The FLP is aimed at gaining an understanding of what it means to be a global citizen and how to work with a cohort of cross-discipline students. As an Interior Architecture student wanting to work in the global community, exploring these topics in China was a perfect opportunity to develop as a designer and as an individual. When I embarked on the FLP tour I had three primary goals: to understand the past and future of China’s “every changing” architecture, to develop my own employability skills and to explore the reality of being a disabled woman in a communist county.
From Beijing to Shanghai we visited many different industries such as Tongji Design College, Honeywell, JWDK Company and MAD Architects, just to name a few. We also saw iconic sites; the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace and, of course, a quick visit to Disneyland on our day off. By seeing the business and historical landmarks, I began to understand how much of the history still influences the technology and design in China today. The highlights for me were definitely visiting MAD architects, walking the Great Wall of China and going to Disneyland.
While at MAD Architects we saw how a global, award winning design studio works. MAD is committed to developing futuristic, organic, technologically advanced designs that embody a contemporary interpretation of the Eastern affinity for nature. As a firm MAD believes in employing people who connect with the company core values. A potential employee is chosen based 60% on their portfolio and 40% on their personality. This approach resonated with me.
Modern China was impressive but it was the past that took my breath away. The Great Wall of China is not only a wonder of the world but it is an architectural masterpiece. As I stood atop the stones and looked out to the mountain landscape, I felt the sense of power, protection and loss that once existed. The memory of the determination of the Chinese people and the beauty of the Great Wall will forever remind me to emphasize the relationship between people and architecture and to design to improve the human “experience” in a space.
The one thing that surprised me during the trip was the lack of universal and accessible design in China. Coming from a country that supports disability on a government level, it was strange to not to see signage, ramps, clearly labelled lifts and disabled access. As I settled into the tour, I realised I was in a country where people like myself are not seen as a part of the community and do not have the support, education and government recognition that I am so blessed to have. My thoughts were confirmed by a conversation with the Chinese tour leader as she explained that education and jobs were not readily available for disabled people. In the future, I aim to find mechanisms to promote acceptance of, and opportunities for, disabled people in China.
During this study tour I made life-long friends and it is wonderful to have these memories as a reminder of the friendships I had gained over the three weeks.