a lot from the successful examples found in European cities by encouraging people to embrace different house typologies, like terraced housing and walk-up apartment buildings.