When it comes to the Asian market, the London-based collaborative design studio means business. Senior Partner and CEO Tim Bowder-Ridger talks new directions.
9 March, 2018
Conran and Partners has been courting Hong Kong for a long time. The architecture and interiors studio has worked on the revamp of stalwart restaurant Mandarin Grill + Bar at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong; the team created artist-in-residence space at mixed-use arts and design hub PMQ; and they developed F&B spaces for Hotel ICON, just to name a few of their hospitality projects here.
And now the relationship is intensifying: the studio launched dedicated regional headquarters here late last year, setting up shop in PMQ, with Roderick Tong as Head of Studio. Here, Tim Bowder-Ridger, Senior Partner and CEO, outlines the next chapter in the studio’s love affair with Hong Kong.
It’s not just going to be a delivery office; the idea is that it will become a design hub for the region. What we want to do is grow the business here, especially because life is complicated in the UK at the moment. It’s definitely much slower since Brexit. Although interestingly we’re getting a lot more enquiries from Europe.
We’re not in a rush. We’re thinking about what the right projects are; because whatever we do now is going to set the tone for the future.
We’re getting approaches for workplace and for retail in Hong Kong. We’re getting approached because people don’t want workplaces to be like offices anymore: the boundaries between home life and leisure and work are getting really blurred. Which is perfect for us, because Terence has always been about an attitude rather than being bounded by technicalities. I see that as an area we’ll probably expand upon.
The likelihood is that we’ll start off with a few tester projects – some of our very big projects have come out of us doing just one building, even one apartment, or one restaurant.
We’re keen on doing more resorts, because it crosses between our architecture and interiors, and our residential and hospitality. It’s an interesting area for us.
Co-living is something I’d like to start looking at here, too. I’m doing a scheme in Vienna at the moment that’s about co-living. With that project, we’ve taken a deliberate conceptual point of view that it’s inter-generational. The idea is that you create a community of like-minded people from different generations.
I think society is evolving in a very particular way… somebody described it as tribal. At my age, for example, I may have more in common with a 25-year-old who’s in my sphere of interest than I do with someone of my generation who’s in a different sphere.
The other thing I’d like to explore here is reinventing older buildings. We’ve built up a strong reputation in that area, and I’m quite interested in getting involved in that here. Nothing burns up more energy than crunching up concrete!
I’m quite passionate about it personally; it’s a Brutalist, mid-century modern building that hopefully, we’ve picked up the spirit of. There’s something really rewarding about taking something pug ugly when you first approach it, and which becomes beautiful and useful. It’s very high end. We had to treat it almost like a hotel.
A Park Hyatt in Jakarta and in Auckland. Plus two residential schemes in Tokyo; one is for NTT UD, and then we’re doing a scheme for Pembroke Estates. We’re constantly looking for other possibilities. We’re always talking to Hotel Icon here in Hong Kong.
We’ve also just finished the KEF studio here, and this is where the sectors are beginning to merge. Hi-fi stores, unless you’re a hi-fi geek, are going to be either boring or intimidating. The whole concept is that it doesn’t feel like a hi-fi store. You can go into the club room, you can have a coffee and enjoy the equipment.
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