Boss of Asian landscape design and planning firm praises School’s teaching

Scott Dyde, Design Director at Sala Design Group

Having studied BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture and the Postgraduate Diploma at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design, 40-year-old Scott Dyde now finds himself spearheading his own firm over a decade later with offices in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore.

Scott, Design Director at South East Asia landscape design and planning firm Sala Design Group, founded the company in 2007 with fellow design director Ashley Sutch. Scott reflects on how the level of the teaching, staff and the overall experience at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design has paved the way for a successful career.

How did you find the transition from being a student to integrating into the professional world?

Tough, to be honest, however in no way was this anything to do with the relevance of my training at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design in preparation for the professional world, but it was tough for a number of reasons. I really wanted to join a practice whose work I found exciting and expanded on the studio projects I had been investigating at university - large in scale, overlapping landscape architecture, planning and the visual arts.

The landscape practices I interviewed with in the UK at the time were not doing this type of work, so it took a while to find my ecosystem as it were. Persistence paid off though and my first job after graduation was working at the SWA Group in the USA, a highly respected landscape architecture and planning company whose body of work I had admired for some time.

How did the Landscape Architecture course at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design set the foundation for a successful career?

I was encouraged, challenged, and pushed at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design. I learned to see things differently and became a more critical thinker whilst honing my creative skills. This thinking and creativity was manifested in a very strong portfolio of studio projects that I had completed during my studies. It was this body of work which caught the attention of the SWA Group and landed me the Job. I've never looked back except in reverence of what a great time I had and everything I learnt at the School.

Describe your journey from graduation to running Sala Design Group.

During my time in America I had been working on some very exciting projects in China. I enjoyed the work and country so much that I decided to move there for work. I happened to catch-up with an ex-colleague and friend (Ashley Sutch) over a beer one day and within six months we founded Sala Design Group in Hong Kong on the back of an abundance of work we had secured. Several years of very hard work later and today we are working throughout South East Asia and the Middle East specialising in hospitably related projects such as hotel and resort planning and design from our offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and the Philippines.    

Have you achieved your ambitions in the industry?

At Sala Design Group we have a saying that you are only ever as good as your last project and we strive for every new project to be as good as our last, if not better. For that to happen you also need clients that recognise the talent and appreciate the skills you bring to the table on any given project. My ambition is that our work is continually recognised and commended for the design quality and creativity we deliver. A good measure of achieving that ambition is by the number of quality referrals we receive to new projects which continues to grow each year.

What advice would you give to any current or potential students of the course?

There are no pigeon holes in landscape architecture. The profession continues to expand in terms of its depth and importance of the services we provide. So keep an open mind, look for the opportunities and be a part of defining a great profession.....most importantly, focus on the areas that you are most passionate about.

What is your favorite aspect of the job?

I get to travel a lot and am fortunate to work in some very exotic locations to provide landscape-led design services that have far reaching implications that benefit local economies and the environment. Seeing the positive impacts our work makes is by far the greatest aspect of what I do.

For instance, in central Vietnam we master planned a 260 hectare golf resort on a tract of land that had been environmentally ruined by decades of intensive farming. Part of the design process involved preparing a botanical survey of the site and implementing an on-site nursery to see what native species could be harvested and propagated further for use in the development. We trained local villagers to operate the nursery, which today is a full scale operation that benefits the community through employment opportunities and is healing the ecosystems there. The golf course and residential enclaves are now complete and the resort looks stunning!

What are the main three things that you have learnt from graduation up to this point in your career?

I have met some fantastic mentors within my career and I continue to learn from them and their work. Here are some very succinct words of advice that continue to yield positive results for me:

"Be bolshie" - Professor Kathryn Moore – Birmingham School of Architecture and Design

"Don't let the architects push you around" - Dan Tuttle - SWA Group

"You're only as good as your last project" - Ashley Sutch - SALA Design Group

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