Aedas works on everything from architecture and interior design to landscape and graphics, and over the past 10 years, the firm has been working on a large number of mixed-use projects in China. Recently, we sat down in Hong Kong with global board directors Christine Lam and David Clayton, who gave us some insight into working in the region.
Firstly, tell me how you each found your way into the field of architecture.
Christine Lam (CL): I'm going to be totally honest with you… my choice of architecture was totally by elimination. I'm not very good with money, so I couldn't be an accountant; I'm scared of needles, so I couldn't be a doctor… So I looked at what I could do and that was architecture.
David Clayton (DC): I liked doing art and science at school and I liked doing sculpture, but there's no money in sculpture. But, the idea of doing big sculptures that people have to live and work in and interact with was fantastic to a 13-year-old ego-maniac like myself. Which is funny as a contrast because Christine is way more talented an artist and a designer than I am, yet she arrived at it through some horrific practical decision, and we've worked on all our projects together since 2005.
CL: Is it 2005?
DC: It's 2005/2006.
CL: It's been a long while.
DC: I always say, "Well, we haven't killed each other yet!" so it can't be all bad. (They both laugh)
Aedas, and your team in particular, has been working on an increasing number of projects in China. What makes designing for the region so appealing to you?
CL: In the Hong Kong office, it's about 50 per cent Hong Kong work and 50 per cent China work. If you look at China, one single mixed-use project will have a hotel, offices, a shopping mall, apartments — everything!
DC: The scale of things there is just so amazing, and you become somewhat numb to it: 300,000 square metres here or half-a-million square metres there, and that becomes the norm. But, when you think about that — and especially because I'm from the UK — nothing compares.
CL: In China, all cities are going through urbanisation, as they have so many cities and provinces. So they start to do urban planning where they work on moving people from one province to another. It's not just like looking at one CBD, its large-scale urbanisation.
DC: What's interesting about that is, if you go back in time to the start of working on China projects, a lot of them were about taking what's happening elsewhere in the world and bringing that to China. But now, as the country has been moving so fast and developing so fast, a lot of the best new thinking, like experiential retail or integrated transport or collaborative work spaces, is coming from the country and going back out to the rest of the world.
This is an excerpt from the “The Dream Team" article from the January/February 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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