Liveability: Nature and Well-being

Date: 5 October, Thursday
Time: 2.30pm – 4.30pm


This session brings together various speakers from the public sector and research spheres, to highlight leading areas of research and application in advancing nature-based solutions for health and well-being, as part of Singapore’s overall transformative efforts under its “City in Nature” vision.   


About the Speakers


Prof Tan Puay Yok resized

Prof Tan Puay Yok
Chief Science & Technology Officer and Director, Singapore Botanic Gardens
National Parks Board (NParks)
Professor, College of Design and Engineering
National University of Singapore (NUS)

Professor Tan Puay Yok is the Group Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a leading institute in tropical botany and horticulture and has over its 160-year history, played a key role in the social, economic and environmental history of Singapore and the region. He is currently under a joint appointment between the National Parks Board and National University of Singapore (NUS). At NUS, Puay Yok is a Professor and cluster leader of the Landscape Studies group in the Department of Architecture. His research, teaching, and professional activities focus on the science, policies, and practices of urban greening and ecology of the built environment. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief for Landscape and Urban Planning (Elsevier), Associate Editor for Journal of Urban Ecology (Oxford University Press) and Editorial Board Member of npj Urban Sustainability (Nature Partner Journals). 


Topic: The Salubrity of Urban Nature: From Patterns to Mechanisms

There is probably a universal acceptance that nature in cities provides numerous benefits for urban dwellers. Among these, the health benefits from urban nature is a recurring and long-standing theme across different disciplines, from landscape architecture to urban planning, to human geography and public health planning. This is reflected in the increasing number of scholarly articles on this topic published over the last two decades. Such a recognition of the salubrious benefits of nature that cuts across cultures, however, can be said to be a rediscovery of old knowledge. For instance, more than two thousand years ago, Hippocrates said “Nature itself is the best physician”.

In Chinese culture, the idea of “天人合一” promotes the practice of harmony between human and nature as a way of living and an ethical treatment of the environment. Therefore, given the long cultural associations and increasing scientific evidence, what else needs to be done to increase the health benefits of nature exposure? One such area is to undertake studies that go beyond documenting benefits of nature exposure, to understanding the mechanisms leading to health benefits. Understanding mechanisms, in turn, provide the necessary evidence to design optimal interventions that address constraints of space, time and lifestyles of urban living. This presentation shares perspectives on the need to invest more efforts to develop a better mechanistic understanding of the health promoting effects of nature exposure.


Dr Lin Shengwei Ervine resized

Dr Lin Shengwei Ervine
Senior Lecturer
Programme Director Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, Department of Architecture
National University of Singapore (NUS)

Dr Ervine is currently a senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Architecture, where he teaches and serves as the programme director in the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture programme. Prior to his current appointment, he was a senior researcher at the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (National Parks Board, Singapore), after completing his doctorate with ETH Zurich and his Master of Landscape Architecture with the National University of Singapore. His research revolves around the use of emerging technologies to push the boundaries of landscape architecture. This includes the use of reality capture technologies, building information modelling, 3D and parametric modelling as well as performative testing.


Topic: Measuring Urban Landscapes for Assessment of Restorative Potential

Exposure to nature is widely suggested to provide multiple benefits, including the capacity to trigger mental restoration. This makes it essential to integrate natural elements into urban landscapes through purpose-built parks or neighbourhood greening efforts. Singapore is no stranger to this and has spent decades greening the city into its current state. However, it is unclear what kind of greenery typologies should be prioritized in relation to the urban environment, and how the two interact and affect restorative potential. This talk will showcase two novel methods for measuring urban landscapes specific to assessing and predicting the restorative potential of neighbourhood landscapes.In doing so, it will shed light on preliminary research findings which point towards the importance and complexities of attempting to measure such an elusive effect. Such findings pave the way for fresh insights into planning and designing urban landscapes in order to maximise restorative benefits to urban dwellers.


Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo resized

Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo

Ms Alicia Soh resized

Ms Alicia Soh

Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo
President & Co-founder


Ms Alicia Soh, Senior Manager, Development Management
National Parks Board (NParks)

Dr Guizzo utilized neuropsychophysiology tools to evaluate the relationship between the design of the everyday environment and the mental health & well-being of urban residents and people suffering from mental disorders. She also introduced and operationalized the concept of Contemplative Landscapes and proposed a tool for designers called a Contemplative Landscape Model, which is a quantitative expert-based scale for assessing and classifying landscape views, based on their mental health benefits through passive observation. She is the President and Lead Researcher at NeuroLandscape NGO, and a Fellow at the Center of Urban Design and Mental Health. In her work, she strives to implement scientific research into practical actions to promote mental health in cities.

