Woods Bagot’s high-impact high-rise
Woods Bagot senior associate Jango Wong likes working on "road maps" with customers. "In keeping with one of our philosophies, before we design a project, we write out what we want to achieve and go through this with our client," he says.
The idea, he says, is to create a list of guiding objectives - and it is obviously more efficient and cost-effective to discuss changes while the plans are still fluid.
The recently completed Cubus building in Causeway Bay is a prime example of Woods Bagot's philosophy in action. Its striking exterior - inspired by a stack of ice cubes with innovative lighting effects - could have left the client wondering whether the extra expense was worthwhile.
But the agreed objectives for Cubus included a commitment to create an exclusive destination using high-impact architecture.
Still, constructing such a "brand" building wasn't an end in itself. "The primary objective was very clear: to maximise asset value," says Wong.
And in Causeway Bay, the rental value of retail space is a lot higher than that of office space. "But then, the question was: Why would people travel up high within a building for retail?" Wong continues.
"The answer? It has to be a different type of retail. So we created an exclusive destination mainly for food and beverages, with the upper floors used by a spa and a private club."
By exaggerating what seemed like a limitation, adds Wong, the design created valuable useable space in the sky. "The site on Hoi Ping Road is very tiny with a lot of constraints. However, setting the building still further back from the street allows it to go higher under Hong Kong planning regulations, and we understood that enjoying the view while dining is important for people."
The views are also stunning when travelling in the glass elevators on the outside of the building. But when deciding on how many lifts to install, a balance had to be struck between minimising the wait time for visitors and the loss of revenue. "The main cost in installing extra lifts in Hong Kong is not the price of the hardware, it's the loss of that space within the building," Wong explains.
Another recent Woods Bagot project was in the Kerry Parkside mixed-use development in Shanghai, which is directly connected to the Shanghai New International Expo Centre.
Here, the retail elements were used as glue to connect the office, hotel and convention components. Again, one of the objectives Woods Bagot agreed with its clients was to create something distinctive.
"We knew that in this case, we wanted to capture some of the history of the site," says Wong. "It used to be a warehouse and we wanted to bring back a warehouse or loft feel."