PRP Now! Yee Sang Wong // KPF

May 15, 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 Yee Sang Wong [B.Arch. '18] about her experience. 

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I’m working at Kohn Pedersen Fox's New York office. The firm is best known for supertall building design (KPF has designed the 6th, 9th, and 10th tallest towers in the world) and large scale master planning. There are 350 architects/planners/computational experts working here in the New York office, and together we deliver projects everywhere in East Asia, Middle East and in the United States. It is a global firm and surrounded by ambitious people of all ages.

In terms of work culture, people here are very hard-working, generally spending long hours at the office - though overtime is fairly compensated.

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
Yes, New York is my favorite city in the world! New York has challenged and changed my personality. When I first arrived, I was surprised how friendly strangers are (the opposite of the New Yorker stereotype). The pressure of not knowing anyone in a new city pushed me to be more extroverted. Those two aspects combined encouraged me make a lot of close friends, professional friends, climbing friends, and important contacts. I feel lucky!

City Perks: Everything is so close. If I feel lazy, there is always amazing food nearby. All the little food stores (called deli’s) are ambiguously Asian, and I just cannot get enough of Asian food here :)

City Meh’s: be warned: the unreliable subway schedule (even Google map can’t get the schedule right!). Also, New York winter is terribly cold. brrrrr. 

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
Currently on my desk is a 250-sheet bound project drawings set.

I’m working on detail drawings for 15+ buildings in a complex in China. I apologize for not being able to share more project details. I’m on a team of 7 people designing 15+ buildings, some towers, some low-rise offices, in the same complex. 

I’m learning new technical knowledge and coordination skills everyday because there are so many parts of the buildings to consider. It’s a lot of work, but really rewarding! The technical knowledge I’ve learned, for example, is how to detail the curtain walls in a way that reflects the project’s original design intent. The coordination skill is, for example, suggesting building core re-arrangement to our structural consultant in a way that respect their profession and prevent legal liability on our side. Another thing I have had to do is translate curtain wall technical drawings into Chinese (which is also on my desk right now), so there are drawings sets on my desk. It unexpectedly opened a door to learning project management. I’m translating these drawings for my team.

With large amount of drawings comes a lot of iterations and need of this genius invention - the erasable red pen! The office supplies them. Every time my drawing is reviewed by supervisor, peer or principle, I use with this pen to draw through iterations which needs to be legible but also endure a lot of changes.

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
In a corporate office of our size (350 people in the New York office), the culture is what you make it to be, and largely depends on your team. My team of 7 does work late night so we reward ourselves with happy hours and lunch in the park. The dress code is formal, however I dyed my hair blue, and the office is somehow okay/somewhat happy to see something different.

I imagine corporate employees in general feel the companies to be very hierarchical or non-transparent. KPF is definitely hierarchical and to some degree, but the HR at least does a good job responding to my request to be moved to another project that I am interested in, or any other specific request like taking time off, and that definitely makes the atmosphere a quite caring one compare to other corporate offices I have visited.

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT? 
I would love to be helpful to you so please ask me anything, I run a blog about architecture here and you can read more: But to be brief for this web page, I will just tell you some of the advice that I believe are promising that I’ve received from my older co-workers:

Don’t only be obedient Take initiative as an intern. Remember you are here to learn what you want.

While completing what you are required to do for your work, also take time outside to find your niche in architecture, whether that be computational (grasshopper for climate analysis), or graphics legibility, or mentoring high schoolers in architecture, or getting licensed in everything architecture related. There are so many ways you can find your way to stand out. But the point is if you just stay as a drafting person, you can become very replaceable.

First five years of your working experience will shape your career. Reflect constantly on your first five years. 

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
I am going to Cold Spring’s Breakneck Ridge to hike with my high school friend who has a birthday, and then we are going to Chinatown for hotpot! It is end of April right now, and New York is finally warming up from the winter, hiking in the sun will be great.

PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I am an international student trying to get licensed in the US, if you have questions related to working in the US, I can be helpful. Reach out to me at