There has been a lot going on in the office recently. With several new clients bringing projects to our firm and three major reviews of long term projects, we have been really busy. That being said I thought it would be nice to write a post about what it’s like to work in a Chinese design company with, in my opinion a really good design team.
I currently work for a Landscape and City Planning Conceptual Design firm. We handle a large variety of project such as gated communities, city parks, highway median planting and, as you have probably read in previous posts, we are even working on the Youth Olympic Park. To cover such diverse types of projects the company has put together a really good team of designers.
“The Boss” who heads up our team got his start at the Nanjing Botanical Gardens and is exceptional at everything he does. He’s one of those guys that laughs at meetings, pokes fun at you when you mess up and pats you on the back when you get it right. These days he is usually out dealing with client meetings and is only in the office to check on the progress of a few key projects. Every time he shows up the office gets more fun! When he is out, we have two managers that run the show. They have both been doing landscaping and city planning design work for over 10 years and are very good at bringing a team of people together to reach a common goal. They are also the ones that assign most of the work and seeing that each designer may be working on 3-4 projects at any given time, it’s amazing that they can keep track of it all.
We have 15 designers and 5 interns at the moment. The designers all have their strengths and we try to play to those. Some are great with SketchUp, others are CAD wizards, one or two are the go to people for renderings or hand drawings. We also have three designers with horticulture and botany backgrounds who do a lot of our plant design work.
So where do I sit in all of this… sometimes it’s hard to say. I am the only full-time westerner on staff, all our other full time designers are Chinese. Most of the time I work on building conceptual ideas for projects. I meet with clients and discuss what they want and give them ideas they may not have thought of before. I do a lot of hand drawing and sketching to convey these ideas. I love this because its pure creativity. I doubt I will be able to retain a job that gives me this kind of creative freedom after finishing my masters program but for now I really enjoy it. Other times I work with the interns, who are all westerners studying in China (they are so on the right track), which is great for me because they all have a lot of insight on the newest design concepts and every one of them has put forth some really stellar ideas over the last few months. Sometimes I feel like I look in the picture below. I stand up on something tall at a work site and say things like “over there, we could make a super cool terraced walk way and next to it we’ll do a riverfront promenade with willow trees and pampas grass”… if the client doesn’t understand I pull out the sketch book and draw a picture.
I also do a lot of client presentations. This usually means going to a contractor’s or investor’s office or visiting a work site and presenting what our team has come up with so far in the design process. From meetings like this we get a lot of feed back and usually changes have to be made to the project. During the course of any given project we have meetings like this at least 4 or 5 times. For larger projects like the Youth Olympic Park, there has been a meeting every other week for almost a year.
So when basically what it boils done to is that I get to be creative with other creative people and we design environments that (with any luck) people will enjoy! Pretty nice gig if I do say so myself!