In the 24 years since I first began working in Asia I have seen many changes in the approach and principles of design thinking.
Globalisation has brought forth huge shifts and advances in economies, technologies, demographics, politics, social and environmental dynamics. China has become the second largest market in the world and has seen a remarkable transformation from a predominantly arable-based economy to the world’s largest industrial powerhouse.
The effect of China’s integration with the rest of the world has led to an enormous exchange of ideas between east and west. As a designer who has worked through this period it has been fascinating to see, and play a role in, the changing cityscapes of China.
Whether this change has been altogether successful is a matter of debate, but with the current political, social and economic restructuring of the country and the changes that this will bring, it will be interesting to see the resulting effect in another ten years from now. No doubt a more sensitive approach to the historical nature of place within the field of architecture is welcome and we are embracing this particular initiative with enthusiasm.
We live in such a rapidly transforming world and our cities are evolving into significantly different places. We are seeing the migration of whole nations displaced by social unrest and conflicts, and these will no doubt continue, bringing sociological challenges and cultural change with them.
On the other hand, China has already gone through a long period of internal migration with a large percentage of its population shifting from the countryside to urban mega-cities in order to find work. At the same time the country is also making significant progress in connecting itself with the rest of the world, exporting its wealth, business acumen, highly educated workforce and physically connecting itself via a vast new network of transportation links.
Opening up the old Silk Road into central Asia and Europe and financing many infrastructure and industrial projects worldwide, the tentacles of the Chinese entrepreneurial spirit seems unstoppable. Creating sustainable, safe and nourishing places for people in these challenging times will become increasingly important, as current city planning does not yet respond to the complete cross section of societies that gravitate to them in today’s modern world.
The challenges are many and I hope, having spent most of my career in Asia, going forward I will be able to assist our Asian clients with projects that transition across the boundaries. At Lead8 we have countless years of experience embedded in our practice. Our multicultural and multi-disciplinary studios place us in the enviable position of understanding both eastern and western markets. I’ve been privileged to have collaborated on many projects that have required the delivery of highly progressive design solutions. I have benefitted from the aspirations of our client needs to create ever more interesting and valuable experiences for their customers.
It could be argued that the expectations of our Asian clients have surpassed that of other regions, especially in the sector of retail design. The hope is however that we will now be able use this wealth of knowledge to assist in the cross pollination of thinking, transplanting the best of what we have learned with our business partners in the east to new horizons in the west.
Our new London studio will act as a conduit to the east, allowing our European partners to access the unique creative and entrepreneurial spirit of Asia. Our clients in Asia are used to a pace of doing business that is not always achievable in other geographical regions. This is an area where our experience enables us to steer prospective clients though the cultural and regulatory differences between the two markets.
The future holds many challenges however our past experience equips us to face them head on. Empowering our business through experience, knowledge, flexibility, empathy and understanding enables us to focus on what we do best: design!
By: Chris Lohan (Lead8 Co Founder & Executive Director)