Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to share his architecture and design ideas through speculative projects. His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

Thoughts on finishing Micro Housing China

Thoughts on finishing Micro Housing China

Last week, I focused on creating and gathering all of the graphics for project 12x30 Micro Housing China, which was one of my longest theoretical projects to date. When I started the project back in the middle of March, I thought I’d have enough time in my evening schedule to complete it within a month. However, as unexpected as life generally is, my travel schedule filled up and two other projects came up. Here are two important lessons I’ve learned from working on project 12x30, Micro Housing China.

1. Affordable housing is a world-wide necessity

Micro Housing China Interior Perspective

First and foremost, working on the Micro Housing project taught me so much about the cost of living in major cities all over the world. Prior to researching affordable housing in Hong Kong, China, I developed two other theoretical affordable housing projects in New York City. From my background research of the cost of living in New York City, I realized that the exponential increase in rent and cost of purchasing a condo, coop, or house has made living in NYC unattainable for average citizens.

Moving onto my research on affordable housing in Hong Kong, China, I realized that the issue of exponential increases in the cost of living is prevalent in China. As the population continues to grow and people move to larger cities, places like Hong Kong are forced to build taller, denser, and more expensive neighborhoods. Citizens who are unable to afford the cost of living are forced to either migrate to another city or find an alternative place to live.

In fact, people with little or no income who prefer to stay in major cities in China like Hong Kong take it upon themselves to create their own small shelters. In some cases, they will locate their shelters on the rooftops of tall buildings. Eventually, others will build their small shelters on the same rooftop and a community will emerge. Although the living conditions are unhealthy, this allows the citizens with little to no income the ability to live in their preferred location.

Among many other lessons I’ve learned from this project, the biggest one is that affordable housing is a world-wide necessity. Every village, town, or city around the world has citizens who are unable to afford the cost of living. However, funding for many of these programs is being withdrawn and fewer buildings are being constructed for these citizens.

Working on these affordable housing projects, I’ve asked myself, “How can we ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to have the essentials for life; food, water, and shelter?” and “Through architecture, how can we design a building that is affordable for both our client and for the general population in dense cities?” With every new affordable housing project, I learn more about building technologies and affordable housing in cities all over the world, which influences the design of each building.

2. Set a deadline and stay focused

When I first began the Micro Housing China project, I developed the background research and initial designs within two weeks. To say the least, I was moving very quickly through the design process and I set a deadline of one month. That meant that by the middle of April, I’d have all of the final design drawings, graphics, and project summary.

However, after two weeks of steadily working on the project, I heard back from the Amsterdam Light Festival competition and heard that I was moving into the next round with 100 other finalists out of thousands. With a few weeks to the next deadline, my friend and I focused on developing our submission. This meant that the Micro Housing China project had to be put on hold while I did more product and manufacturer research for Field of Light.

Field of Light

Field of Light

Over the next two weeks, my friend and I were able to put together a great submission for the Amsterdam Light Festival competition. During the week of submitting the project, I also traveled to New York City to watch a play on Broadway and spend time with my family. Ultimately, about 3 weeks of time elapsed from the moment that I put Micro Housing China on hold to submitting our proposal for the competition.

After returning home, I got right back to work on Micro Housing China and developed it further for another two weeks. It was clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to finish the project in a month’s time frame, so I accepted that fact and continued working on the project. After two weeks of developing the project, I started planning a necessary bathroom renovation at my house.

For the next two months, my life revolved around traveling and renovating the only bathroom in my house, which you can read about here! Once the renovation was complete, the workload at the firm picked up and I was spending most of my evening time at the office, cooking, or sleeping. By the middle of June, the projects at the firm were under control and I was slightly burned out. So, I decided to take two weeks off to relax and spending time with my good friends.

Finally, I got back to work on the Micro Housing China project in the second week of July and steadily worked towards finishing the project. Honestly, I was starting to find it difficult to focus on the project because it seemed like one that just kept dragging on. Rather than losing motivation, I used this feeling to push myself and finish the project as soon as possible!

In the future, I’ll focus on a handful of projects at a time and make sure that I’m always working towards finishing it. Setting a deadline has always been important to me and making sure that I set one that’s realistic will be my first task for every new project.


Working on the 30x30 architecture projects has been a fantastic experience so far and I’ve learned so much about the different typologies that I’ve designed. Although 12x30 Micro Housing China took longer than expected to complete, I started and finished two other projects at the same time. Ultimately, it took four months for me to complete two theoretical projects and one small personal renovation project.

Setting a deadline and doing my best to stick to it has always been important to me. Although I didn’t meet the deadline that I set for this project, I learned how to juggle several projects and my personal life at the same time. Fortunately, I didn’t burn out from the constant “go, go, go!” mindset and instead, I knew when it was time to take a short break.

Always do your best to meet your deadlines and to do the best work possible, but never face the potential of burning out from over working yourself!

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