Catching Up with 2003 Hines Competition Finalist Johnny Lu

Project cost data from USC’s proposal


Johnny Lu


Architect and Developer with TAG Design Works.

Graduate School:

University of Southern California

Graduate Degree:

B. Arch and Master of Building Science

Competition Year/Site:

2003, Washington DC

USC’s 2003 Entry

What field do you work in today?  What kind of path did you take to get to your current career?

I am currently in both the Architecture/Design and Real Estate Development fields.  I started my own Architecture and Real Estate Development firms in 2002, prior to  completion of my master degree.  Being a small business owner of two firms, I had to learn how to perform multiple tasks at once and react quickly to market conditions.  I am currently spending two thirds of my time in Asia to assist my Asian clients.  My dual Chinese and English language skills have offered me a competitive edge compared to other American firms, especially during the 2008 financial crisis. My firms are now doing business on both sides of Pacific Ocean and looking to expand rapidly in the next 5 years.

Describe your experience of participating in the competition. Where there any decisions your team made you felt helped you make to the finalist stage?

The experience of interacting with different disciplines and students from different departments is invaluable.  All of our team members were given the chance to express ideas and learn from each other at the same time.  Our collaborative efforts and passion for the process advanced us to the final stage.  The most critical decision that we made during the competition is respecting everyone’s  perspectives and incorporate those perspectives  into the proposal.  This decision made our proposal comprehensive and competitive.

How did the experience of working in an interdisciplinary team help broaden your understanding of real estate development?

The real estate development perspectives and opinions from our MBA teammate illustrated the importance of financial support in a project.  A successful project requires intelligent design with a self-sustaining financing plan.  Each of the teammates had to learn how to orchestrate a harmonious balance between “great design” and “generating profit.”

Any advice for current Hines Competition participants, most of whom are also soon-to-be graduates starting their careers in real estate, urban design, and related fields?

Enjoy the process!! Make as many friends as possible (even outside of your own team and own school!!)  Cherish the incredible experiences!!! Be confidence, but humble at the same time.

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