Kaye left her family home in Shanghai about 7 years ago, headed to Santa Barbara, California to pursue a degree in Psychology.
“On my mother’s side, they’re all doctors; on my father’s side they’re all artists.”
Kaye soon realized that medicine wasn’t her calling. After a serious discussion with her Architect father, she packed her bags, enrolling at the Academy of Art University with a new goal to become her family’s first Landscape Architect. Arriving to the San Francisco art scene, Kaye had little experience drawing and like most, had only dabbled in some Photoshop. Five years later, Kaye has her Bachelor of Arts degree in Landscape Architecture and is on track to obtain her Masters in the same field next Fall 2018.
“I chose this challenge to continue after my bachelor’s degree because… I feel like I have more to learn. In China, you have to get a better education if you want to become successful. I really want to design as a park designer, with larger scale master planning projects. I understand residential [is] awesome but I really love those larger scale projects because there is more context for multipurpose use…. There are more problems to solve.”
See Kaye’s Fort Baker renderings, a master plan project she completed in her most recent Design Studio, LAN 610 with Instructor Antonia Bava.
Only able to visit her family during the summer, Kaye is sad to be missing out on “Spring Festival” in Shanghai (Chinese New Year) one more year, but she is humbly proud of how far she’s come.
“I remember my first studio class, LAN 250: Landscape Design. Jennifer, [the instructor], enlightened me about presentation skills. I print my drawings and think ‘everything is on the board and I think I’ll just point at it. I don’t know how to explain my thoughts; I don’t have the professional vocabulary to describe the process of what I did.’ After that class, [now] I have outlines to understand which part should go first, second, [and so on]: the process to organize your mind before you do anything. And practice is so important!”
“Why are presentation skills so important?” I ask.
“In the future, our clients are going to be people. Your boss and colleagues are going to be people too. You’ll have to talk to them to work together for the design… and explain with them how it’s going to work!”
As I interview Kay, she gets more comfortable and begins to exude a quiet confidence, allowing her analytical mind to shine through. She has clearly come a long way in the field and her parents must be so proud of her ability to balance art and science in this unique field.
“After all these years, when someone asks what Landscape Architecture is, how do you explain it?”
“This field, to me, is both functional and aesthetic design. We need to have knowledge of plants, weather, human and social factors, water, etc. We combine all those things in our learning process to develop our exterior living space.”
I want to give a huge thank you to Kaye for taking the time between graduate classes to share her experience with me. It was a pleasure getting to know her and I look forward to learning which Bay Area landscape design company hires her first in 2019.
Artist: Xiaohui Yan (Kaye)
Interviewer: Kathryn Baldwin, Administrator, AAU School of Landscape Architecture