#BeyondCOVID Town Hall ASIA 04
Updated: Jul 30
#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Richard Henderson - Founder & CEO at R-Co Brand
Stefan Krummeck - Principal at Farrells
Ophenia Liang - Director & Cofounder at Digital Crew
Julia Monk FAIA FIIDA - Hospitality Thought Leader, Architect, Interior Designer, former SVP at HOK
Bob Neville - Global Creative Director and Head of Retail at New Balance
Mark Bergin 00:01
Hi, and welcome to the Asia Town Hall for the Design Exec Club. I'm Mark Bergin, the founder of DRIVENxDESIGN and joining me here is a panel of experts and whenever I speak to people like these, they just blow my mind. We're going to talk about how, in a BeyondCOVID context, do you either react, rebound, or reimagine. And because we're in Asia, we're talking in a very different context to the US, the Europe and the UK or Australia. Those markets appear to be struggling with responding to the pandemic, whereas Asia and particularly China seems to, well, that they've continued on, there's a lot of cadence there in the market. And the first person I want to go across to and talk about that is Stefan. Stefan, you've got a range of both transport originating developments and also some hospital projects both in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia that have got good momentum for you? Do you want to give us a bit of insight into those?
Stefan Krummeck 01:06
Yeah, I think we've developed a particular interest in transport-oriented development and there is a kind of new revival now in in China in particular, they're looking to, to create whole new city districts based on transit oriented development. And a lot of those projects are conceived through competitions, very heavily contended competitions, but there are quite a lot of opportunities now, particularly in China, and be quite excited about that particular topology. I've developed a particular interest for city making really and I mean COVID is seen to be particularly problematic for dense cities, I think there's a perception of that. But I'm not 100% convinced about that, because I think that some very low density areas are actually suffering quite badly and some very dense cities still stand up quite well, like Hong Kong for example. So I think that's maybe a slightly different topic. But I think that this idea of having dense urban areas and being able to still go out to the country parks and have a little bit of break away, I think this this is pretty interesting and transport oriented development facilitates that. So I think this is a topology which we got particularly interested in and are still pursuing that. In Hong Kong there are still some opportunities for that as well where there's some extensions to lines and normally, there's always a consideration for how that can inform your districts and your neighbourhoods. So that is quite a good, stable line of work for us. But then also, as you mentioned, we've ventured a little bit in other markets, we've been doing a hospital at the moment. So there are a number of community buildings, public buildings, which are now being released in Hong Kong and that is also very important for us because it's kind of the lifeline, it's the the reliable work as well.
Mark Bergin 03:17
Now Stefan while you've been talking I've realised I'm seeing something in the background for you that I haven't seen in one of these Town Halls for the last four months. And that is that you're in an office and you have people walking around behind you. Now, I don't know about the rest of you that are on this call but that hasn't been for many people their reality and yet we know in Hong Kong that return to business and return to activity is there. I even saw one of your colleagues just walk by with a mask on while in the office. So you know, we're on the edge of China in Hong Kong, and what we've got is a city which is working, we've heard that it's going through some localised lockdowns because of some outbreaks that are there. But it's very interesting to realise that what we've seen in Australia and New Zealand and throughout Europe in the UKand through the United States, that's not the same in this Asian market and I think that's very interesting. Ophenia for you with your, with your client base across what, five offices that you've got throughout the Asia Pacific area, what are you seeing as far as people rebounding and re engaging? In previous calls you've talked about the idea that if your clients were China originating clients, they've kind of returned back to their previous activity levels, are you still finding out that the inbound to China clients are a little bit slow to respond because they're busy with other things like working out how to work remotely, unlike Stefan who's working in an office... I'm insanely jealous by the way. Help us out here.
Ophenia Liang 05:04
Well, actually, my team in China they are completely back to normal. Masks are not compulsory anymore so everything's back to normal. In terms of client response, we do get more inquiries and clients asking about work from China rather than from Western countries. I mean we have offices in the US and also Australia and India, - India is a different story - but we are getting significantly lower demand from Australia and the US. However, in China, we're getting all the manufacturer brands and also even some brands- actually just this week we spoke to a cell phone brand, which requires reputation management because of a lot of the things that are happening in the political realm at the moment.
