PortfolioThe Bentley Suite at the St. Regis New York
New York, New York, USA
Congratulations to the entire Park Hyatt Ningbo team for winning a design award at the 2013 AIA Honolulu Design Awards Gala held at the Hawaii Prince Hotel. Park Hyatt Ningbo won an award of merit, and was the only hospitality project to win an award this year.
Each winner presented their project in a compressed Pecha Kucha style (15 slides, 15 seconds per slide). George Berean and Ruoyun Sun accepted the award on behalf of WATG, and presented the project (A copy of the presentation can be viewed here).
Some notable facts about the project:
• The site is organized as a traditional Chinese water village, to blend discretely into the surrounding vista. The natural landscape surrounding the resort sets the stage for the guests' arrival.
• Dong Qian Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Zhejiang province and one of the most scenic area in the region. Lakefront gardens and rooms oriented toward the lake takes advantage of spectacular views.
• The use of courtyards serves as a point of transition from one area to another and as a place for social gatherings, and focuses on traditional Chinese gardens with a modern twist.
• The resort is formed by traditional cultural elements, refined and contemporized in an interpretation of Southern China style with the gently sloping roof and exposed wood beams.
• With interior decorations and strategically located fireplaces, great care has been taken to maintain a seamless definition between the exterior and interior components.
• Traditional materials, stone, stucco, slate, and gray roof tiles were used extensively as permanent materials.
• An ancient family home has been restored to its original architecture and converted into a Tea House located in the center of the hotel property.
• The 700-year-old red temple has been restored and converted to a restaurant/bar and entertainment venue, blending seamlessly into the property.
• Existing stones, sculptures and Chinese ornaments was salvaged and reused.
I was recently honored to be asked by my alma mater, Ball State University, to attend part of the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) conference 2013 in Singapore, held on the campus of the National University of Singapore. The conference hosted 100 participants representing 28 universities from 18 countries.
Professor Tommy Koh gave the keynote address during which he issued a challenge to the attendees to embrace a vision of campuses as eco-cities that set the standard that the world’s metropolitan areas emulate.
In my brief time at the conference I was struck by the passion and dedication the participants bring to their efforts to create sustainable, healthy campus communities. As to be expected from a gathering of people from around the world their starting points and progress vary widely. For some the challenge is staggering, for others merely challenging.
We heard first hand accounts of small victories such as instituting water conservation techniques to success stories about newly built, net-zero energy buildings.
I took away two key points of discussion which are applicable in many of the contexts in which we at WATG find ourselves each day:
1. Values vs. value.
Reaching people by appealing to the value an idea brings to the table isn't always successful if it isn't relatable or quantifiable. Sometimes a more successful approach is to show how an idea has a direct relationship to a person’s values.
2. The analogy of a barn raising vs prefab barn in approaching a project.
The term 'barn raising,' which is a communal effort at constructing a barn, was used as an example of a way to involve as many parties as possible so that they become personally invested in a project. In contrast, a 'prefab' approach where construction of a building is done largely off site and 'appears' in place excludes many potential partners and doesn’t create a lasting, meaningful relationship to a given project.
On the 22nd of June 2013 WATG's London office will be hosting an open studio day as part of the 2013 London Festival of Architecture. This is part of the Fitzrovia Trail event where various offices in the area will be opening their doors to the public to showcase their offices and work.
WATG's event is entitled 'On the flipside' and is designed to be a fun interactive day for visitors of all ages. The day will focus on showing visitors how easy it can be to create a simple animation. The theme will be 'A Summer’s day in London' and we will be encouraging guests to use London and its fantastic array of architecture as the backdrop for their animations.
Please come along to our offices with a healthy dose of creativity to enjoy a fun animated look at London and its architecture. You will also be able to see a range of WATG’s exciting hospitality projects from all around in the world.
We look forward to seeing you at our London office between 11h00 and 15h00 on the 22nd of June.
