Contract - In the Spotlight: Julia Monk on Design in China

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In the Spotlight: Julia Monk on Design in China

10 April, 2014



Julia Monk, AIA, IIDA, is a senior principal and director of HOK’s hospitality interiors practice. With BBG-BBGM since 1984, Monk was a founding partner with that firm until it was acquired by HOK in December 2013. Julia has been based in Shanghai since 2010, and offers readers insight into key aspects of designing hospitality interiors in China.

Today, is the economy healthy in China for firms to obtain projects? How does it compare with, say, six years ago, before the recession 
in the United States? How is it different now?
While the Chinese government watched other world economies crash in 2008 and 2009, China maintained an enviable seven percent growth rate, and that generally continues today. This steadiness is significant, particularly as its population of 1.3 billion continues to greatly impact the travel industry both within and outside of mainland China. The biggest shift that I see is the emphasis on who the new construction 
is serving. Previously, new developments were showcases of pride for China: the Beijing Olympic facilities, the World Expo in Shanghai, and many other iconic buildings by private developers. Many of today’s newer multi-use buildings are more thoughtful and are being constructed for social reasons: to benefit the people.

What are Chinese clients seeking from a firm that is primarily based in the U.S.?  
Clients want us for our design and hotel expertise. With all of our projects in China, as well as other places around the world, we work with a client to establish a unique vision based on the hotel’s location, brand, and the building’s architecture. Stylistically, this results in varying degrees of integrating the local culture into our designs.

What is key to understand about Chinese culture as it influences your work there?
Unlike the United States, China is all about group entitlement rather than individual entitlement. This affects many facets of life in China, including meeting procedures and decision making. In China, a decision can be made and implemented quickly. It will not be stalled or held up by procedural delays or individual needs. We typically treat all members of the client team as one entity. That said, I find that every project—wherever it is in the world—takes a life of its own. To define something as typical to China or the U.S. is difficult for me.



How does Chinese business culture impact a project’s
 workflow process?
In the time I have been working in China, it is rare that a resolution is actually made during a meeting. Rather, the leader of the client group will solicit opinions from the entire team and then decisions are made after the meeting. As a designer working in China, it is very important that our design presentations speak for themselves long after we 
leave the room, because many of our main points will be reiterated 
in our absence.

Give some examples of how your hospitality interiors relate 
to place and culture within China.
For the MGM Grand Sanya, we incorporated both natural and cultural elements of China’s Hainan Island into the aesthetics. The sculptural focal point of the lobby is based on our artistic interpretation of the butterflies that are one of the tourist attractions of Sanya. The hotel restaurant, aptly named Silk, features a wall with bolts of silk stacked horizontally, just as they appear in the local markets that we toured. For another project in Changle, China, we are focused on emulating the area’s traditional craftsmanship. We are abstracting and contemporizing the local art of stone carving, lacquer painting, cork sculpting, and ceramics onto the major surfaces of public areas.  

Describe how the unique aspects of Chinese family life influence 
how you design hotels and resorts.
The ratio of 4:2:1 is the standard family travel unit in China: four grandparents, two parents, and one child. Since the onset of the one-child policy, four grandparents have had only one grandchild to dote upon. This policy has recently been eased, so that when an only child and another only child marry, they can now have two children. When planning a hotel, particularly a resort, the layout of the guestrooms needs to support this contemporary family unit 
with connecting doors, multi-player Mahjong tables, and easy accommodation for an additional guest without using a roll-away bed. During vacations, families often travel with one set of grandparents to encourage a smooth transition while away from home.




In the Spotlight: Julia Monk on Design in China

10 April, 2014


Julia Monk, AIA, IIDA, is a senior principal and director of HOK’s hospitality interiors practice. With BBG-BBGM since 1984, Monk was a founding partner with that firm until it was acquired by HOK in December 2013. Julia has been based in Shanghai since 2010, and offers readers insight into key aspects of designing hospitality interiors in China.

Today, is the economy healthy in China for firms to obtain projects? How does it compare with, say, six years ago, before the recession 
in the United States? How is it different now?
While the Chinese government watched other world economies crash in 2008 and 2009, China maintained an enviable seven percent growth rate, and that generally continues today. This steadiness is significant, particularly as its population of 1.3 billion continues to greatly impact the travel industry both within and outside of mainland China. The biggest shift that I see is the emphasis on who the new construction 
is serving. Previously, new developments were showcases of pride for China: the Beijing Olympic facilities, the World Expo in Shanghai, and many other iconic buildings by private developers. Many of today’s newer multi-use buildings are more thoughtful and are being constructed for social reasons: to benefit the people.

What are Chinese clients seeking from a firm that is primarily based in the U.S.?  
Clients want us for our design and hotel expertise. With all of our projects in China, as well as other places around the world, we work with a client to establish a unique vision based on the hotel’s location, brand, and the building’s architecture. Stylistically, this results in varying degrees of integrating the local culture into our designs.

What is key to understand about Chinese culture as it influences your work there?
Unlike the United States, China is all about group entitlement rather than individual entitlement. This affects many facets of life in China, including meeting procedures and decision making. In China, a decision can be made and implemented quickly. It will not be stalled or held up by procedural delays or individual needs. We typically treat all members of the client team as one entity. That said, I find that every project—wherever it is in the world—takes a life of its own. To define something as typical to China or the U.S. is difficult for me.



How does Chinese business culture impact a project’s
 workflow process?
In the time I have been working in China, it is rare that a resolution is actually made during a meeting. Rather, the leader of the client group will solicit opinions from the entire team and then decisions are made after the meeting. As a designer working in China, it is very important that our design presentations speak for themselves long after we 
leave the room, because many of our main points will be reiterated 
in our absence.

Give some examples of how your hospitality interiors relate 
to place and culture within China.
For the MGM Grand Sanya, we incorporated both natural and cultural elements of China’s Hainan Island into the aesthetics. The sculptural focal point of the lobby is based on our artistic interpretation of the butterflies that are one of the tourist attractions of Sanya. The hotel restaurant, aptly named Silk, features a wall with bolts of silk stacked horizontally, just as they appear in the local markets that we toured. For another project in Changle, China, we are focused on emulating the area’s traditional craftsmanship. We are abstracting and contemporizing the local art of stone carving, lacquer painting, cork sculpting, and ceramics onto the major surfaces of public areas.  

Describe how the unique aspects of Chinese family life influence 
how you design hotels and resorts.
The ratio of 4:2:1 is the standard family travel unit in China: four grandparents, two parents, and one child. Since the onset of the one-child policy, four grandparents have had only one grandchild to dote upon. This policy has recently been eased, so that when an only child and another only child marry, they can now have two children. When planning a hotel, particularly a resort, the layout of the guestrooms needs to support this contemporary family unit 
with connecting doors, multi-player Mahjong tables, and easy accommodation for an additional guest without using a roll-away bed. During vacations, families often travel with one set of grandparents to encourage a smooth transition while away from home.

 


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