Have you ever considered working abroad in China? The thought may be daunting, but there are plenty of reasons why you should take that thought and turn it into a reality. Originally published on Arch-Shortcuts, here are five reasons to take the leap -- as written by Arch-Shortcuts founder Chen Tang, an architect currently working in Hong Kong.
1. Bigger Projects
Forget about doing houses and deck extensions! Projects in China consist mainly of large schemes and developments – a small/medium sized project in China would be considered a significant project in other countries. You will be more focused on the overall image and conceptual design as opposed to intricate details – due to the short timelines of a project, which leads to our next point.
2. Fast Paced
In most western countries, it could take up to a decade for a project to start and finish. But in China, its possible to finish a concept and begin construction in 3 months – with the whole project opening in less than a year! I have personally worked on 2 projects of this nature in my 4 years working in China – though they were below 10,000sqm in size, which is considered small. This is super exciting as you could, potentially, build a portfolio of completed works faster than back home. Its extremely rewarding being on-site of a project that you’ve helped shape.
Also, you’re likely be working predominantly on competitions. This could mean you’re designing a project from scratch and presenting to clients within as little as 3 weeks somtimes. And since you have to leave a week to produce renderings and physical models, you really only have 2 weeks to get most of the design done. Working in this kind of environment can be exhilarating as your team is forced to make solid design decisions quickly. You would be surprised how a quickly a design can shape itself given a tight deadline.
3. More Conceptual
In general, all the projects you work on will start from the CD (Conceptual Design) stage through to the SD and DD phases (Schematic Design and Design Development). Initially its highly likely you will be involved more in the CD phase of projects. This means you can shape concepts, similar to what you were taught in University, as opposed to door schedules. To be honest, I wasn’t that crazy about design back in University, but even so, I really enjoy getting involved with the whole conceptual process in a team environment. Brainstorming sessions, making fancy renderings, models and animations that you can show off to your friends is super rewarding.
4. More Responsibility
Given the speed of the projects and the nature of Chinese work environments, if you are willing to put your hand up for more responsibility, generally your boss or managers will slowly increase the amount of responsibility you have on a project – provided you continue to prove yourself each time. This is obviously not for everybody, but poses a great learning and personal development opportunity. If you wish to step up, the opportunity is there in most firms in China.
5. Personal Growth
This last point isn’t related directly to architecture but I personally believe its the single most important factor of working in China, or abroad anywhere. I could write a book about my personal experiences in and outside of work that has shaped me significantly. But to keep it short: living in a different environment and culture, where you may not have family or friends (initially) is a huge step out of the comfort zone. This pushes you to step up, to try new things, understand new perspectives and be more open-minded. And the best part is you’ll make a ton of friends along the way!
Chen Tang is the founder of Arch Shortcuts, a website aimed at providing advice and insight into the architecture industry for young architects, with a focus on China.