I was fortunate enough to do a two-month internship in the amazing city of Shanghai. The studio that I worked at is led by Professor Shao Yong, a pioneer in doing preservation planning for towns and countryside in China. The studio is not big, with roughly twelve employees stationing in the office. Four to six people are allotted to one project, with each of the employees having two to three projects in hand.
I was allotted to participate in a planning project that had nothing to do with towns and countryside in China. Two months before I started my interning, Professor Shao’s studio was hired by the Macau Cultural Affairs Bureau to update guidelines for putting up signage and billboards, especially those around the historic core of the city. Currently, most of the signage put up by merchants for their shops are cheaply designed, with most of them prone to be hideous. As Macau is a very small place, signage from different shops are oftentimes compacted. Hence, many of the signage drastically undermine the aesthetic quality of some viewsheds to historic landmarks. For commercial signage installed on the facade of historic buildings, they are almost never in style with the architecture. All these problems propelled the government to find solutions to all these problems so as to ensure proper preservation to local heritage. Since I am a Macau native, Professor Shao thought that it might be very worthwhile for me to work alongside the project.
By the time I entered the studio, others were already in progress of formulating guidelines. I was asked to do a survey of all the buildings that were captured down in photos taken by my colleagues during their field trip in Macau. Then I would categorize those buildings and identify respective architectural styles. By doing so we could come to an better understanding of what specific features of each architectural styles should not be blocked by signage and how signage should be designed in harmony with each architectural style. The task was harder than imagined as I had limited access to foreign sources and archives online (due to the famous “Firewall in China). But at the same time I found the task very interesting because I got to explore more about the historic architecture and come to better appreciation of them.
I am thankful for all the kindness and help I received during the internship. Professor Shao and others also gave me advises on thesis and it would be great to work with them again in the near future!