Each Design Tells A Story

Top, the look of the new People’s Performing Arts Center in Shenzhen, China, was inspired by a deep appreciation for the arts as a city’s “cultural treasures or gems,” says architect Nick Jeffway ’10, who worked as part of the project’s design team

At the crossroads of architecture with Nick Jeffway ’10

When the new People’s Performing Arts Center in Shenzhen, China, is completed in 2026, it will resemble two enormous golden orbs—a design that reflects the duality of the city’s past and future. “The performing arts are one of the greatest treasures a culture can possess. The project is a celebration of the city’s immense cultural heritage and will usher in a new era for the performing arts at the intersection of art and technology,” says Architectural Designer Nick Jeffway ’10, who worked as part of the Ennead Architects team that created the design.

Thinking outside of the box comes naturally to Jeffway, who grew up in a household that was bubbling with creativity. His father—a self-employed toy inventor, electronic engineer, and endless tinkerer—retrofitted the basement of their home into a creative space, complete with a woodshop and lab in which all five children had free rein. “I’ve always been a curious person, and I love learning,” says Jeffway. “Williston gave me a perfect mix of rich academics, an arts community, and a great opportunity to explore.” As a Williston student, Jeffway recalls countless hours spent in the painting studio where he learned how to visually represent an idea, something that he practices daily in his profession through the process of discursive imagery (abstract drawings and collages used to create the first ideations for a project).

After starting as a graphic design major at Boston University, Jeffway realized he wanted to switch course to architecture, so he transferred into the architecture program at UMass Amherst, where he completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “I love to draw. I use photography and model-making making as tools for exploration. Architecture is this great common space where disparate skills and interests all have a place in the creative process.,” says Jeffway.

On a typical day, you’ll find Jeffway in his office engaged in focused research or sketching by hand or with digital tools, working through ideas and collaborating with colleagues. “We’re always chatting, we’re always playing, we’re always looking for inspiration in any shape and form we can find,” says Jeffway.

As part of an emerging cohort of younger architects and planners who are thinking deeply about how their work will impact future generations, Jeffway focuses on memory through his work, exploring the role that architecture will play in forming future memories. “It’s a pivotal moment to be an architect,” says Jeffway. “My generation of architects is looking inward and asking how the profession and the spaces we create will contribute to a more resilient, just and equitable future.”

Above, is an initial sketch of the concert hall which lives  within one of the performing arts center’s golden orbs