Ashley Scott is a Master Planner and Landscape Architect with more than twenty-five years’ experience in design management. With an insatiable appetite for adventure, his professional and personal life has seen him traverse the globe, establishing an impressive portfolio of projects across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, and journeying through Tibet, driving in the world’s longest endurance banger rallies, and flying light aircrafts. He recently joined WATG Singapore in the capacity of Associate Vice President and Director of Landscape, and sat down with us to share some insights on a life – and career – well travelled.
What was the first design project you ever worked on?
A project called Putrajaya. It was to be the Federal Capital City of Malaysia. I started working on it after I just finished a Master’s in Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. The project company in Malaysia recruited me to lead the open space planning team for the entire city. We planned and created the design guidelines for some 100-or-so open spaces and connector routes, as well as all the infrastructure landscape. It is now mostly built and I enjoy going back every now and then to see the open spaces evolving and maturing.
What is the biggest career risk you’ve ever taken, and did it pay off?
Moving from London to Kuala Lumpur just after I graduated. I didn’t have a job to go to, but I jumped on a plane from London with a backpack and arrived in Malaysia. It was the days before the internet, where one had to correspond via letters, and it was all very slow. Upon arrival, I made some telephone calls and secured some interviews. A few days later, I joined a well-known Asian design practice and was fortunate enough to work alongside many inspiring people.
A large part of your role in design is to shape urban and leisure destinations. What is your favourite place to visit?
Tibet. I love adventure. I have driven on the two longest endurance banger rallies in the world in cars worth less than US$200, sailed across the Atlantic in a 58-foot Swann and flown a light aircraft across Europe, the Bahamas and the States, but Tibet is the most memorable place. Its extreme elevation above sea level sees that there are virtually no trees, and the scenery looks more like a moonscape. The people are very interesting, and the culture is amazing. I drove from Lhasa to Kathmandu over a two-week period and visited some amazing settlements along the route. The descent from beyond the Everest base camp into Kathmandu is spectacular as you journey through differing vegetation successions at various elevations.
What three things do you always take on a business trip?
1. Drawing equipment. You never know when you need to sketch out an idea for a client.
2. Clothes! And plenty of them.
3. A satellite communicator. I have been stranded in remote locations where storms have brought down the phone networks and have been travelling on business and caught in terror attacks. It is always good to be able to communicate with family and let them know you are okay.
If you had to pick one design trend to make a comeback, or could predict a future trend, what would it be?
I’m thinking of hotel lobbies sporting deep pile carpets and big chandeliers. I don’t know why, but I believe trends go on a thirty-odd-year cycle and this aesthetic was what was big in lobby design back in the late eighties and nineties.
One piece of advice to aspiring designers?
Put yourself in the mind of your clients to try and fully understand what they want and what they need from you, and how you can best guide them. It will strengthen your relationship with your client and create a better designed solution to realize their vision.