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On site architecture visits in Suzhou

On site architecture visits in Suzhou

The life of an architect at my office seems to be split between the office, site visits and, for the actual architects meetings. For me, site visits to Suzhou are the most useful to my experience here as it’s not something I get at uni. They are the longer of my days, as I have to wake up at 6:30 to get to the train station for 8:00. From the train station we catch a train to Suzhou, which is about 25 minutes out of Shanghai.

On the subway in the mornings is one obvious place where you see the true population of Shanghai. Taking the metro at peak hour is somewhat insane because there are just so many people! It’s a constant battle to not get crushed against the wall or against a pole because the only way to actually make it onto a train is to push and shove your way onto it. There is no point in waiting for the next one because it will have just as many people on it! I saw a video once on YouTube where the train conductors in Japan literally pushed people onto a train, placed their hands on the ones sticking out and pushed until the doors could close properly. I haven’t seen that here yet but I’m sure the employment rate for that job would be high.

So on site visit days we arrive as a visually less populated Suzhou where we wait for a taxi to the site. Finally, arriving on site we head to the office, passing piles and piles of anything from rubble, stone, metal, wood, rubbish. We always have a wander around site, to take photos and pick up on defects that need pointing out. The first time around we went up the scaffolding, which while it was maybe a little wobbly was good fun and useful to see all different angles and heights of the buildings. The rest of the time at the site is spent on reports, which is serenaded by the large number of puppies and dogs on the site who are constantly barking or whining or squealing. There’s also a lot of other stuff that’s going on on the site with everyone else who is a part of this large project. I did experience one rainy day on site which was very miserable and freezing cold and everyone seemed to have stopped work, and the site was more or less deserted so it felt like a movie set or something. You definitely have to watch where you’re going unless you wish to fall down a large hole or into a gutter or step in a huge pile of dirt or get speared by a steel rod. And perhaps it would also be good to watch out for falling objects…

Office days are not as exciting as site visits but obviously they’re just as useful. I help as much as I can putting reports together but obviously I can’t put correctional advice in them because I’m nowhere near qualified. At the same time I can learn from giving the unfinished reports to my mentor and then later reading his advice. I help pick out defects on site, and now that I’ve started doing it for this job I think I’ll see defects in every building I walk past from now on.

What’s interesting about the work ethic here is that even though the buildings are far behind in terms of they’re meant to be ready for inspection, there doesn’t seem to be any rushing around or urgency to complete anything. In fact the site seems less busy than it was several days ago, and the deadline’s passed! Not that I have anything to compare it to but from what my mentor tells me in other countries there is generally a more urgent way of going about things, especially if there’s a deadline.

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