Design Evolution: A New Chinese Aesthetic
A shift in ideology, a growing middle class and a willingness to embrace technology are changing the look and feel of workspaces in China.
It is no secret that China is a genuine example of a modern economic force. A recent study from HSBC projects that China will overtake the United States as the most powerful nation in the world by 2030. So much of China’s success can be attributed to their systematic, strategised approach to developing tier two and three cities. In conjunction with economic development, there has been a concurrent evolution of design sensibilities and aesthetics. China has long exhibited distinctive stylistic preferences, however, contemporary influences, a result of globalisation, have contributed to a new aesthetic imagining in China. With experience developing interior spaces in China spanning over 25 years, at TEC we have a unique insight into the factors driving this design evolution and the resulting changes in aesthetic considerations. Among our newest Centres, our spaces in Xi’an, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu epitomise the new aesthetic of contemporary China, showcasing exceptional workspace design.
Evolving taste in China is driving an experimental approach to both aesthetics and functional design elements.
A Matter Of Taste
Conspicuous consumption has long been a practice all over the world but is a particular feature of China’s consumer goods market. The open, visual display of status through purchased goods is one which many clothing and retail brands have long capitalised upon. Now however, there is an emerging wave of discerning consumers who, in all facets of their lives, show unique and varied interpretations of a more closely curated lifestyle. These same expectations are applied to their office environment and work-life. Part of the reason for China’s evolving taste is the rise of the middle class and the impressive impact that tier two cities have had on both China and the global market. The evolution of the middle class and their increasing household income (which has been projected to double between 2012 and 2022), has meant that there is now a genuine desire to pay a premium for quality products, an idea that is mirrored by corporate organisations in their approach to space and operations. The gap in expectation from a design and quality perspective by a tier one and two city is closing rapidly, analogous to their increasing and demonstrable economic significance. Our own Global Project Director Ricky Wells has had extensive experience in Asia and notes that whilst this gap is closing, tier one cities continue to set the design agenda in China.
Local sensibilities play a part in determining the final look and feel of all our spaces. ^Above, the contrast between Chengdu and Melbourne, Australia.
Taste in China is increasingly nuanced and not necessarily distinguished by geography, it is more often the result of social and cultural constructs. When designing our Centres considerations of regional culture and aesthetics are appreciated but referenced with subtlety. TEC’s Ricky Wells explains the importance of local connection and personalisation in our design strategy, “Highlighting Chinese modern principles and culture creates links to historical and cultural roots.” Thoughtful and considered references to the uniqueness of the locality is something which is executed across all of our regions with particular care and attention.
This impressive wall is a feature in our new Shenzhen centre at China Resources Tower, an homage to the past in a totally contemporary setting.
First Impressions Count
In business, as in most things, first impressions count and this particularly true in China. Our Centres follow a template of sorts throughout our network, one that encourages optimum functionality in the space and supports productivity for our Members. Beyond establishing homogeneity, it enables distinct continuity and comfort for an increasingly mobile professional culture. One key component of this formulae is the open reception area. In China, the idea of demonstrable, visual status plays a decisive role in conception and construction of our reception areas. The use of interesting materials, sophisticated colour combinations and statement furniture or art pieces are highly valuable elements in representing the unique product TEC offers across all of our regions. In China specifically, we place particular focus on first class service and technology, knowing that this is a real asset to our Members and their businesses.
This bold entrance at our new Centre in Guangzhou sets the tone for a fresh new approach to work and office dynamics in China.
An Evolving Workforce
As the world changes, and with mounting pressure to consider more technological interventions in the workplace, the design of our spaces are always in flux. The global workforce is welcoming a younger, more dynamic demographic who are driving demand for smarter technologies and infrastructural considerations that mirror other aspects of their life. TEC Global Project Director Ricky Wells notes that Chinese businesses have been seeking to provide their staff with smarter workspace designs that “increase flexibility to attract and retain talent while helping to increase productivity.” This new way of working reflects China’s ambitions to dominate in technology and innovation. It has also increased demand for spaces which support workplace wellness. Wells observes that “our (TEC’s) Members in the mainland have also become more health conscious” and goes on to recognise “an increased demand for biophilic office design”. The inclusion of ergonomic design features such as sit-to-stand desks as well as elements which aim to create connections to the space’s outdoor surroundings have addressed these specific requirements and reinforce TEC’s comittment to wellness at work.
B2B networking is becoming increasingly important to the landscape of work in China, and our large reception areas offer Members an opportunity to develop important professional relationships.
China’s economic divisions and industry landscape often determines a greater need for clearly defined boundaries within an office design and is dictated by the nature of business hierarchy in the Mainland. However, there is also an emphasis on business-to-business connection and space need to facilitate networking events, collaboration and conversation. Project Director Ricky Wells explains, “as businesses transition to a more decentralised business model, we have adapted our centre designs to increase collaboration, equipping them with an agile, activated environment that sets the agenda in terms of quality and service.” The recent news that many of the world’s most dynamic cities are in China is impetus for developing offices which are adept at fostering innovation at a grassroots level. Although coworking is less typical in China due to the inherent characteristics and structure of the business landscape, having communal areas such as a coffee bar are crucial to operations and unique to flexible workspaces like The Executive Centre. We expect to see attitudes to space continue to change with demand for flexible space in the region continuing to grow.
Coworking is a still a relatively new concept in China but thoughtful design touches give our Members the confidence to connect informally and work collaboratively.
Icon Versus Innovation
Perhaps the most important aspect to note when it comes to designing an ideal workspace is that there are universal truths. The first, functionality is key and therefore infrastructural features need to unify office design. Balancing the idea of creating iconic aesthetic spaces and ones which are intelligently functional is an approach taken towards all our Centres. In China, increased scrutiny over the functionality of space has driven the ecosystem of interaction that informs the design. We pride ourselves on delivering first class technology and infrastructure without sacrificing design excellence. Each of our Centres is developed to specifically cater to the nuances of each market. There are complex and calculated observations that determine the final design, including feedback from our network and comprehensive market research. As an established international business with extensive experience in Greater China, we know that our Members expect the very best. The Chinese market is receptive to new ideas, new processes and will continue to be an important testing ground for the future of office design.