Dylan Huang, Director at Archiland Architecture, says his time at Unitec was pivotal in shaping his architectural career.
Dylan began a Bachelor of Architecture at Unitec in 2011. At the time, he’d already completed a Diploma in Architecture in Wellington, had three years’ work experience and started his own architectural firm, Archiland Architecture.
“I made the decision to work full time throughout my studies as, for me, gaining work experience was just as important as achieving my education. Unitec allowed me to cross-credit my Diploma towards a year and a half of the Bachelor of Architectural Studies, so I was able to work and still complete the degree over two years instead of three.”
Dylan went on to complete a Master’s in Architecture at Auckland University in 2015, and since then Archiland has continued to grow. Today, the busy Ponsonby based firm has 15 staff and works on a variety of multi-unit residential housing design projects as well as hotels, commercial projects, manufacturing factories and, more recently, a tourism project.
“Gaining my degree at Unitec allowed me to take my business to the next level. Of all three institutions I’ve studied at, I see Unitec as the most critical. It was much more personal, the lecturers were so supportive and I learned a lot. My third year of Bachelor's study was particularly pivotal to my career, as we looked at the practical elements of architecture that are so important in our business.”
An ongoing connection with Unitec
Since completing his studies, Dylan has maintained a relationship with Unitec in a number of different ways – from hiring Unitec graduates at Archiland to sponsoring international students via the Archiland Scholarship and having a presence at Unitec’s open days.
“Nearly 90% of Archiland’s staff are from Unitec. We’ve employed graduates from other places, but we find the attitude and skillset of Unitec students are really suited to our business. Over the past few years, we’ve moved from working on single homes to multi-unit housing, in line with the changes to Auckland’s Unitary Plan. Grads from Unitec’s Bachelor and Diploma in Architecture seem to fit our requirements – plus we find they’re hard-working and reliable.”
In 2018, Archiland sponsored four of Unitec’s international students, giving them a sponsorship of $3,000 each to help with their transition to New Zealand. Having been an international student himself, Dylan understands how difficult it can be to study in a new country and says Unitec really helped to support him through the transition of settling in Auckland.
“I finished high school in North East China and came to New Zealand as an international student in 2007. It can be lonely when you first arrive, trying to grasp the language and culture, but when I moved to Auckland I found Unitec made the process really easy. When you’re learning in English it’s hard to understand what the teacher is saying – you have to go home and translate what they’ve said before you can even start studying! This is especially difficult in the building industry, where there’s lots of terminologies. Through Archiland’s sponsorship, we wanted to offer some monetary support to help students through this process.”
Facing challenges head on
Archiland also specialises in Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Prefab, and helps Chinese building material suppliers achieve NZ code compliance certification – something most other designers shy away from. Dylan says he enjoys the challenge that situations like this present.
“I love facing new problems and overcoming difficult situations, it’s very rewarding. I think it’s important to try new things, to test yourself in your career if you want to set yourself apart.”
With 200-300 Chinese Architectural Design companies in New Zealand, it’s a competitive environment. Dylan says he is committed to making sure Archiland stands out from the rest.
“Most other Chinese designers work from home to keep costs down. We wanted to have a point of difference – to represent the Chinese design community with a proper architectural practice that’s professional and of a really high standard. That’s why we have our own offices. There’s plenty of time to work from home when I’m older!”
Challenging himself and working hard is how Dylan has approached both his education and his career, and it’s certainly paid off. He says his advice to students would be to do the same.
“Working while studying is important – even if it’s just part-time or volunteering – and take the opportunity to show you’re a good worker. Employers will notice if you have a good attitude! Today, as an employer myself, I always take note of how our volunteer or intern students approach their work. I can see how they operate first hand, and I’ll keep the good ones in mind for full-time roles when they come up.”