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30UNDER30’s Alvin Zhu on storytelling, design, and creating communities

30UNDER30’s Alvin Zhu on storytelling, design, and creating communities


Australian Design Review (ADR) recently revealed the 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World for 2023/2024. To celebrate, we are getting to know this exciting multidisciplinary cohort, the passions that drive their work and what makes them tick creatively.

Alvin Zhu is a passionate storyteller. As a content creator, filmmaker, recipient of the Kay Leaf-Milham Prize and Master of Architecture student, Zhu is skilled in digital technologies. He believes digital platforms can be harnessed to motivate a global design community to create spaces that are functional, practical, empowering and capable of enhancing community well-being. 

By combining his design and digital skills, together with his belief in human-centric design, Zhu has become a voice of influence in the architecture and design sphere. Through the authentic and informative digital media content he creates — which has just the right amount of humour — Zhu’s work bridges the gap between academia and the industry.  Zhu’s modus operandi allows him to speak candidly, addressing the topic of sustainability in a thoroughly holistic way that goes well beyond greenwashing to usher in a transformative shift in how architects of his generation approach their careers. 

ADR: What does sustainability mean to you?

AZ: Sustainability, to me, involves laying the foundation for a prosperous future for both people and the planet through our present actions. This encompasses tackling urgent challenges like climate change and prioritising the wellbeing of communities. In the built environment, I believe sustainability demands a forward-thinking approach that goes beyond immediate issues. It calls for learning from communities that have practised sustainable living for generations. By harnessing their strengths and insights, we can collaboratively develop solutions that not only endure but also foster long-term change.

ADR: Is there a particular project that you’ve worked on that has been the highlight of your career so far?

Building an online platform via Instagram has definitely been the highlight so far. Sharing my authentic personal and professional journey, including its challenges and successes, has allowed me to engage with a diverse and inspiring global audience. This experience has not only facilitated valuable connections but also enabled me to learn from a community of exceptional individuals. As we work towards living in a world where collaboration, connection and community are at the forefront of creativity, I hope to see more people in our community embrace the potential that social media has to offer. 

ADR: What drives your work and what do you hope to achieve in your career?

I aspire to shift the perception of creatives, architects and designers, whose work is often undervalued and challenged in society. I believe that by fostering a united global community with a shared goal, we can effect positive change. Collaboration, alignment and mutual support among these professions are crucial. I aim to champion these changes through storytelling in film.

ADR: How did it feel to make it into Australian Design Review’s 30UNDER30?

It was a truly surreal experience. Working parallel to the industry often makes me feel like an outsider and being recognised by Australian Design Review’s 30UNDER30, amongst a remarkable cohort,  showed me that alternative pathways are also valued in this industry. I am so grateful for this opportunity and hope it will inspire others on similar paths to see a way forward.

ADR’s 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World stream is brought to you by major sponsor Neolith, alongside Miele, Interface and Tongue & Groove. The program is also supported by practice partners BVN, HDR INC, SJB, Richard Stanisich, Williams Burton Leopardi, and Billard Leece Partnership. To find out more about the final 30, including their places of work and discipline areas, head to the 30UNDER30 page.


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