It’s a good question. Designing in China is different than designing elsewhere in the world. The ability for the designer to truly control the quality of the design once it goes into the construction - the construction drawings phase, site inspection, the process of checking the quality of the underground construction as well as the materials and finishes is very different to the approach undertaken in the UK or in Australia, or even in the Middle East.
And that comes with challenges. There some things I have learned very early, like when I first came to China, eight or nine years ago, is that you need to bring that into your thought process when you're designing. You can't just bring the applications you considered elsewhere in the world and expect they'll be implemented correctly. Doing that helps form robust design that are buildable, using the materiality and the techniques of the building capability of the local market. That said it shouldn't hamper the creativity and the ongoing study and consideration of new technologies and materials.
We get into a design and we try and break things down and use some feasible construction techniques, but in a creative way to support a unique end result. So that's on the construction side. On the design side, there are challenges with some project processes. There are a lot of layers within client teams these days. Some of the larger clients have multiple layers from project manager to project director to landscape director to the CEO. And to be frank, a lot of these people think that they’re designer and will try to influence their ideas heavily into the design process. And we're quite blunt, okay, they employ us to undertake the design for the project. So quite often we’ll need to go to great lengths to communicate the rationale, logic and principles behind the design decisions we have made. And we’re not afraid to use the word “No” in meetings, when we'll be developing up some ideas. There's a lot of knowledge, information and background that comes from the different teams involved and it is important to welcome this into the collaborate process. I think collaboration is the most important part to resolve project challenges. Having early engagement with all consultants, contractors and suppliers provides tools and considerations that we need to be able to develop the design in the right direction. We find our clients often think they know what they want until we have completed the design process. That is when they can really see what a project could be, exceeding their initial expectations.
But that's kind of the art of what we do - getting the balance between understanding the commercial, marketing and architectural needs to the bigger client brand’s needs, what they're looking to achieve from the project and merging that all together with what we want to do which has a strong focus on the people. So we do come across this crossroads where some projects can be very commercially driven, particularly for mixed use projects, but we approach it with a humanistic point of view.
And that causes what's the right word, a “friction’. But it’s a ‘good friction. One that helps generate different results with different ideas and solutions. Some projects, they (the client) might be thinking, we need to see the façade, we need to see the elevation, we need to see every shop front, no trees, no shade. We the designers don’t want people to be inside. However the friction between that and our human focused attention do create interesting solutions. We know there's going be a balance. We have a duty as designers and developers in this day and age.
The cities are so crowded, busy and overloaded. There's no access to meaningful public open spaces - only a few parks dotted around the city. Actually, as developers and designers, we have a responsibility to society and the culture that we design in to provide places that are much more than before. Places where people can come together, live out their lives, meet new friends, socialize and live their lives on a daily basis within these environments. It's not just a space to walk through to go inside and spend money. It's not about a place for ‘money exchange’, it’s about ‘social exchange’. And that is fundamental to every project that we touch.