Out of their home base in Shanghai, China, Italian architects Andrea Destefanis and Filippo Gabbiani of Kokaistudios are taking their business global.
6 March, 2013
When Italian architects Andrea Destefanis and Filippo Gabbiani established Kokaistudios in Venice in 2000, they would hardly have foreseen that in two years, their entire business operations would move to China.
The decision was led by a major restoration and renovation project called Bund 18, which the firm had signed on to do in Shanghai. Bund 18 went on to win many international awards, including the UNESCO award for heritage protection.
Bund 18, Shanghai
“We spent almost two full years working on that project and Shanghai and China was full of opportunities so we decided to stay,” say Destefanis and Gabbiani.
Bund 18 – interior
“Entering Shanghai the way we did was quite shocking and exciting, and tremendous fun,” they add. “We had the privilege of being a small team of friends working exclusively on one large project for almost two years; it allowed us to cut our teeth and learn what was possible to do in this market, and to work with great people many of whom we still collaborate with today.”
Huai Hai Lu 796, Shanghai
Since then, the firm has grown from just two people to a team of 35, though it has no intentions to expand any further. “This is the largest we think we can be and still maintain our focus of having both of us involved in every project,” the principals explain.
Kokaistudios offers architecture and interior design services in the hospitality, institutional and commercial sectors, with particular focus working in heritage locations.
Suhe Creek project in Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek
“Coming from Italy and in particular having studied in Venice, the interest in heritage is in our blood. What is also in our blood, however, is the methodology of how to approach the re-development of heritage project locations and have them dialogue with their surrounding buildings and cities,” say Destefanis and Gabbiani.
Apart from Bund 18, which was one of the first buildings to be re-developed on the Bund in Shanghai, other notable heritage projects – also in Shanghai – include Huai Hai Lu 796 for the Richemont Group, and the re-development of a warehouse building on Suzhou Creek (see our story here).
Vacheron Constantin boutique, Beijing
Vacheron Constantin boutique, New York
Beyond Shanghai, Kokaistudios has also completed many large-scale projects throughout China in all three of its major target market sectors: hospitality, institutional, and commercial.
Notably, the firm’s international portfolio has been growing steadily in the last few years. “Our focus from when we founded Kokaistudios was to work on an international basis and in the last few years, largely due to the reputation that we have built with the projects we have executed in China, we have been able to start doing so,” say the principals.
ETC concept store, Hong Kong
Kokaistudios has completed or is in the midst of completing a series of Vacheron Constantin flagship boutiques in major cities around the world. It has also completed five projects in Hong Kong, including three thematic ETC wine concept stores (see our story here).
IHG Hualuxe Hotels & Resorts
Another target area of expansion is in hospitality design. “We are currently working with the big brands both on individual properties as well as brand development work – with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to develop their new Hualuxe Brand and with New World Hospitality to develop their Penta brands,” say the principals. “We are also working on two boutique hotels and some innovative F&B concepts.”
The firm is also looking to make greater inroads in Southeast Asia. “With our expertise of working in heritage locations, we think that there are great opportunities to do interesting architecture and interior design projects in leading cities throughout the region. We would love the opportunity to work in Vietnam, Indonesia, and also in Myanmar.”
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