Diana Tsang and Ching-Hua Ho, both graduates of Yale University, recently sponsored the Spring Break Externship Program by Yale’s Asian American Cultural Center. Hang Chen, currently a freshman at Yale, joined us in the office for a week over his spring break. See Hang’s journal recording this rewarding and fun week, providing a glimpse into the wide variety of activities we architects do.
The Spring Break Externship Program led by Yale’s Asian American Cultural Center (AACC) gave me and several other undergraduates the opportunity to gain first-hand workplace experience from Yale alumni. I shadowed Diana Tsang and Ching-Hua Ho of Payette for a week at their studio in Boston. And, I can say for sure that Payette gave me an eye-opening experience to what a career in architecture could be like!
As a first-year student who was originally intending to pursue Engineering, I came from a background where I had limited architectural experience. It was intriguing to listen in on client meetings, talk to various teams, and even participate in photoshoots! It was so interesting to see Payette’s team members being involved in the photoshoot as models! I also felt very lucky to attend meetings with senior designers like the Owner-Architect-Contractor meeting at Boston College Service Building construction site, the Spatial Equity Research group discussion on Neuroarchitecture, and the overview on the various architectural levels in the firm.
On my very first day, I went to Tufts University with Diana and learned about the project that will transform the current shell spaces of the East Wing into laboratories at the Science and Engineering Complex. What fascinated me most was the meeting for the bidding contractors where Payette talked about the project scope and architectural plans. I also joined in on the internal meetings that Ching had on a confidential project, where I learned that a significant amount of design intention goes into the schematics of a healthcare institution. There were meetings where I used an iPad to jot down notes about vocabulary and acronyms that I was unfamiliar with so I could ask Diana or Ching later.
To me, Payette is unique in the way that they operate. I learned a lot about the collaborative work done by the Building Science, Fabrication, and Marketing teams. Payette had pin-up areas and open workspaces which emphasized their values on mentorship, communication, inspiration, and even criticism. When I was with As I toured around one of Payette’s recently completed projects at Boston College with Diana, I saw that she was taking pictures of how the space was being used after the completion of the building. That gave me a sense that the designers in the firm genuinely care about whether they made the campus better.
One of the memorable presentations that I attended was the design showing of Brandeis University’s Phase 2A science building. What I was really fond of was how architects who were not part of the project provided their own insights and critiques onto what could be improved upon. At the end of the externship, I met with the Fabrication Team, where I learned about how architectural works at Payette are reclaiming a lot of creativity in the design process by communicating directly with clients.
On behalf of Yale’s AACC and myself, thank you to Diana Tsang, Ching-Hua Ho, and the rest of Payette for the amazing experience. My spring break externship at Payette has been revitalizing and refreshing because they were very aspirational through their approach in design visualization, building science, and concept formation. I am excited to continue my exploration in architecture at Yale after the end of the externship.