Next destination, Shanghai

For more than 15 years, Singapore has been the most popular working destination for Indonesian architects. The city is clean and safe, with fabulous metro system.  (and…hey… big currency!)

However, in recent years, Singapore faced a dramatic change mainly caused by the flood of immigrants. Transportation is strained and rental for accommodation is significantly increased. To save money, new trend of young foreign architects are sharing room. After working long hours and stressful rides, a bit of privacy at home would be nice isn’t it? If you are getting frustrated with this situation, and looking for some other working destination…

Introducing Shanghai! China’s financial powerhouse, where quality of life meets with working satisfaction. Below are some facts on why this fantastic city should be considered by young building designers as the next working destination.

1. City:

“What make a city different?”

With estimated 28 million population, PuDong (new city) and PuXi (old city) are well divided by HuangPu river. While the charms of PuXi remains in its street life with traditional row shop houses and phoenix trees, PuDong has fabulously designed skyline; a collage of modern skyscrapers.

From AhMas (old ladies) practicing kung-fu in the parks, to beautiful AhMoeys (young girls) parading on high heels at subway stations, and to Ah Pehs (old men) amazingly balancing stalls of incredible load of garbage on their bicycle. These people made Shanghai truly charming, comical, unpredictable, and beautiful!!!

International art galleries/museums, nice cutting edge buildings and well-kept gardens/boulevards would sometime confuse your mind that you were in Europe!

2. Transportation:

“Don’t be surprise to find yourself wanting to walk instead of taking the subway on a sunny autumn day.”

PuDong, PuXi, 2 international airports and domestic main train stations are well connected by 11 metro lines. Most places are easy to reach also by air-conditioned buses and, with alternative healthy and environmental saving choice, bicycles and electric motorcycles. (for a more romantic choice, try the ferry!)

There are plenty of taxis on the streets, which can be fetched anywhere. The fare is reasonable and will definitely get you back to where you think you… belong.

3. Accommodation:

“Is it the time to leave apartment sharing behind?”

Reprices for 4-bedroom apartments with high quality finishes at the heart of PuDong, (with Pearl tower view!) is 1,800 SGD. While a 1-bed room apartment near the city centre, is 900 SGD. (no more landlords and messy housemates!)

There are a variety of choices, from living in a high rise building beside a river, or old walked up apartments with modern interior fittings; all combinations are there to suit your lifestyle.

4. Work:

“What are a design consultant’s liabilities?”

Foreign architectural firms in China are design consultants. Engaging to work mostly on design concept. If the project is continued to design development stage, it is the government’s requirement for all design consultants to engage a LDI.

What is LDI:

LDI – Local Design Institute is a local firm that acts as a ‘goer’ (one point of contact) between a design consultant and local authorities/contractors. A LDI would have full house structural/mechanical engineers, and architects within the firm.

The role of LDI:

  1. To develop building designs for planning submissions, local authorities compliances and site implementation.
  2. To coordinate/ensure work-abilities of building structure, design and mechanical works.

Largely, project managers who are engaged by the client will run the project. Therefore architect would only focus on creating design, (no more nasty building contract documentation!) this is the missing jigsaw piece where foreign architects (or in the more corrected term ‘ building designer’), who love doing design are fitting in.

And as per China LAW, over time working shall be paid hourly. (Rejoice!)

5. Shopping and Eateries:

“Looking for something unique? Something local with western touch?”

Apart from Bazaars selling good quality fake products and luxury brands in modern shopping malls, plenty of young designers put up their works for sale in shop-houses. Same goes for food and beverage from all part of the world that reside here, these small entrepreneurs add sparkles to the city street scene. Hidden cafes and cool concept bars are there for your exploration as a reward for your hard working weekdays.

6. Travels:

“See the other side of the great wall.”

Shanghai is surrounded by Suzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing. These cities are full of history (Silk road started in Suzhou) and are all well connected by the new high-speed train. Heritage villages and mountains above the cloud with landscapes out of a dream are just a couple of hours away.

For long holidays, riding camels in the desert at Inner Mongolia or ferry across to Hong Kong seems to be lovely choices. Domestic flights are affordable and connected Shanghai to all parts of China. (including Japan, Korea and Taiwan.)

How to apply:

“I can not speak Chinese where should I start?”

Shanghai is in demand for talented building designers. Well-established western firms (Shanghai branch offices) are a good starting point. In these firms, majority of team leaders tend to be westerners who use English in communication. A two weeks trip to the city with your quality portfolio (and strong determination) will surely get you an interview.

In short: Architecture is a universal language of expressing wealth and beauty. It plays a major role in making a city great for living. Shanghai is rich in culture and she is still growing big as part of the China’s economic boom. It would be a reward for any architects, for once in their lifetime to be part of this city’s creation.

5 facts about Shanghai:

  1. The locals have their own dialect called ‘Shanghai Hua’ (sound like Korean but more in vulgar pronunciation.)
  2. Counterfeit books; look real for a much cheaper price.
  3. Face book, Youtube, and Twitter, are banned.
  4. Yes, most of them do speak very loud on MRT and cut Q!
  5. TaoBao.com, on line shopping makes everyone glues to a computer screen during lunchtime!
Quick math:
Estimated salary of Expat with posted 2 years experiences 4,000 SGD
Estimated income tax calculation 20% after rental deduction.
One bowl of noodle 3 SGD
A can of coke 0.5 SGD
MRT fare for 3 stations 0.6 SGD
Airline flight to Tokyo 400 SGD
One-bed room flat in city area for rent 900 SGD
Two-bed rooms apartment nearby city centre for sale 1 million SGD.
SGD : Singapore Dollar

about the writer :
Worawit graduated from Assumption University, school of Architecture in Bangkok, Thailand (2002).
Currently, he lives in Shanghai. He used to work in Singapore, Dublin, Manchester, and Dubai.