Mark Bergin 06:02
Hang on, now I'm going to stay away from that one because I have a feeling I've got an understanding what that is and it's a hot potato like nobody could believe, yeah?
Ophenia Liang 06:11
Yeah, but, well the COVID actually taught a lot of Chinese brands to realise that we do need to do more branding in the Western world for ourselves. A lot of Chinese brands they exist in in other countries and they are selling pretty well, some of them, but they're not spending a lot of budget on branding compared to equal brands that are from other countries, but now they're realising that and I guess that's the silver lining of this whole thing.
Mark Bergin 06:44
Yeah, well, whether it's a silver lining or just the the train that you can get on board, we'll find out in a bit. Richard Henderson, I want to go across to you and have a bit of a conversation around branding there because Ophenia brought up the idea that there's people who need to change their brand that's going through to the west and have understood that. But, there's a significant difference in the visual language for a brand that works in China in digital marketing and a brand that works in say, Australia or Europe. Give us some insights there about that market. But I also want to have a talk about just generally what people should be doing with their brand as we're trying to get into this new context.
Richard Henderson 07:31
Again, there's always been that discussion of thinking global, acting local. That's the brand language, there's nuances on that. What I think is happening a little bit in the China/Asia section is really being able to talk to the west but in a way that is still has the Asian flavour to it and there's a bit of an art form in that, there is a little bit of intuition required. We see that in fashion, a lot of The Asian fashionistas have thrown out a rulebook and they put all their things together and create their own own dynamic and I think that's probably the future, part of globalisation. We've got one client that we've just picked up, which is in the food area in dumplings and we're trying to figure out the human story of the dumplings connected with the Chinese ethos and feeling, but then making sure its marketed into the local domestic markets, right? So that's always a challenge in any design discipline, just to, as I said, use that language.
Mark Bergin 08:35
I can help you there with the brand positioning for dumplings. It's got three factors: there's a Y, a U and an M. I think that's actually what dumplings are about,
Richard Henderson 08:45
You know, just as an aside, it is the most unique, functional package of goodness that you can get at a very, very economical price... and you can freeze em! That's interesting, i'm finding, from a consultant point of view, that we're doing a lot of learning as we understand where these culture nuances are coming from, and what we're trying to say. With the Chinese scenario, I do sort of see design as being beyond the political stage, and we're working hand in glove with people that are that are aware of that and we're trying still to use design as a way of communicating to the marketplace. I think in terms of brand and design my view is a bit bolshy on this, I think that every company needs to be redesigned and rebranded. The market has changed entirely and the question I have is 'how are we going to communicate to the customers and to the world that we have designed?' And in some ways that's now past tense. I've been on a few of these discussions with you Mark, and we've talked a bit about the problems, etc. But we're now starting to talk about the pathway forward, and clients are starting to do that. My four points are about reframing: how are we going to have the world go to align with the new reality?; Reimagine: what will be the best action for you and for your organisation and what essentially is going to be best for the world? I think that's now on people's mindsets. I think the masks are part of that process, but we're talking about a much more holistic view of things, a bigger picture about life and how we're going to live and I think everyone's is starting to get that; then we're going to Redesign: so being relevant to what matters because your purpose and company's purpose has to change, or be slightly modified because of the headspace of consumer plus their own culture; and finally, how you're going to Reengage: I think that's the biggest question for everyone. You can do all this thinking and all the preparation, but how are you going to actually connect with a customer that is going to be talking to you mainly now in the digital space. We don't have the benefit of the senses kicking in as we're talking. It's a fascinating topic, but I think the consultants are way ahead of the clients. I think we know the problem and we know what we've got to do but are the clients ready for it?
Mark Bergin 11:07
So I suppose there it's actually making sure that you're available when people have worked out that they need to go in and take a re-look at things, that you can actually respond to them, so that's good because what I like is that there's firemen who are ready for the fire, they don't just learn how to train when the fire happens. So I feel like you're a brand fireman here, you're ready to go help them put out the fires.
Richard Henderson 11:34
For a good consultant it's have ideas will travel, 24/7, no problem.