I was privileged and honored to serve on the AIA Design Awards committee this year. In addition to meeting with respected members of the community, it was a tremendous learning experience just being in the same room with the judges and listening to them discussing design, and debating the merits of each entry.
We also visited a few of the properties on judging day.
As the jury selections were made, and the winners chosen (to be announced in July), voting opens today for AIA Honolulu's People's Choice Awards. The People's Choice Awards now includes unbuilt projects.
Click here to vote for your favorite project.
AIA members can also vote from the Jack C. Lipman AIA Members Choice Award, and there is also a Mayor's Choice Award, to be selected by Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Many thanks to Biwen Li for volunteering to help me facilitate the judging (on a Saturday), and for taking the photographs.
This past weekend, Jon Lee and I volunteered for the 2013 AIA Waikiki Walking Tour. We served as docents for the Bank of Hawaii Building and the Waikiki Business Plaza. We stood on Kalakaua Avenue on Saturday morning, shouted over traffic noise, and offered information about the two Waikiki landmarks. Nearly 300 people took part in the tour in 18 separate groups.
The Bank of Hawaii Building was designed by our founder George "Pete" Wimberly, and built in 1967. One of the design challenges was to integrate sustainable features with tropical and cultural elements. His solution was multipurpose interlacing arches. The arches were designed to evoke the ancient Hawaiian art and mimic the form of pineapples, which are also interpreted as rainbow and palm trees. The arch features also provide lateral bracing to the building facade and provide sunshade to the interior, reducing energy consumption for air conditioning. The Bank of Hawaii Building was also the location of the WATG office until 1997.
The Waikiki Business Plaza was designed by Edwin Bauer, and built in 1965. The most notable design feature is the revolving restaurant at the top of the building, revolving once-an-hour and providing panoramic views of the ocean, Diamond Head, and the Koolau mountain range.
The comfort dogs that they brought in to help ease the pain of children who survived the Sandy Hook tragedy last week brought tears to my eyes. As some of you may know, we here in the New York Studio are "dog people" and understand how the unconditional love of a dog can make all the difference. From our dear "Ellie" in our New York studio, to hanging out with "Darwin" a magnificent Great Dane in our Singapore studio (owned by talented designers Brook and Jason), there is great "dog energy" that abounds at WATG and Wimberly Interiors. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families affected by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and to reflect on these special moments and gifts of innocence that dogs can provide.
This week, the US project teams are in Hong Kong for client meetings and are sharing space with the Hong Kong team in a tiny field office.
The WATG Hong Kong Team: Perry Brown, Tom Fo, Mark Kowalski, Allen Hung, Aaron Ho, Delbert Ragland,
WATG Irvine: Greg Villegas, Sharmila Tankha, Matt Page
WATG Honolulu: Harvey Maruya, Carlos Meyer, Tiffany Lee
Ron Van Pelt (WATG Singapore) and Margaret McMahon (Wimberly Interiors NYC) also graced us with their presence.
In all thirteen of us are sitting elblow to elbow in a tight, but comfortable work space.
"It takes thirteen to build a village." - Harvey Maruya
After nearly two years of waiting, the XiAn Terracotta hotel project is ready to start. The site is only a short five-minute walk from the famous Terracotta Warriors at the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. The project's location will make it the closest hotel to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, creating the potential for three million visitors annually to have the opportunity to experience the hotel we are about to design.
From 11-15 November, we traveled to the site for a very intensive but fun design workshop. The charrette team members were Ardison Garcia, Carlos Meyer, Craig Takahata, and myself. Special thanks to Todd Nordstrom for providing research of the Qin dynasty and Emperor Qin Shihuang, as well as some conceptual ideas.
This is our client's first hotel development. One of our goals for our client is to differentiate the hotel from all other hotels in the region by applying a unique design approach and creating a bold statement, thus helping to set their hotel apart.
Our team's keyword for this project is "redefine." And the three keywords from our client are "culture," "history," and "modern."