Ms Alicia Soh currently oversees the development of parks such as Clementi Nature Stream and Istana Park. She is trained as a Landscape Architect in the University of Western Australia and studied Health design in the University of Copenhagen. In her previous stint in NParks’ Design Branch, she led the therapeutic garden design team, which conceptualised and designed therapeutic gardens for Woodlands Health Campus, as well as for other care facilities and public parks, such as Pasir Ris Therapeutic Garden. She has extensive experience in the planning and design process of designing for people with specific needs in an outdoor environment using evidence-based approaches, and has contributed to publications in collaboration with SILA and CUGE on Therapeutic Gardens in Singapore.


Topic: Urban Nature for Mentally-Healthy Cities: Contemplative Landscapes

This talk will provide new insights for integrating natural landscapes into cities with consideration of better mental health and well-being, by delving into the concept of "Contemplative Landscapes" along with its supporting scientific background. Evidence from local and international studies on the influence of contemplative landscapes on the brain will also be discussed, together with the practical implications of how urban planners and residents can harness this concept to maximize the therapeutic benefits of nature. Finally, the talk will also address current and future approaches regarding the application of the Contemplative Landscape Model.


Prof John Chee Meng Wong resized

Assoc Prof John Wong Chee Meng
Lin Jo Yan and Yeo Boon Khim Professor, Mental Health and Neuroscience
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore
Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, National University Hospital

Assoc Prof John is the immediate past Head of Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS and NUH, Vice Chairman Medical Board (Education) at NUH, founding Executive Director of the Regional Health Planning Office and founding Director of the CARE Hub at the National University Health System (NUHS).

He is currently the Director of NUS Yeo Boon Khim Mind Science Centre, Immediate Past President of the College of Psychiatrists/ Academy of Medicine Singapore, and current Council member of the Pacific Rim College of Psychiatrists.

His research includes the Singapore YEAR (Youth Epidemiology and Resilience) Study, a national youth mental health epidemiology study, clinical trials and non-pharmacological treatment trials in ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, urban nature and therapeutic play, adolescent resilience and suicide prevention studies. Recent clinical work includes the COVID pandemic psychological responses.


Topic: Nurture by nature: interventions for improving health and well-being in the urban city

Does urban nature improve physical health and mental well-being? This presentation delves into the biophilia effect, which highlights the benefits of connecting with nature in close proximity. It focuses on how this effect applies to unique populations, including individuals with special needs and the elderly. Additionally, the presentation explores the concept of therapeutic gardens within natural landscapes and their combination with therapeutic activities, supported by insights from medical studies conducted in parks within Singapore.


Mr Jason Wright resized

Mr Jason Wright
Director, Design
National Parks Board (NParks)

Jason graduated from the University of Gloucestershire (UK) with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and Masters of Landscape Architecture. Jason has over 17 years of experience as a landscape architect working in various inter-disciplinary and international projects including the UK, UAE, China, Malaysia and Singapore. He holds professional accreditation in both the UK and Singapore.

Jason is currently the Director of Design at the National Parks Board where he leads teams on inter-agency master plans and designs for parks, gardens, infrastructure and town planning. His recent work has included developing the therapeutic garden network, master planning Fort Canning Park, and master planning Singapore’s premier shopping district, Orchard Road. Jason previously headed the design of two Singapore Pavilions at the 2016 and 2019 International Horticultural Expositions in Antalya, Turkey and Beijing, China respectively.

Jason has been invited to speak at several international forums including the IFLA World Congress 2017 (Montreal, Canada), Australian Therapeutic Landscape Conference 2019 (Perth, Australia) and the Stephen R. Kellert Biophilic Design Awards 2019 (Atlanta, USA) where he headed the winning entry for Singapore.  

Dr Angelia Sia

Dr Angelia Sia
Deputy Director
Centre for Urban Greenery & Ecology (CUGE) Research
National Parks Board (NParks)

Dr Angelia Sia is a Deputy Director at the Centre for Urban Greenery & Ecology (CUGE) Research, National Parks Board, Singapore. She received her PhD degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Her thesis examined the interactions between people and nature in cities, and the associated well-being benefits. She is a co-investigator of several key research projects in Singapore, including studies on Park Prescription, Parks and Health, Therapeutic Horticulture, and Effects of Landscapes on Brain Activity. Angelia received her first degree from the NUS and a Master of Business Administration from Imperial College. Apart from research, she has interest in writing and travelling. She is also the chief editor of the award-winning magazine CITYGREEN.