Mark Bergin 11:44
Julie, I want to get across to you. You told us a story in the pre-conversation about some of your clients that are reconsidering and actually using this time to go and actually reimagine their service standards in, particularly in the hospitality space. Can you help us with a little bit more detail about that?
Julie Monk 12:06
Sure. Yeah, I find that some of this time is being used wisely, to go back and take a look at the standards that they've been working under. With one luxury hotel company that I'm working with right now, they're going back and re examining the very essence of how their standards were developed originally, how much information they give to their consultants in designing, how much freedom they give to their consultants when they're designing, how much of the standards are prescriptive, and how much are just performance or activity oriented. So it's a pretty deep, deep look into what they've been doing their entire history, which I find very, very exciting. It's a critical moment simply because it's not just a matter of revamping their standards, but revamping their standards when so much of our world is changing, and when so much of your guest expectations are changing. So I think it's a very appropriate time. I think once this is over, they'll be prepared and ready to go. I think a lot of clients don't have time to think about this because they're grappling with just the pure, pure physicality of you know, what do we do with our employees? How do we hold on to our cash long enough to get through this? How long is this going to be? So to have the resources to revisit standards is also a luxury in the market that we have right now.
Mark Bergin 13:24
I was participating in a design sprint with the team at PriestmanGoode last week and what was interesting we began talking about where did Maslow's Hierarchy fit into some of this. For a range of people they've gone from being up quite high in Maslow's Hierarchy looking at their self activation and then Maslow's has actually pulled them down, not across all their life, but it's just like these guise has opened up a fissure in their life, and it draws them right down to survival mode. And it's that dynamic range which is concerning people because it's all of a sudden, 'how do I not get infected?', 'one of my parents is in an aged-home', 'my children are going to school', there are these concerns which actually get right down to survival and protection, which are right next to self actualisation. And we're not really built to deal with that sort of dynamic range. It's getting a term that is referred to as the 'Corona Coaster', like a rollercoaster that you're actually getting caught up in. I'm looking at what we're seeing here across what everyone is talking about, that is that there are ways out of this to get leverage. And Bob, that's where I want to go cross to you, because you've just come out of the stealth mode where you've had a project that's been underway for a while, being the design test centre, and help us understand a little bit about where that fits. Because after you've done that, I'm then going to go back through Stefan, through Julie through yourself, through Richard, and then through Ophenia to show how all of these five areas of activity come together to create a way that you accelerate out of is. Help me out here and give me some insight into the Design Test Centre
Bob Neville 15:11
Some of the points that Richard made were really spot on in terms of how we can't just take anything that's gone on before for you and for granted and gospel now, we've got to evaluate and question everything. And I think we can certainly use our experience as a basis of moving forward, but I think it's responsible in all of us to to reimagine, rethink, look at different ways of doing things. So a large part of what we've been doing is working with brands and organisations, one: to do certain parts of their business or activity more efficiently. So things like e-commerce photography - the growth of e commerce people need to photograph products, and in most instances, they're doing that in very inefficient ways. So we've been helping free up cash for organisations by doing that more efficiently, and then enabling them to look at other more outward facing challenges they may have. We're using both physical and virtual spaces and working environments to work with brands and look at what they're currently doing, looking at data and consumer behaviour, to measure how things are happening for them. I had people have asked me is data and information they had pre COVID still relevant. My response to that is, is that you have to continually look and evaluate and understand the metrics of your business, you're consumer, your brand, whatever way that you're measuring that and continually evolve. So part of what we do, I mean, we have a physical test centre where we can test it all sorts of ways. We can create virtual spaces within a physical space, which is really, really cool, but I think it's more about making sure you've got a good accurate set of data before you start anything. Working on it on a project or a question that arises out of that, and then making sure you take appropriate measurements of what it is you've done before you launch it back into the market. Now, that doesn't have to be a cumbersome thing. I think the key thing now is agility, making sure he can respond rapidly but effectively based on facts and and continuing to measure that.
