Start Building Your Empire: Design and Architecture Internships in China

Does the intricate design and beautiful structure of the Sydney Opera or the Eiffel Tower fascinate you? Do you adore analyzing the engineering measurements of various buildings? Architecture is such an exciting field to dive in since it’s an intersection of art, design and engineering. Around the world, architects are responsible for creating wonders of art, designing public gathering places and constructing houses. One of the best ways to learn about the different architectural trends and ideas is to travel abroad for an internship. For anybody interested in learning international architecture, get ready to be challenged, have fun and start building your portfolio on foreign soil.

China is one of the countries with historical, traditional architecture built centuries ago, which stood out for its elegance and environment friendliness. Tourists are awed when they wander through Shanghai’s old neighborhoods and Suzhou’s classic gardens. But with China’s fast-growing economy and expanding need to house its massive population, the traditional Chinese architecture isn’t sustainable. In 2012 the urban population surpassed the rural population in China necessitating the important development of more efficient and greener buildings. It is also because of China’s rising status on the world stage which has created a market for high-end architectural projects such as sustainable or green architecture.

Types of Design and Architecture Internships in China

1. Institutional/Commercial Architecture

Most of the internships offered in China are at firms that specialize in institutional or commercial design projects. Industrial design entails conduction of research, analyzing structural limitations and also gaining an understanding of more specific mechanics of construction. Some of the possible projects would include designing schools, malls and company office building.

2. Landscape Design

These types of internships provide you with the opportunity to assist in the development and implementation of several landscape projects as well as administrative work. Landscaping significantly differs from the traditional structural architecture design as the contractors have to put into consideration several environmental aspects as well as using completely different construction materials. Interns dealing with landscape architecture find the artistic aspect of design more fascinating and are very much interested in beautification.

3. Historical preservation

Architects are not only limited to designing new infrastructure. They can also renovate historic buildings for protection. It is because of these modern designers’ efforts that buildings which constructed more than a thousand years ago are still intact so that the future generations would still enjoy a taste of history.

China as an attractive destination for design & architecture interns

Design and Architecture have become such a booming business in China since the Beijing National Stadium also known as “Bird’s Nest” was constructed during the 2008 Olympics. China is developing at such a rapid growth and has taken the modern world by storm with so many building projects underway. Designers and architects from all over the world meet in China to share ideas, collaborate and jump on the next lucrative design project. As a matter of fact, most of the Architecture firms in China are investing in foreign talent so as to bring in a unique and new perspective to their design concepts. There is nothing as satisfying as finding an architecture internship in China since it’s the perfect way to get immersed in a creative design atmosphere, learn from renowned architects and stand out from the crowd.

China has so many industries, but the architecture industry is the one mostly dominated by state-run enterprises and welcomes foreign ideas and investments. For instance, the 128-story Shanghai Tower was built by San Francisco’s Gensler Architects, and it’s the tallest building in China and the second tallest in the whole world. The most preferred location to have architecture internship in China is Shanghai. Due to its gorgeous architecture, a landscape which ranges from buildings coming from traditional Chinese architecture, and buildings under the Western influence. It also has a vast international network of architects living and working there. Shanghai offers a myriad of opportunities to work above one’s level and that’s why it records such a high number of engineers living there. China’s main attraction in the architecture industry, especially to foreigners, is the fact that they get an opportunity to intern in senior positions and create things that they would never have gotten the chance to build in their home countries.

Architecture in Shanghai

Shanghai prides itself in being home to some of the most eclectic architecture in the entire world such as Deco buildings-one of its largest art collection began in the 1900s. During the Great Depression, when there was a slow-down of building in the West, Shanghai still propelled a building boom thanks to its healthy economy and that did last up to 1940s. Also during the Global Financial Crisis, Shanghai continued building. Today, Shanghai’s skyline is a sight to behold due to its modern skyscrapers that tower over historical architecture such as Art Deco masterpieces and Neo-Classical on the Bund and also traditional Chinese architecture such as Yuyuan Garden from the 16th Century. Also, its residential and commercial building attracts attention from all over the world because of its cutting edge interior design concepts.

The construction and development in Shanghai are probably here to stay with McKinney & company predicting that China will build around 50,000 skyscrapers in the coming two decades. The Shanghai Tower is just one of them since Chinese major cities are trying to out-do one another in the ultra-tall building so as to feature in the world’s list of tallest buildings. Aspiring architects in Shanghai get the opportunity to stand among industry giants and gain the pre-requisite experience that would help them navigate through the vague regulations and confusing industry landscape. This experience will certainly strengthen anybody’s resume in a million ways.

Shanghai is the unparallel source for architecture inspiration. Some of the buildings architects enjoy include:

Shanghai Tower: It comes second to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa as the world tallest building, and it’s still under construction

Broadway Mansions: Currently operates as a hotel where visitors get to tap into Shanghai’s storied past.

Jing’An Temple: First built in 247AD. During the Sony Dynasty in 1216, it moved to another location. During China’s Cultural Revolution it acted as a plastic factory. Was rebuilt in 1983.

Moller Villa – a Norweigan-style building which acted as a private resident for David Moller, Swedish Tycoon in 1936. Now it operates as a hotel.

When and Where to Look for Internships in China

China has major development plans underway and therefore has the architecture firms looking for international interns all year round. Begin your research as early as possible on the most legit companies offering design and architecture internship. Most of the international architecture internships offered in China are in Shanghai. Apply, send your CV, do the interview and once you are confirmed start the paperwork. Start working on your visa application process early enough with help from your host company, go through the internship agreement to see what packages they have, if it’s a paying internship or not, accommodation options, stipends, working hours, internship period and so many others. After all the paperwork, get ready to fly to China and enjoy your job.


A diverse professional network is quite important for your architecture career. Jobs don’t easily come by nowadays, and that’s why during your internship, build long-lasting relationships that will give you opportunities in future. Attend any networking and social functions in and out of the office and also check out both local and international professional groups.

The world is investing big in infrastructure hence employment in architecture is projected to grow faster than any other occupation out there. The competition gets stiffer for prospective architects hence an internship in the world’s second economy is what you want to help you stand out from the crowd. China’s design and architecture industry is huge and quite dynamic. An internship in China will challenge your mind, allow you to take advantage of your education and develop cross-cultural communication skills that are critical to working in the new economy and building your architectural empire.