Herpreet Singh, MLA, MFA
Herpreet holds a BA in English with a concentration in creative writing, a Master of Landscape Architecture, and an MFA in creative writing. She has organically carved out a life and work that unites her perpetual preoccupation with place and narrative. At STA, she conducts research, writing, and editing for Cultural Landscape Reports and historic research that informs contemporary designs. She brings strong critical thinking, conceptual visioning, and storytelling instincts to planning and design work. She also coordinates internal and external communications for STA.
Herpreet’s earliest memory is walking with her mother around a giant, rectilinear reflecting pool at the center of an otherworldly courtyard at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India in the state of Punjab. She was two years old and remembers the feeling of her small palm against her mother’s palm, the smooth, warm marble tile beneath her bare feet, the sense of being tiny in a seemingly vast space, and the split second when several big fish jumped out of the water and dove back in. The surprise and joy of that instant is visceral, still.
When she was five, her parents opened a small Indian restaurant in a shabby suburban strip mall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—it was the first Indian food in the city. A Vietnamese grocery store, a pet shop, and a hole-in-the-wall bar were also in the strip mall.
The same year, she used to walk across the street to her childhood best friend’s house to eat boiled crawfish. She remembers the little fire-red creatures with dead, beady black eyes splayed across newspaper on a table and her friend peeling the crawfish for her. In another neighbor’s yard, she used to sit under the shade of a Magnolia tree gathering its seed pods, picking out the red seeds, and pressing them between her fingers.
These discordant landscapes—her parents’ native Punjab, 1970s white-flight suburbs, the expansive green, flat, treed, and humid south Louisiana—and the co-mingling stories, memories, and material matter she associated with them absorbed her thoughts. This early awareness of the multiplicity of place and early recognition that one can pick up a life and move it across continents instilled in her a traveler’s hunger and wonderment.
For Herpreet, narratives and place—how each gives shape to the other—are inextricably intertwined. In applying storytelling to landscape architecture—both research and design—she is especially interested in how vernacular and immigrant landscapes form, evolve, and cross-pollinate with their adopted settings; exploring the convergence of history with modern innovations and aesthetics; and considering how, through design, to effortlessly reveal these complexities to the people experiencing place. Her planning work has centered around utilizing individual narratives and collective community narratives to create culturally sensitive, environmentally sound, and socially equitable plans.
She gravitates to formal minimalist, sometimes industrial, and wild or untamed landscapes, tending to see the poetry in what many deem unremarkable or even ugly. She is also drawn to landscapes that convey striking juxtapositions between scales; the past and present; and the formal and informal. These leanings also come across in her fiction and nonfiction, which honor seemingly ordinary or even underwhelming people who are quietly extraordinary in the ways they face challenging events, changing times, and the gray areas that exist in their relationships to people and place. Her writing largely explores the intersection between culture and geography, especially the Indo-American experience in the Deep South.