Mark Bergin 17:25
What I want to do here is try to run a couple of hypotheticals. So I'm going to start off with Stefan. I think there's one for all of you that we can go through here. So, Stefan, you've got your transport originating development, and it needs to go have some tenants in there. Somebody like Julie is probably going to know some people who are saying we're looking for new opportunities and that they've actually got something where there's a match between yourselves and them. How early do you want to actually speak to somebody like Julia and say 'yes there's a luxury hotel or there is a lifestyle centre, a gym that wants to go in there?' Is that something you want to speak to them about while you're still in construction phase or is that when you're doing the finished field out and you're just about to cut the ribbon?
Stefan Krummeck 18:11
Actually, it should really happen at the design stage. Normally when we do a mixed-use development we've been given a brief, that many apartments, that much office complex, that big a retail mall, and maybe that many hotels and then there will be an ambition to the rating of the hotel, how high end that might be and they don't necessarily have operators on board yet at that stage. That makes it hard to design with tenants because they're normally very operator specific. Every operator has their own manual or manuals and some of them also want boardrooms and other kind of facilities integrated and they deal differently with with operational issues, kitchens are differently operated and so on. It's very complicated actually and if you don't integrate that into design in the early stage then that becomes quite difficult at a later stage, particularly, I feel, if it goes into a tower. The tower has limitations. The rooms are relatively easily accommodated in a tower, but what about the support functions? And what about the kitchens, where do they go? Where do the boiler rooms go? So that quite quickly becomes becomes a complicated exercise and therefore, the earlier the operator is determined, the better it is for us because it would be a much better fit later on. If the operator is not determined at an early stage, then we will normally resort to projects we have done before and say maybe it will be of that sort of nature and then later on it must be amended, but the further progress the project is, if it is already in the construction stage it is definitely too late. It must be done prior to tender early, right. So the contract must already be aware of what he should be pricing for.
Mark Bergin 20:17
That's a really good starting point for us because we're a long way out from there. From that stage of the tender in the planning, how many years is it before we're going to actually see this building finished?
Stefan Krummeck 20:27
For mixed use developments, I mean, I think some of the developments we do are near 500,000 square metres, which may be like 10 hours or five or something like that? I don't know. It depends a bit, right. So to build something like that, I would say it takes in the order of- in China, it's relatively quick, right? I would say about five, six years or so for them to build it. I think they are very well organised and they push hard to get it done, and the design stage is also quite fast. We have we have had projects where the design was almost concurrent to the tendering process. So they're very challenging, but I would say design, ideally, we should allow for a year or so for the design.
Mark Bergin 21:26
So I'll pull you up there and say, okay we've got about five or six years, now I want to go into a fictional fictional hotel chain, let's call it the Rilton. Yeah, because everything else is 're', reimagine, re-establish react, the Rilton. Okay, so Julie you're working with real time and Rilton have come to you and said well, we need to go and think about what our next hotel is in Shanghai because there's lots of transport originating developments there. But they've got five or six years, they probably need you to go and help them with how some of that planning is now, but then they also have to work on the hotel that they've currently got don't they? They probably need to refit it, give it a bit of an uplift, because five years is a long time to go without people tenanting or staying in your hotel. So is that a conversation that you're then running on two hands where you're helping Rilton work out how to go and actually work out what the next property is and also work with them on what they're doing with their current property?
Julie Monk 22:27
Well, the client is different between those two ideas. Generally, when you're doing a renovation project, the client is the hotel itself, through their operating budget, their capital improvements, budget and that kind of thing. So they're your your client is the the general manager, the asset manager that's actually handling that particular hotel property. When you're doing new development, that's a completely different team. You're working back with HQ of the Rilton Realty Group and there it's important to remember understand their standards. Stefan is absolutely right, you really need to have the hotel operator on board as you're finishing concept or beginning schematic design, or you're really going to be in trouble later in terms of the allocations, or if the hotel goes into construction before the operators on board, it might really limit the number of operators are even interested in that project and operating that project. And generally, once the project is under construction, and they're still looking for an operator, you'll find that you're not generally up at the luxury end of the food chain any longer, you're going to have to work with hotels that generally don't manage their own properties, that will franchise their own properties, whose standards aren't as precise and as restrictive as you would in a more luxury property. So it's kind of an interesting thing that happens. You could say that depending on the state of the market, when China had a 15% growth on an annual basis, hotel operators were willing to take anything that came along, it was a 'build it and they will come' kind of philosophy, but then as the market slowed down, and the operators were expected or became more realistic in terms of the business plan where the operator was responsible for the operating budget, for making a profit for the client, the operators pushed back and said, 'Well, if you're going to make us responsible for all those things, we don't want you to over design our project for us, we want you to give us exactly what we need and what we know how to operate.'
