Growing up in a family of architects, I was always interested in culture and the built environment – how nature has shaped human behavior, how human activities have influenced the environment, and how the relationship between culture and nature evolved throughout history. I found myself constantly pondering these questions in terms of anthropology, ecology, and aesthetics. Naturally, I applied for architecture degrees at universities in the United States, hoping to learn more about the built environment. However, there must have been a glitch in the application system, since I got admitted into a landscape architecture degree program in the University of Illinois. Since the school has a great reputation, I decided to accept the offer and switch my major right after I got in.

When I came to the university, I talked with my academic advisor, and admitted that I did not know anything about landscape architecture. After hearing what I was looking for in a college education, my advisor suggested that I gather more information before deciding on a field of study. So without too much thinking, I took the introduction classes to both architecture and landscape architecture. Surprisingly, I found myself becoming more and more interested in landscape. I found that landscape architecture is a very broad field, particularly when it comes to dealing with the human/nature relationship. My professor once called landscape architects “the negotiator between culture and nature.” To paraphrase the idea of my favorite landscape architect, Diana Balmori, architecture is the object, and landscape is space for the object. It is an obvious trend in recent years that landscape no longer serves as a mere background; instead, it has become more and more important than the object. I decided to continue to study landscape architecture, because I found that I am interested in space in general rather than the object. What I had always been interested in is, in fact, landscape.

Landscape architecture goes hand in hand with sustainability. I learned that sustainable design could dramatically reduce runoffs, stabilize the local ecosystem for plants and animals, and promote carbon neutrality. Landscape architects carry the important duty of turning the human/nature relationship into a collaborative one, instead of humans harvesting unilaterally. Humans are integrated within nature – what we do to nature also affect us in return. Therefore, the idea of sustainability is especially crucial for the betterment of human beings, because there is no other way around it if we want to live in a world that’s forever growing, changing, and evolving. From a design point of view, in order for a designer to be able to work with the inherent beauty of ecology, to reveal natural aesthetics, more people need to understand the benefit of sustainable development. Sustainability is not just a nice-sounding slogan, but is a pragmatic and instrumental idea that could be implemented within numerous human practices.

The above is why I believe the work of Second Nature is important, because we raise awareness, educate younger generations, and help more people realize the value of a sustainable ecosystem. I joined Second Nature hoping to learn more about sustainable practices, and how to affect change on a larger scale. I will always think like a designer – assess every possible angle and perspective, and come up with something creative; Second Nature provides the opportunity for me to think beyond my training and expertise. I believe my experience here will help to shape my future career as a designer.