The Managing Director, Asia Pacific of WATG and Wimberly Interiors on contextual design and her convivial leadership approach.
28 September, 2023
Eighteen years ago, Vicky Wang visited The Salk Institute designed by Louis Kahn in La Jolla, California. The building’s design touched her deeply. “During my initial visit to the United States as a young designer, it was the first architectural marvel I had the privilege to explore. I was particularly drawn to how the building’s design seamlessly integrated with its natural surroundings, framed by the breath-taking Pacific Ocean and the landscape. This unique harmony between the manmade and the natural world left a lasting impression on me and underscored the importance of respecting nature’s beauty and the art of contextualisation in architecture,” she reflects.
Responding to context and sustainability is vital in the work Wang does as Managing Director, Asia Pacific of WATG and Wimberly Interiors. This is particularly so for hospitality projects, which forms a large part of her portfolio. “Throughout our design process, we hold steadfast to the principles of authenticity to culture and place, with a focus on benefiting society, the economy and our planet. We recognise the impact of the built environment on people and the land must be considered as thoughtfully as the structures themselves.”
An example is the Hann Lux Lifestyle Resort in New Clark City in Manila – a 420-hectare urban hub designed to alleviate some of the pressures of the rapidly growing city. The project houses a 56-key Banyan Tree resort, 200-key Angsana hotel, three 18-hole golf courses, a casino, a mixed-use commercial centre and park, among other amenities.
Wang’s team adjusted the pre-existing master plan to align with a land-centric design vision for the hotels they are working on within the development. The interior design was inspired by the traditions and history of the destination, as well as its breathtaking landscape. “The rituals that engage the senses find expression in fluid and dynamic forms. The region’s cultural heritage speaks through a modern, eclectic design language, bridging the past and present,” she describes.
The design also explores tropical rejuvenation through the integration of natural textures and forms to harmonise with the lush surroundings. “This multifaceted approach ensures that our designs resonate deeply with both the environment and the people who inhabit it,” Wang remarks.
Another exciting project she has recently embarked on is Later Living, which addresses the aging populations across developed cities. “Unlike traditional age-restricted communities, today’s seniors prefer multigenerational environments. Modern seniors are well travelled, tech-savvy, informed, active and they have elevated expectations. They desire ‘hotel-like’ facilities and services with a focus on wellness. By applying our hospitality design expertise to Later Living projects, we aim to create meaningful and dynamic environments for seniors that seamlessly integrate advanced support and health services,” Wang shares.
While the hospitality scene has seen many shifts in recent years, she observes that hotels’ fundamental principles of “warmth, welcome, memorability and rejuvenation” remain constant. Guests still desire these aspects of human comfort, community and emotion. “To remain relevant in today’s world, we must craft spaces and experiences that captivate, hold meaning and feel deeply personal. Modern guests crave distinctive and immersive encounters, often travelling long distances to discover wellsprings of inspiration and retreat in extraordinary destinations.”
Among Wang’s other works are The Ritz-Carlton Xi’an Hotel and Retail mixed-use building – the first luxury hotel in north-eastern China. It was her first project upon joining WATG. Before that, she had spent a decade working at RTKL Associates after receiving her master’s degree in architectural design. Then, the firm had only six staff in their Shanghai office. “Working in a start-up environment, I had the chance to engage in various business-related activities beyond project design, including building client relationships, contract negotiations and project management,” she shares.
In 2006, she transferred from RTKL Associates’ office in Shanghai to the Los Angeles branch. It was the start of her professional journey in the United States. Ten years ago, she joined WATG and in 2022, became the Managing Director for China before her current role. She recently relocated to join the Singapore office, where she regularly sets aside time to engage in informal conversations, making herself available to chat openly with colleagues as she aims to gain a comprehensive understanding of the team’s challenges.
On her leadership style, she stresses on three tenets: to be encouraging, to empower her staff to think beyond convention and find unique ways to reach shared goals, as well as to be easy-going. “An easy-going and down-to-earth atmosphere is crucial to fostering a healthy and positive work environment, which I consider the foundation of a company’s success. At WATG, we cherish the ‘Ohana spirit’ that has been part of our legacy for nearly 80 years, and we are committed to preserving and celebrating it.”
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