Mark Bergin 24:35
So what's really interesting there, we're getting this story between the tactical response, which I'm going to come to some of the other presenters about, but we've also got this longitudinal project, which is we're talking a minimum of five years out, we're thinking about how the building is going to fit from its services, how it's going to fit the particular needs of the Rilton group, that it's actually going to be something which is going to, when it's delivered, because that takes quite a period of time, is actually going to meet their requirements exactly. Julie...
Julie Monk 25:06
It's also going to, in many cases determine the quality and brand of the overall property. A lot of times people will pull in hotel company and bring them in because their brand is so strong, that they'll actually speak back to the community in terms of what class of project we're doing here. We did the Rosewood in Abu Dhabi, and that was a whole new central business district. And they anchored the entire central business district with two hotels, Rosewood on one end, and Four Seasons on the other. So it just basically spoke to the entire development that everything in between was going to be top of the market. So a lot of times developers are looking to forge that relationship with a hotel company early in the design process, simply because it's going to aid them and their financing, sales, filling up the retail mall and other aspects of the property.
Mark Bergin 25:58
I'm going to shift gears here a bit, we're going to go forward about three years and, and so this development is there and then we've got the two luxury hotels on this master plan project, and, between Ophenia, Richard and Bob, (you're all going to participate in this so get yourselves off mute), Bob, you've got some people who are saying, well, we need to actually do a store up lift, we need to actually make sure that we're going to be contemporary to the space that's bookended between these two hotels, Richard, you're going to have a challenge, which is that they want to have a refresh of their brand to bring that into into reality, and Ophenia you better start to go and actually communicate to people that this is actually not just the normal experience, it's a bit more of a plus experience, a step up. So Bob, tell me what happens for you. Is this a six month period that somebody comes to you and says, can you build me a test site, can you build me a test or so that we've got our prototype worked out? Is it a two year period? Or is it that one month and everybody says that can never be done?
Bob Neville 27:07
I think when it comes to real world and real clients, I think having serious amounts of time never really happened. So I think we've got to be able to respond to whatever timeframe were given in all honesty. But let's just say take a six month period, I mean, obviously, what we would do is want to understand, you know, with the client, who their consumers are, why they're going into that space, and understand as many facts and information as possible. And then what we're able to then do, because what people don't necessarily get all the time is that when you physically build something like a hotel or a bit of retail, it's gonna be there for a long time, good, bad or indifferent. And it's amazing that, you know, it wasn't that long ago, people would put something up on the high street, and then there'd be lots of retrospective refits and updates which which become incredibly expensive. So what we're able to do with the client we turn around, we could actually take the space that they've that they've taken in this new location and we can either recreate that physically or virtually. And then we can give them some design options. So they can either physically immerse themselves in that space, once we're more sure that that's closer to what they want. And then that environment can then in essence, be dismantled and transported to where it's going to be physically installed. So we can come in at different stages, but I think the key thing is making sure the brand is comfortable, and making sure it's on point with the consumer and the location is going to go into before they physically start the build, which hasn't been the case with a lot of retail previously. So if we've got six months out, that'd be fantastic.
Mark Bergin 28:53
So Richard, you've, you've now got this six months lead time you've had to come up for Rilton and you've got a new brand for them that helps give them a bit of uplift here if people don't understand this new site. How long are you gonna need? And is it digital? Is it physical? Is it stuck on the outside of the building? What's happening to this brand?