If everything goes as well as our charrette, this will be an amazing project.
It's no surprise when well-conceived architecture weathers the passage of time and through the course becomes weaved with the history of a place. Such is the case of the Peninsula Manila or as the locals fondly refer to as the Manila Pen.
On a recent trip to the Philippines, our Singapore BD Manager, Kai Seah, and I had an opportunity to visit the hotel and pay homage to the very first hotel project that WATG designed in the country.
I've only been to the hotel once before, long before I joined WATG. I only know this hotel from the stories of the man who designed it--Don Fairweather, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and was one of WATG's notable partners until he retired several years ago. As a young designer, I had the privilege to work and traveled with Don to far-flung places; it was those occasions when Don told and retold his fascinating experience and adventures in the Philippines in the 1970s during the design and construction of the Manila Pen.
After 36 years since its opening, the Pen's grand and spacious lobby hasn't failed to impress its guests. It epitomizes classic hotel lobby design--formal, elegant and exact; an impressive and large living room that is a prelude to the social and function spaces the hotel has to offer.
Throughout its history, the hotel has been host to exclusive, famous public and private social events. As recent as six years ago, it also unceremoniously became the setting for a military uprising; its grand lobby sacrilegiously turned into an armored tank parking lot. Such is the case of a hotel that has become an icon in the business center of the Philippines.
The exterior architecture, unfortunately, has seen better days. Its bush-hammered and exposed concrete aggregate façade have not been spared from the dirty metropolis air. But interestingly enough, an architect like me can easily squint his eyes and see the strong bones of a modernist architecture--clean, bold vertical elements contrasted with horizontal bands at the top floors. A sensitive and thorough re-façade may just be what it takes to bring this landmark building to the present.
Walking around the Pen, I find it fascinating and noteworthy that WATG has had a presence in the Philippines for quite a long time. And within those nearly 40 years, we have had wonderful built projects, great client relations, and the privilege and satisfaction of designing memorable places that lift the human spirit.
During a recent visit to Holland, I went by Steyger Island in Amsterdam and snapped some pictures. The "Venice of the North" has another water-immersed residential community. This is an experimental project, with real houses, really floating – not the usual inhabited boats, and no houses on stilts. It's also experimental because the "lots" are actually water instead of land, and all these water-lots are privately owned and managed (unique for this municipality).
In good old Amsterdam tradition, the properties and living spaces are tiny - a lot measures 10x15 meters, and the "footprint," if you can call it that, is only 7x10 meters. Even though Amsterdam is known as the "City on Stilts," the houses are on a floating concrete pontoon without any footing. The design guidelines stipulates that the volume should contain maximum 2.5 storeys - leading to another planning/architect cat-and-mouse classic.
Yes, 2.5 storeys on a floating pontoon actually makes perfect sense – where else is your P.O.S. going to go? And, the massing of the overall development is gorgeous, with all irregularly oriented half-storeys. Due to tidal movement, a house on stilts would be ugly, and impractical for people with leisure boats.
However, these requirements put the architects "on high stilts" (a Dutch expression meaning agitated / assertive). Since the house is floating, the asymmetry of the volumes makes the weight distribution uneven - therefore bringing the house out of balance. Height restrictions force the designers to sink the lowest floor all the way to the base level of the concrete pontoon, so there's no space to bring in a counterweight. As a result, people are always mucking about with sand bags or concrete blocks to get their residence water-pass.
Most houses are built up of wooden studwork to reduce weight, with free choice of finishing – except for highly corrosive metals like copper and zinc, which is out of the question to prevent polluting run-off to flow into the Y-waters.
The individual architectural expression of the houses within the tight confines of the design guidelines leads to a orderly, yet beautifully diverse and vivacious image. This is complemented by everlasting play of reflections from the water – as architect Jan Benthem, who built his own house there, explained: Living on the water means that the light comes from below. It was an unexpected delight seeing the water refractions on the walls and ceilings...it's a treat!