Meet the wandering landscape architect

It’s been a blissful five months travelling through South East Asia but it’s now time to head home for Emily Sutherland aka Instagram's wandering_landscape_architect. The 24 year old British graduate has been indulging her love of travel after completing her Masters at The University of Greenwich in London. 

“It has always been a dream of mine to travel. I have been lucky enough to have holidayed across much of Europe but I fancied a greater adventure further afield for this trip,” Sutherland told Landscape Architecture Aotearoa. “I believe travel for a landscape architect is especially important because as a design profession which creates places we need to understand the world around us first.”

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Sutherland’s been documenting her travels via social media, with gorgeous instagram photos from exotic locations - we made contact to find out more about the woman behind the images.

She chose South East Asia because she loved the drama of the forms of the natural landscape. “It’s nothing like the landscape of the UK and Europe,” she says. “Some places which come to mind immediately are: the Ha Giang Northern Province in Vietnam with its winding roads through dramatic mountains and deep crevasses, Southern Thailand's white sandy beaches - Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta - with steep, rocky islands jutting from the ocean in the distance, the uniformed rice paddy terraces of Bali, Indonesia and additionally the misty and magical tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.”

 The Boh tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.  This is one of Emily Sutherland's favourite photos from her instagram account wandering_landscape_architect

The Boh tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.  This is one of Emily Sutherland's favourite photos from her instagram account wandering_landscape_architect

However, she says, if it’s classic examples of excellent Landscape design then Singapore has to be the epitome; with its beautiful Botanical Gardens, Gardens By The Bay and every street designed and maintained pristinely. 

Sutherland says she’s also visited many lovely Botanical gardens in Bali, Ho Chi Minh, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. But some of her favourite landscapes and gardens are around the many Hindu and Buddhist temples across Asia along with the cute, private gardens of residents making the most of their limited space on balconies and in-between houses.

Sutherland came to landscape architecture from a horticultural perspective. “I always loved gardens, plants and especially the natural world as a child. I grew up in rural northern England, in the Lake District National Park, and so that was a big influence. 

 The Kokyo Higashi Gyoen Gardens in Japan. Another of Sutherland's favourite photos.

The Kokyo Higashi Gyoen Gardens in Japan. Another of Sutherland's favourite photos.

“It combines all my passions: travel, art and design, horticulture, places and people. However it was only since going to University that it became apparent to me that the profession is more than simply creating a beautiful aesthetic (although important), but also about creating spaces which positively impact people lives and engages with its surrounding community. 

“I have worked a little with local communities in my University courses and would like to continue this into my future career as this is what most attracts me to the profession now. I find it (landscape architecture) a lot of fun, and ultimately I feel very lucky to have a job that is also my passion.”

Sutherland says travel has enriched her life in many aspects. “As a solo traveller it taught me a greater appreciation of being alone, my independence and my ability to not get lost.

“I’ve also learnt so much about other cultures and practices. Talking to locals was always one of my favourite ways to get to know a place. Finally, the many friends I have met, from all across the globe, has been the main enjoyment and has reinforced my belief that people make a place. 

“Specifically in relation to my career, it has shown me natural wonders and further strengthened  my appreciation of the natural world. The designed landscapes too have also been such great precedents for future use; from the big name projects like Gardens By The Bay in Singapore,  to little, quaint pot plant gardens in local cafes; they have both taught me lots and given me much inspiration for my design work moving forward.”

Sutherland says while she’s headed back to London to look for work more travel is on the horizon, with New Zealand high on her list of places to visit.

You can live vicariously through Sutherland by going to instagram and following @wandering_landscape_architect, or on twitter @W_Land_Arch

 The conservatory at 'Gardens By The Bay' in Singapore.  Sutherland describes it as the best conservatory she has had the privilege to visit.

The conservatory at 'Gardens By The Bay' in Singapore.  Sutherland describes it as the best conservatory she has had the privilege to visit.