Richard Henderson 29:16
First off, Mark, just excuse the noise in the background because the city's been reshaped down outside my office window. I don't think it's being reimagined or redesigned, it's just some bloody awful building works going on, that is adding to my stress factor. I think coming back to what was just mentioned before, the ideal for a brand guy, let's talk about brand has been the totality, not to invest a logo or identity, is to be on the ground floor when a project is being considered. Most often, I would be probably expecting in my role here, if we weren't using the top experts that we have around the table to start with, that I'd be brought in at the last minute. That things have basically already been determined. The interior is done, the architecture is done, there's no space with a sign because the architect was voicing the external facade for a beautiful photograph to go into the awards. And we then will work to figure out how do we put all these pieces that are already existing into something that actually make sense and could talk to the customer. So, that would be the first thing would be the first thing we need to deeply understand the insights from the interior designer and the architect. The general manager will probably have an operational style which would have influenced the interior and some of the service in the hospitality areas. And we will be doing a brand architecture of the primary positioning of the hotel within the marketplace, then how does each of the destinations within the hotel precinct appeal to different market segments segments have their own personalities, put it together into some sort of logical order. And this is always the fascinating thing, taking the pieces that already exist, and creating it into a logical framework and finding a DNA that operates with things that have already been predetermined without us having any anything to do with it. So we're a bit of a, as you mentioned before, we are a bit of an ambulance. We come along, we put all together, get patients that are right and organised and then it goes to market. Of course, at that stage Mark, all the interior designers and the architects have gone home and it is left to the hotel General Manager operations and the brand guys like us to make the thing profitable and work.
Mark Bergin 31:27
And then they give Ophenia a call and say, 'can you fill up the rooms on this highly compromised side?'
Richard Henderson 31:33
Now before they do that, Mark, they will make sure they have the photographs with no people in it, so they can actually look really great for the awards. And then everyone pats themselves on the back and gets Ophenia and guys like us having to make the thing work.
Mark Bergin 31:44
Well, but we know that hasn't been your case. That hasn't always been how it's operated. I remember you telling you the story about how the Sydney Olympics work and you were there 8 years before the opening ceremony, probably nine or 10 years before that you were involved with that. Then immediately off the back of that you then got involved with the Beijing bid. So you know if you look at it, there are models where upfront the expression and the brand values begins right at the beginning, you don't have to be the last kid on the bus.
Richard Henderson 32:17
No, but you were using the hotel experiences which is specifically different to a proper branding experience.
Mark Bergin 32:26
But what's good here is we're getting the latitude to understand should you be the first kid on the bus or the last kid on the bus? We know last kid is wrong, anywhere before that is an improvement. Is that right?
Richard Henderson 32:37
Mark Bergin 32:38
So Ophenia, we've now got this hotel which is coming together, and we've got Bob who has the capacity to make these retail sites come to life. We know Stefans got this dream that it's all going to be quite easy because he's actually quite a progressed architect, he's been using a Matterport camera on site and all of the physical spaces as built have been documented, that's been handed over to Bob so that they can actually build to the as built. You've got a client who says we're a new brand, let's call it Tesla and Tesla's taking off and they want to sell their cars in this site in China and they want to make sure they've got a retail experience base there and you need to go speak to some people who are saying well we know that as a new site coming on. Would you have known that Bob is the type of person that you speak to, to help your Tesla brand out? Because you know how to get people into the store, but it isn't always that the brief lines up with anybody on the call, sometimes it comes in from any of the directions, doesn't it?
Ophenia Liang 33:41
So there is a cultural context here. And if this Rilton hotel is in China, we probably get the call about four weeks before its grand opening. They will be like 'okay, we are opening next month and we need an entire strategy on how do we launch this thing.'
Mark Bergin 34:01
So then we know there's a lot of clients out there who are applying to the last kid on the bus theory, what we're trying to do is bring the better behaviour, which is first kid on the bus. So we want to work out how we get people in early because Stefan mentioned that the kitchens could be in the wrong location if we get to this too late. And I suppose what I'm driving at is that for anybody who's looking at this, and is an executive, make sure you're getting in early and upfront, don't call your design experts late in the process, because you've probably already made a bunch of regretful decisions when they could have actually being done in different way. So we've got you and you've been called four weeks out. Do you actually do look at your business partner and the team and say it's not even worthwhile having this call or revenues down a bit. So you take the brief anyway.
