PRP Now! Winn G. Chen // Sauerbruch Hutton Architekten

October 18, 2018
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.

PRP Now! aims to showcase the great experiences students encounter within the Professional Residency Program. PRP offers upper-level architecture students a unique opportunity to expand their education through work experience in the architectural profession. Over the past twenty years, our students have been linked with 260 firms in 29 countries. We will feature a handful of students within each session, graduate and undergraduate, domestic and international firms. PRP staff most recently had the pleasure to speak with Winn G. Chen [M.Arch. '19] about his experience. 

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I’m at Sauerbruch Hutton Architekten in Berlin, Germany.  We’re a medium-sized firm with a wide portfolio of public, commercial, mixed-use, and cultural projects spread out primarily across Europe.  The firm catapulted its reputation in the early 1990s by designing the first skyscraper to be built in downtown Berlin after the wall came down and has since cemented itself as one of the top contemporary architecture firms in Germany.

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
I have a difficult time imagining a better city for a young architect to live in--Berlin is currently thriving at the intersection of “culturally rich, diverse, and rapidly-growing” and “still remarkably affordable.”  It is the fifth largest city in Europe and one of the most diverse, with a respectable density, a multitude of things to do, and an impressively functional and connected mass transit system. (I included that last one just for you, Austin.)

Not to mention the incredible history--especially within the last century--and the location/connectivity to the rest of Europe.  What more could you ask for?

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
We just completed a competition submittal for a cultural project in Shanghai, China.  I’m currently working on another competition for a mixed-use building here in Berlin.

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
SHA is a remarkably intimate firm considering its size and reputation, much of which can be attributed to active role our founders take in the firm’s design output and the extent to which we participate in competitions.  As a result, the office environment is rather democratic, and more of the office gets to work with each other on projects with shorter schedules as opposed to being sequestered within the same team for months or even years (an experience more common among similarly-sized American firms).

Additionally, especially from an American perspective, the office is wonderfully international.  Though the largest portion of the office population is German, roughly half of us come from all over the world, from South Korea to Norway to Argentina to New Zealand.  The result is an incredibly diverse workplace with an orchestra of eclectic accents.

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
“It’s good to be back in Austin, but I really miss Germany…”

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
I’m taking a weekend trip to Vienna--off to get my fix of baroque palaces, art museums, and classical music.

Berlin’s location makes pretty much any other European city very affordably accessible by either two hours in the air or overnight train...and I’ve been taking full advantage.  Since I arrived in June, I’ve been able to make weekend trips to London, Zurich, Prague, Oslo, Helsinki, Paris, Amsterdam, and Munich. And I’m only halfway done.

PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Nein!  Berlin ist wunderbar!