It’s all in a day’s work for Vincent Yap, an architecture graduate-turned-theme park attraction and set designer at Universal Creative in Orlando, Florida.

As theme park visitors follow in the boy wizard’s footsteps along Diagon Alley to Gringotts Bank, the place where Harry first encountered goblins, little do they know the architectural marvel in Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the work of a University of Tasmania alumnus.

The stone building straddled by a massive dragon and featuring an elaborate marble interior decked out with crystal chandeliers and mechanical goblins was Vincent’s first major project as an attraction designer. 

Bringing popular stories such as Harry Potter to life in the form of attractions that people can go and have fun in and interact with is a challenging process, but also an exciting one.

“Gringotts Bank is very architecture-focused and detailed in its design – it took me a long time, and a lot of passion, to convince people to think the way that I think in order to create a world-class attraction.” 

But while studying and working in architecture had always been his dream, it was an unexpected turn of events that steered Vincent on the unique career path of designing theme park attractions and sets.

After graduating from the University with a Bachelor of Architecture in 2005, the Malaysian-born international student moved to Queensland in pursuit of work, building up his experience in CAD software and project management through various jobs and ultimately landing a role with international architecture firm Buchan. 

However 18 months later the global financial crisis hit, and with his application for permanent residency in Australia already denied, Vincent decided to relocate to Orlando, to be closer to his mother.  

“My first job in Orlando was with a company that designed theme parks in China, and after four months in that role, a colleague referred me to Universal Creative,” he said.

After eight months as a Creative Consultant on the creation of Diagon Alley, Vincent then successfully applied for the role of Attraction Designer – taking on the project of creating Gringotts Bank.

Turning imaginary scenes into bricks and mortar posed significant challenges for the then-32-year-old.

“There are always challenges in the real world, such as structural or budget issues, which can impact design,” he said.

When I joined Universal, I always remembered what I learnt while studying architecture at the University of Tasmania – creativity and the ability to think outside the box.

The project took three and a half years to realise, with Vincent often working 12- to 15-hour days. 

"I almost cried with joy at the theme park’s grand opening, I felt so honoured to work on this project," he said.

“I feel so privileged that I studied at the University of Tasmania, in particular at the School of Architecture and Design.”

Photo: Vincent Yap at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

Authored by Gilda Sorella.

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