Ophenia Liang 34:53
And the comment on the cultural is like a destination market. Getting the product or this thing doesn't move, it's in one place. So we need to attract people to come here physically or aware about it. So then sometimes, if it's a Western client for example, a US client or Australian client, they would come around four months in advance, which is well planned. We have had clients who come a year in advance, when there is not much we need to do because the building is not even ready. So I wouldn't recommend to come too early. And I think six to four months is great enough for us to plan on certain openings, but this is communication, this is marketing. It's not just about opening it. Continuously you need effort to bring in customers, you need to continuously market by creating different events, different campaigns, seasonal things, to keep keep the buzz going in order to fill all the rooms. So after all of you guys have left, we'll still be here for a long time to actually help the business grow.
Mark Bergin 36:10
And so then what so what I'm finding really interesting as I go look at the different characters, Julia you're like the journey guru that goes from the long term planning and working out standards all the way through to that final cutting of the ribbon and saying it's been delivered. Bob, you've seen to be coming in around about the middle of the process. Richard, if you're kind of good client, you're coming in right at the beginning, but those good clients aren't every day of the week, often you're coming in reaction. And Stefan, you've actually you've basically committed to a whole bunch of things, even before people knew that this site was coming along. And what I've been trying to do there is give an understanding of what type of design work and what type of engagements people could be imagining that they're going to be useful to them In the coming 12 months. So Julie, tell me a bit about this longitudinal side that you've got in those projects. You must have in any day of the week that you're dealing with something which is five to 10 years away or something which is five days away.
Julie Monk 37:15
Oh, yeah. It just all keep cycling through in terms of job starting and sometimes pausing. And sometimes going ahead, we used to have this theory that most hotel projects started, went in the drawer for nine months while they gestated, and everything with the financing came together and that kind of thing, and then the projects would go ahead. So there can be a lot of start and stop throughout the process. It just depends on where the project is, what the economy's like, and what's happening. China on the other hand, we did a lot of projects that were freestanding standalone hotels, that from the time we started sketching to the time they opened took about two years for a 400 key property, which was in my mind pretty incredible. And then somehow you think about 1.3 billion people in the country, you can pretty much accomplish anything that you want to do. But yeah it's a great process. And many times we'll work with people who are designed the mixed use of the project. And we just slide in as a team, a separate kind of SWAT hotel team that comes in and picks up all those pieces. I do have to say, Mark, we don't stop the ribbon cutting necessarily, generally, a lot of projects will open and they'll find that a lot of the assumptions that they've made five, seven years ago, when they put the programme together, were no longer valid or didn't work with the economy the way it is, or there was a recent change that we didn't have an opportunity to address during the final fit out of the project. We'll have to go back in and reposition certain elements of the project afterwards. So it does have a continuing life to some extent.
Mark Bergin 38:52
And Stefan i'm interested for you, you've mentioned that there's been a change in some of the projects where they've gone into being construction partner lead. And we've seen in in, in Australia in the market where they've, they've referred to as novated projects. So often it'll start off with the architect talking with the owner, the builder comes in, or the constructor comes in and says we're going to build it. And there's a disconnect because the relationship changes where the architect is now responding to a builder who's trying to build it to the price. And then that phase of actually well what happens to the building in an ongoing sense gets interrupted, how are you trying to go and tackle that, or will it be something which will be a future problem that you'll solve?
