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23 November 2015

Domus China Profiles HOK in Asia Pacific

HOK design in Suzhou, China

Domus China’s October 2015 issue features an interview with Riccardo Mascia, managing principal for HOK’s Asia Pacific practice, and highlights several of the firm’s projects in the region.

HOKMascia talks about HOK’s history in Asia Pacific, where the firm first opened an office in Hong Kong in 1984, followed by Beijing and Shanghai. He discusses HOK’s competitive advantages, global and local design approach, sustainable design, the future of design in China and more. Excerpts from Mascia’s interview follow.

On HOK’s history in China:

RM: “Our work in Hong Kong began with our appointment as the design architect for the master plan of the Chek Lap Kok Airport. HOK set the design direction for the airport, which became the basis for the design that you see today and has become a model for many other airports. That project, along with others in Japan and Southeast Asia, allowed us to build a base from which to support our clients in China in the 1990s.”

On HOK’s strengths:

RM: “We are particularly skilled at resolving complex design problems with seemingly competing interests. In the last ten years, some design challenges facing firms in the region have been relatively easy – greenfield sites, great locations and big budgets. In the future, the constraints are going to be more severe and more difficult to resolve – oddly shaped sites, tight budgets, program-driven buildings and strict requirements for return on investment. The next wave of development will favor HOK because we have dealt with these complexities before.”

On diversity as a fundamental principle at HOK:

RM: “The people who make up HOK come from all over the world, with incredibly diverse professional and personal experiences. Our staff in China and Hong Kong are no exception. This rich variety is the main ingredient of our culture. When we speak to clients in China about a hospital, a stadium or a hotel, we are speaking from our collective experience both inside and outside China. Not many firms in the world can bring this kind of encyclopedic knowledge to a design challenge. If diversity is the input, then innovation is the output. Our deep expertise alone will not necessarily create innovation. But when we bring people with different backgrounds and experience together toward a common goal, it makes something unique.”

On sustainable design in China:

RM: “If China can mobilize the largest transformation in history from an agrarian society to an urban nation in twenty years, then I have no doubt that China can lead the transformation to a clean, sustainable environment.”

“To make it really take hold, sustainability has to be good business. We have to make it so compelling that owner and tenants alike will demand it.”

“Sustainable concepts are the underpinning of good design. More integration between design disciplines is key because sustainable environments rely heavily on engineered systems for efficient use of water, smart cooling and heating, and clean indoor air. … Renovated and re-purposed buildings are a great incubator for sustainable design innovation. In the next decade, China’s existing building stock will face decay in part because so much was built so quickly over the previous ten years. Retrofitting old buildings with high-performance glass and energy efficient mechanical systems, for example, will help to reduce energy consumption and pollution while making buildings more attractive for buyers.”

Image above: Suzhou Times Square, a new mixed-use development in Suzhou, China