schawn head shot

Student Q+A: Schawn Chi Ming Li (MArch ’21)

May 13, 2021

Hometown: Hong Kong
Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Science in Architecture, 2021

In our Student Q+A’s we profile the students of the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture & Planning (CAP). We sat down with Schawn Chi Ming Li, one of the CAP’s 2021 Outstanding Graduates, to learn more about his background, how he has thrived since entering the CAP, his point of view on studio work and collaboration, and how he plans to stay connected to the CAP after graduation.

Tell us a little bit about why you chose the CAP and what your experience has been like?

I chose the CAP program because of its proximity to Downtown Denver and the forward-thinking curriculum that is offered by the College. I lived my whole life in big cities from Hong Kong to Orange County, but Denver is my favorite city so far. The mountains, the wilderness, the cityscape, and the snow, are some of the great things that enticed me to move here in 2018.

I found that the B.S. of Architecture Program offered at the CAP aligned with my interests and ideologies in the field. The program offers a lot of flexibility and challenges that make architecture school fun, and it pushes me to become a better thinker and designer. The CAP has provided a platform for me to explore ideas without a lot of redlining, which is great to learn before transitioning to a professional environment.

The studio environment was definitely nothing short of amazing. My cohort has always been supportive and helpful inside and outside of the studio. I have made a lot of good friends during my undergraduate studies and we all genuinely care for each other. We all learn and grow together through the all-nighters working on project deadlines. I think this is a very unique environment that you wouldn’t experience in other disciplines.

schawn chi ming li and friends

Did you have any breakthrough moments during your education experience? If so, what were they and when did they happen?

I have had a couple of breakthrough moments during my studies in my architecture studio III and V. In both studios, I was able to break a lot of boundaries and come out with innovative approaches to create and develop my ideas in designing museums and libraries. I was able to navigate the design world by integrating ideas from disciplines such as metaphysics and system engineering, which were not commonly done in undergraduate studies. I found a point of view of my own in regards to the current and future status of architecture.

How have you grown since coming to the CAP?

I used to be a shy and reserved person that did not really express myself in front of people. Going through the design-review cycles in classes helped me open up and become more vocal about the ideas I have to contribute. The CAP provided a platform for me to express myself in a world that is often confusing. Being comfortable in explaining my ideas is definitely the biggest growth I have experienced in the past three years.

schawn chi ming li exterior perspective c

What opportunities are there for students to connect their designs to real-world issues at the CAP?

The CAP has provided many opportunities for students to get hands-on experience in building and constructing objects in a real-world setting. I have been in two great classes that involve a lot of physical work. In my furniture building class, I was able to design, fabricate, and assemble a cabinet from raw planks of lumber within two months. In my independent study, I was able to work with my teammates to construct and assemble a shed and gained a lot of technical knowledge in construction projects. With the increased push in fabrication and design-build courses at the CAP, I am confident to say that students will have even more exposure to connect their digital designs to physical products and structures.

Besides the hands-on classes the CAP offers, a lot of the faculty members and lecturers at the CAP are in practice or working with clients on real-world projects. They can offer advice and insight on how the real-world design environment is like at a firm or procuring contracts. I have definitely learned a lot in finding the best ways to tackle design challenges and optimize my design workflow. Those would be useful when applying to practical design projects in the field.

Do you plan to continue to be a part of the CAP community? If so, how?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am enrolled in the Masters of Architecture Program at CU Denver in the upcoming fall semester. I hope to continue working with the amazing faculty and professors in the program to push my ideas and designs even further. I hope that I will be able to connect with future students and share the findings I have learned so far.

Anything else I missed that we should have asked. Let me know and feel free to provide information!

I’d love to share a motto from one of my studio professors: “Our ideas die so we don’t have to.” Don’t be afraid of changing or scraping your designs, be bold, be expressive. Architecture school is a testing ground of ideas, don’t let your designs dictate the way you think.

Interview conducted and condensed by Agency PR