The need to create affordable real estate that addresses market needs will push designers to innovate.
I was based in China for 12 years. I moved there after leading the winning bid for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Athletes Village, and never left. I worked on the Athletes Village for several years and then established two design practices, as well as working client-side on a number of projects.
My time in China gave me invaluable experience – particularly in the areas of large-scale integrated mixed-use developments, high-rise towers and architectural master planning. It also offered me the opportunity to work in a truly international environment of global expertise.
Whilst mostly an enjoyable adventure, it was not entirely a picnic. There were numerous challenges including language barriers, enormous global competition and bureaucratic processes.
One key project was a corporate real estate campus for a global Fortune 500 brand in Shanghai. It was a very contemporary interior fitout spread across 25,000m² and three buildings. It proved that sophisticated, modern detailing could be realised using non-apprentice educated labour, which is the common approach for construction in China.
I believe that design is much more than an exercise in form-making and attractive aesthetics. It must come from a rigorous and disciplined approach, combined with having a great deal of empathy with the end user.
One area that will be increasingly challenging for architects will be density – how to create higher yielding projects of quality. As real estate gets more expensive, the ability to produce viable projects that work for investors, property owners and consumers will demand intelligent design solutions.
Having travelled extensively, I can honestly say Sydney is my favourite place in the world. Away from work, my wife and I are keen foodies and enjoy entertaining friends. I’m also a passionate diver and now have entered the ranks of technical sidemount diving.