Chieh Huang


What kind of work are you doing?
I’m currently working at a private office in New York City that does both landscape and architecture. The founder of the practice – W Architecture and Landscape Architecture – is also a PennDesign alumna. I’ve been involved in projects ranging from streetscape urban design, busy transit hubs, active public plazas, and large-scale waterfront parks.

What led you to your current position?
After spending three years in Philadelphia, I felt the need to leave my comfort zone and take on new challenges. New York City, being one of the largest and most exciting testing ground for landscape architects to implement new ideas, seemed to be a good place for me to start exploring my professional life in. I was fortunate to be recommended by our faculty to W when the office was hiring.

What attracted you to the firm or position?
The wide range of projects and the small size of the firm. The combination has allowed me to work on different projects in various phases of the processes over a relatively short period of time, which I believe is important to do in the early stages of my professional life.

How did your studies at PennDesign prepare you for your work there?
Penn’s persistence on critical thinking and logical reasoning behind every move of the design is crucial to the professional world. Although not a lot of what I do today directly relate to masterplanning, the large-scale thinking and training at Penn helps me constantly keep the bigger picture in mind throughout all scales I work in. The intensive sharpening of representation and communication skills have also been helpful.

What courses, studios or instructors had the greatest influence on your work or thinking?
The greatest influence comes from the combination. What I appreciate the most about PennDesign’s education is the collective impact of all the diverse streams of thinking, aesthetics, and ideas on me. Instead of one “true path” to follow or one “best way” to do things, students at Penn are challenged to take on multiple and often conflicting points of views and values. All of the courses I took at Penn would not have been as beneficial and powerful as they have if they weren’t competing and complementing each other.

What was the best part of studying at PennDesign? In Philly?
The best part was Philly. The city deserves a much better reputation than it does/did. It’s more affordable to live in than other major cities, it’s just the right size to be walkable and bikeable; it’s not big but it has everything you need; it has its excitements without getting too distracting. It’s the only UNESCO heritage city in the U.S. It’s also a city where landscape architecture is in need.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself getting licensed as a landscape architect – hopefully – engaging in places that are in great need of landscape architecture. But five years ago I had never thought I’d be where I am today, so… we’ll see where life takes me!

Are you keeping in touch with classmates, students or faculty?
Yes, it’s inevitable and irreversible. Once you’re a PennDesigner, there is no escape. One year after graduation, I find myself working with Penn alumni in our office, teaming up with my classmates to enter design competitions on weekends, and exchanging secret recipes with our faculty members while working with them on exhibitions and publications. They (We) are everywhere.

Any words of advice for prospective students?
Spend your time at PennDesign like a child would at a park. Don’t stop exploring.

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