What are your observations of the real estate market in Asia, especially the design profession in China?
PM: Our Chinese clients demand high-quality design. We have to create projects that not only look great, but function exceptionally well. More and more people are living and working in Asian cities, which is exciting but challenging. People need connections to parks and green spaces, and air quality and traffic congestion issues go beyond architecture to planning. If you take a piece of land and develop a proper master plan, the architecture improves and the project is better. I am very pleased to see the world-class planning work being done in HOK’s Chinese offices.
Do you see a bubble in China’s real estate market?
The way to avoid a real estate bubble is to focus on quality. There always will be a market for quality design, quality development and quality buildings. Quality always wins. Take the example of the China Resources Building, where our Beijing office is located. I am still proud of this HOK design from 1999. This building has held its value because of its quality. People are still willing to pay good rent to have an office here. Great buildings should last more than 50 years. They should look good and feel right.
Tamar Government Complex in Hong Kong
How do you look at the Asia market versus other global markets?
Asia has been a key part of HOK’s strategy since we established Hong Kong as our Asia headquarters in 1984. Since 1955, the fundamental strategy of HOK’s founders was to attract and keep the best people by working on the best projects. We want to diversify strategically: geographically and by expertise. We can share and keep great people if we spread out the work among our various global locations. It’s a business strategy built around people. Our people are everything.
Are there plans for HOK to further reinforce its growth in Asia?
Yes. We are happy that we have strong practices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. We have a long-range strategic plan for each of these offices to grow and provide comprehensive planning and design services for every building type. We also know that three offices are not enough to serve this vast region, so we will always be looking to expand. The recent addition of BBG-BBGM’s people will help our growth here.
With 46 years’ service at HOK, what are your “secrets” in managing a leading international design firm?
When I joined HOK as a young architect, I never imagined I would stay for so long. But I learned about the HOK “family” and the strategy of the founders to expand and diversify. This allowed me to keep growing as a professional without ever having to change firms. I want other people to have the same opportunity. To do this, we must help our Asia offices continue to grow. Young people are the future of HOK. I want to leave this firm in the best shape possible so that our next leaders will take it to new heights. The world needs great design.
What advice do you have for young designers?
Many people believe that great design must be different or fashionable. It’s easy to be different, but hard to be great or even good. Great design is timeless. It is well-balanced, orderly and harmonious. It is simple, useful and affordable. In 100 years, we won’t be here, but Beijing’s Forbidden City will live on. It’s a beautiful series of buildings all in harmony, arranged around beautiful courtyards, standing the test of time. It’s not modern but it’s elegant. People who go there enjoy it and feel peace.
Forbidden City image by Wikipedia user Simm