Perspectives 05.12.2021

Conversations with Colleagues: Xiaoyuan Zhang

Xiaoyuan is a designer in our Boston studio

Q: What drew you to the design profession, and what’s keeping you here?

A: Architecture and design have been a part of my life since I was young. Growing up in the Northeast region of China, my interest in the design world started with my surroundings: My father’s career as an architect sparked my interest, especially since my passion for design was evident at home. I would skim through my father’s design magazines and admire his sketches and floorplans, and I eventually gave sketching a shot on my own. My first floorplan was my dream home! From there, my design skills soared. 

Today, my creative drive manifests itself in not only floorplans, but through research and analytics as well. This led me to join our Urban Design practice, where I focus on campus masterplans. I love the fact that as an urban designer, I can connect with people and learn their emotions, assumptions, and intuitions. I enjoy listening to stories and translating them into tangible visions of places and services that speak to the needs and aspirations of the human experience. 

Q: What message about design’s positive influence on the world would you most like to get out there? 

A: Design has the power to create spaces that overcome barriers and encourage new possibilities for interaction. I understand the role that the designer plays as a collaborator. The range of participants includes people as young as kindergarteners and as old as retirees, from staff to targeted visitors, and even public officials. We should often remind ourselves how we can let people with diverse backgrounds engage in the design process.  

Peer Review workshop of March 2020. I presented the University of Virginia Ivy Gardens Master Plan with my teammate Mark Heller. I really appreciate the opportunity from my studio leaders Robert Brown, Eric Keune and project manager – Gautam Sundaram to let young designers to present and to talk about the project in front of other studios’ practice leaders.
University of Virginia Ivy Gardens Master Plan, project completed in January 2020.

Q: In what positive ways have your experiences at Perkins&Will changed you, personally or professionally, and/or your outlook on the world?

A: Before joining Perkins&Will, I was fresh out of school and had almost no full-time working experience. Now, after two years of work at the Boston studio, my focuses are delivering professional design, supporting colleagues, and personal growth. I have learned a lot from my studio leaders, role models and peers—they set a high standard, not only regarding quality of design, but also ways of seeing, respect, and support. From day one at work, I have been received so much encouragement, and so many opportunities along the way. I will always remember this from deep in my heart and start to pass the same positive energy along to new hires and younger designers.    

Q: In what ways do you think our firm stands apart from other firms as far as diversity, inclusion, and engagement go—and how has our firm enabled you to thrive as a professional?  

A: Our firm not only recognizes, but also actively promotes a diverse and engaging working environment. I truly appreciate that my studio leaders not only acknowledge, but also act upon the diversity, inclusion, and engagement. Our J.E.D.I (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) group regularly sends out emails, and hosts discussions that allow me, as well as my coworkers, to know each other better. 

2020 Chinese New Year celebration in office. Our HR team, Kim Wong and Sadie Anthis, and office manager Robin Trowbridge prepared this event for us. This event made me feel more inclusive and being recognized by different cultural background in office.