In this installment of our Team DesignInc interview series, we speak to one of our graduate architects, Helen Chan about her love of architecture, music and how she is contributing to our Lindfield and Dubbo NSC projects.

How did you get into architecture and why?

I guess there are two sides to answering this question for me. There’s the practical side to this and the passionate side.
It first started out with school and studying visual arts and that sparked my interest in the arts, as we touched on architecture and I found it very interesting. When it came to picking out the subjects at the start of university, I was actually, surprisingly, considering being a veterinarian, as I love animals. But after doing some work experience and just self-reflecting and working out what my strengths are, I realised that as much as I love animals, my strengths are in art and mathematics so it made sense to study architecture and that was really fitting as it was something I’d been passionate about for some time since school. It was easier for me to work towards something that utilised my strengths really.

So did you go from finishing school directly into studying architecture at university?

No, I actually studied interior architecture to begin with. I went from that into architecture, which gave me the inside/outside knowledge. I spent a year studying interiors and I thought hmmm, maybe I should expand and go into architecture so as to not be limited to interiors. Luckily I had the marks so that I could easily transfer to architecture and there were some units that were accounted for, so I managed to get my studies done in five years. I knew I didn’t want to go into business, economics, law, commerce, etc, that wasn’t for me, I wanted to be out of the norm I couldn’t imagine myself as an accountant and stare at numbers all day. That just doesn’t seem like my thing. I like that architecture really has an impact on the society that we live in.

What would you say has been the most valuable lesson since you have left uni?

Well there’s been quite a few… One of the first things I realised once I left uni was that you don’t learn all you need to know to be an architect at uni. There are so many things that you learn whilst you work. Such as the financial side of things get influenced into a project. You realise how important familiarising yourself with the studio’s systems and the importance of structure. So more than anything it’s really important to be organised and have great personal time management as at uni you need to get your assignments completed but it’s far more than that in the workplace. I am also still learning about the contractual side of things. There is so much to the whole story of a project, like the legal requirements and responsibilities we have, not to mention all the other duties we have within the practice, such as archiving, construction detailing, all the things you learn from meetings, like how a building is put together, how the building coordination happens, etc. At uni you don’t get taught how things are put together structurally, mechanically, electrically and how everything is coordinated especially on a big project you finally get to learn all of that outside of uni and it is also valuable. You see how important everyone’s roles are within a team.

So what are you and your team working on now?

Right now we’re working on Dubbo NSC (Networked Specialist Centre) helping with the tender submission, which is a school’s project. My part is helping with documentation and to manage the model. I’m also helping the Project Architect in charge Lea with a little bit of coordination and also model management for the Revit model.
What have you most enjoyed working on here at DesignInc?

Lindfield! It is such an interesting project. One of the reasons I wanted to join DesignInc is because they have an Education team and Education was something I really wanted to pursue. It feels that it is helping the community more so than commercial architecture or building a shopping centre. It feels more meaningful in a way for me, as it’s really contributing to society and the community.

So aside from work, what do you do in your spare time?

I spend too much time on acumen and archdaily. Preparing for my registration is taking up a lot of my time. I listen to music a lot though. I’m really into K-POP which is Korean pop. It really has a great beat and it makes me walk to work faster. I can’t even understand what they’re singing or talking about but I love the beat. Good work out music too.

Have you been to Korea? Where would you most like to travel?
No I haven’t been to Korea. But I really want to go to Europe! Italy, France, Germany, the entire continent! You learn about the architecture there when you’re studying and you learn about the history and you just become fascinated with the rich culture of those areas. Especially for me, as I have never been to any of those places, it’s something that I need to do. I just can’t pick one city, or one country. I’d really love to see the Sistine chapel so I think I’ll have to start with Italy. Plus I really love food. I’m very experimental. I love trying new things and I love trying new food, but it needs to taste good! I can’t wait to do my research.