Stefan Krummeck 39:39
I think that traditionally for architects there are two different models, right one is we get commissioned by the client to prepare a full documentation of the project and then it gets tendered and the client gets a price and then the contractors come in and build it. And the problem with that is that the client doesn't have that much control and maybe all the although the ultimate price but even though there are normally surveyors involved, which control that during the design process. But, with government projects they quite like, particularly in Hong Kong, they like to have a fixed lump sum fee for their projects, right. So, what they do is they asked for contractors to bid for projects Be it like a police headquarter building or hospital or something like that. So they want to know exactly how much they're gonna pay or as close as possible to exactly, and therefore they ask contractors to, to compile a team of architects and engineers and prepare a scheme to start with. So that causes would take about three months and then the context of the price debt. So that is very intensive period three months and they will try to develop or retry to develop this to the best level possible and then the contractor will have a very educated guess as to what sort of price he's putting in and it's kind of basically a lump sum fee for the contractor. So the government knows pretty much what they going to get. That process works quite well. I think the government normally does a lot of front up work. They develop the brief in quite some detail. They have technical shadows which need to be met so they know they have expertise in inviting this kind of design a build tender. So they are quite sure that what they get in terms of quality is what they're looking for. If you're not so experienced in design, a build can go wrong, because the contractor naturally will try to do it as cheap as possible. But in Hong Kong, it seems to work well. I think I must say it as whole number, the government had put a building team that was procured in that way. Basically a lot of the government projects now are procured that way. For us it's a good it's a good model as architects because it wasn't always the case. But I think you know, Kong is something we have embraced, because normally the design stage is you get paid for that from the contractor. So they make quite a big investment. And then there's only a limited number of bidders. So it's not like a design competition, which could be totally open or could be 10 parties competing. With a designer bid, you normally have a smaller group of contractors. I mean, I think if it's more than five, it would be quite a lot already. So the chances of winning it are higher. And if you're successful, then you have quite a substantial project for a few years to do. And the quality of the designer bid work in Hong Kong is good. And that's why in Hong Kong, we quite enjoy that nearly I think it's pretty high ambitions for these projects. So it's worked out quite well for us.
Mark Bergin 43:18
Thank you, everybody. I've been really interested as we've gone through this because as against the other Town Halls that we've been doing in other markets, which have been talking about how people rebound and how they react. We're actually just surging forward, we're having a conversation about how the markets operating which I think is what everyone needs to understand about Asia. Asia is open for business and Asia is doing business. And you know, where it wasn't a fantasy to be able to talk about what we've what we've done going through those projects. This is reality. This is what's happening. So I think everybody who isn't participating in the Asian market, I really recommend you go have a look at it because it there's opportunities there. There's a need for people to be service providers, and you really should be going where the money is flowing. We know that people in the UK and the USA and through Australia, that those markets are quite suppressed at the moment and they will be for a period of time. But there is quite rapid activity that's taking place, particularly in mainland China. And for those people who are in those other markets, consider that your partners and your customers probably should be having a look at this, this townhall so that they can work out 'when should I be planning to respond? And when should I be engaging my design partners to help me to go get there?' Richard, I hope you find that that's going to result in you being the first kid on the bus, not the last kid on the bus, and same for you Ophenia, because I think last kid on the bus is definitely not as successful business strategy for everybody.
Richard Henderson 44:51
Can i just say something here Mark. You made a comment that really what people are buying going forward now is wisdom and knowledge. If you look at the people on the panel here, who all have certain degrees of grey, who are in a certain period of their life, but you're talking about people about 20 or 30 years worth of experience. And I think that's what, as creative people, we should be presenting ourselves as with the knowledge that we have already measured twice, and cut once many times in our career. And you know, listening to what Bob was talking about with the new business he's creating, this is like looking at the whole thing in a holistic way. How can we do things better, rather than be racing off 'try this, try that' I don't think the world's really looking for that now. And I think we need to, as creative people, collectively mark our wisdom and get clients to pay for our wisdom, because it's built across a lot of experience. And then the wisdom attracts the teams and then you have these great creatives. But you know, the wise thinker really should be celebrated in these projects and become a centre point of knowledge, because that way the customer, the client, in most cases, is our customer and then the client's customers are going to benefit. So I really wanted to push that because I think so often as creative people we're chasing things, we always undervalue ourselves and more and more I'm realising when people come talk to me about things I know in my particular niche, I only know my niche, you know, it's a lifetime, a career lifetime that we can get through to clients. It's very important.
Mark Bergin 46:28
You're 100% right. It's actually coming to the fact that people have seen projects before, they understand how they shouldn't be operating, but also we've talked about what a classic execution is, and what a reality execution is. Everybody was very comfortable between those two bookends. I think the thing that we can do best is actually remind people of the value of getting in very early with your design partners, rather than bring them in last kid on the bus, I think that's probably the key message I get out of this. And if anybody asked me what the name of this session is, it's going to be last kid on the bus. I think that's what it's going to be known about. Everybody, thank you so much. I'm humbled by having your attention and having your input. And let's hope that we all get invited on that bus much sooner than we sometimes do. Thank you for your time.
Hosted by: Mark Bergin
Podcast production: Pat Daly
Show notes: Lucy Grant