Alexander Wong Architects

APAC's 10 Most Innovative Architecture Leaders cover

Your company addresses architecture and interior designing. What unique ways have you adopted to stand out?

First of all, we try not to think of ourselves as mere designers but more like spatial innovators or even inventors of cultural objects and backdrops for human rituals. This way of thinking really helps to ground us with innovation right in the center of things. Most designers are too wrapped up in styles and how others perceive their work. Getting too self-conscious will disallow anyone from being remotely creative in the true sense of the word. One cannot create something new or different just for the sake of doing so.

Alexander Wong Architects interested in finding original aesthetics and exploring the changing boundaries of genres, multiculturalism and diverse understanding of spatial reality but mostly based on the cultures of our clients. And by culture, we mean anything from ethnic, national, industry-based, institutional and corporate to familial or even individual’s sub-cultures. What we design is for our clients and their users. It is of paramount importance that we have a deeper understanding of our job nature which is not merely creating some legacy that we as designers can live with, but also others could live in on a daily basis, which is very much part of a “ritual”. It sounds simple enough but the journey of design is actually very profound. I think we may stand out because a lot of our clients we meet could recognize this energy and our different approach towards design.

Innovation is also a big part of our design intent for most projects. Just to name a few as examples, we completed The Futura, a futuristic show flat, a short while before the pandemic began, really as a gesture to pave way for Future Living with no less than 17 innovations. It was conceived like a precursor for what was to come with almost everything done in white allowing things to be kept as clean looking as possible. We did a big podcast with our UK Social Media collaborator William Wells of Founders Media about Climate Change last year and we are also introducing designs of House Boats in Asia as well as luxury vessels for Ladenstein Motoryachts from Austria with factories in Thailand. Living on water will be a big part of human adaptations for years to come. We believe Climate Change will be the zeitgeist dominating the core direction in spatial design (from urbanism to interiors). Another design approach is to bring us closer to nature like never before. We just completed the WM Hotel, a resort hotel at Hong Kong’s Sai Kung with organic and abstract design inspired by Nature.

How did your company start? What is the story of inception of your company? What was the driving force behind the establishment of your company?

We started way back in 2001. I was working for another design firm as their Business Development Director and somehow, people could really connect with me as a designer, as someone who could realize their dreams beyond their expectations. It was a revelation to me and so after 3 months, I decided to work for myself instead. The driving force is to learn and grow in the process, in this journey, of design from imagination to realization. Again, it is hard to describe in words how you gather the energy to do so many different projects for so many years. One has to experience it to fully understand the nature of the profession and the journey of design.

Tell us about your background and experience in academia?

I left Hong Kong when I was 14 and studied in the UK for my High School. Then I started at the AA (Architectural Association) in London after that and ended up in Princeton University for my Master’s Degree. But my real education never really started until I ventured out on my own and created this firm. In fact, with everything available on YouTube and AI on the horizon, I am not sure if anyone believes in academia so much anymore. It’s really just another status symbol like designer’s luggage with no real proof you could be creative or even productive.

What according to you are the leadership skills that propelled you towards success?

I don’t know how one would define success as it means different things to different people. However, I believe you have to learn something new every single day. Otherwise, you will die creatively inside. And once that starts to happen, you cannot lead, not in design anyway. People have this false assumption that we are merely businessmen chasing after clients and looking after our finances or human resources. I think that is never entirely true and moreover, those days are gone. With the dawn of AI, we could soon become obsolete as a profession before we know it. Another thing is to be able to spot something others cannot, including design talents of course.

One doesn’t have to possess all the necessary technical skills, but to be able to see the creative lights in these younger designers and helping them to shine is part of the job. Nurturing talents is never easy by the way. For example, we are now completing another hotel at the Hong Kong International Airport which is getting a lot of interesting feedback. One special design element is called the Spiral Sky, a unique ceiling designed at the Main Banquet Hall of the hotel which has many design constraints due to the orthogonal partitions for subdividing the venue allowing multiple events to take place simultaneously.

Our design team came up with a revolutionary approach with the ceiling by reacting against this orthogonal or rectilinear principle and the final result is much more dynamic. By applying a multiplicity of spiraling orthogonal rectangles, the final juxtapositions of these frames become remarkably dynamic, like a celebration of dance movements. Another venue, which is the Grill Room at this hotel with the theme “Ice & Fire” is inspired by the Architecture of Gaudi and its unique thematic approach is simply like no other — a real mix of gastronomical aspirations with exotic cultures and the glamour of travel.

What according to you are the current trends related to Architecture and Interior designing?

Artificial Intelligence and its related technology is certainly a big factor determining our future. Climate Change is another which simply cannot be ignored anymore. Everything is changing so fast as well, like in retail, in education, in the workplace, in lifestyle, in leisure, in healthcare, in hospitality, in hygiene, in transport systems, in everything which is moving forward twice as fast. So talking about a few trends is simply self-delusional. I think diversity, adaptability, sustainability (not just environmental but economical and also from the point of view of repair & maintenance as well) multi-disciplinary, changeability, and the list goes on — all these attributes combined will hold the key to our future in designing a space time continuum for our human civilization to go on.

Tell us about your team. How has your team strengthened your company’s vows?

Our team is made up of creative individuals all with their own feathers and colors making music of their own liking. The mix is quite international (including some from India). They are highly talented team players all from different cultures as well as technical backgrounds with extremely diverse skillsets. They create this company or at least indirectly determining the course of development for this company as much as I have, if not more so. Our company is structured but also amorphous as well, allowing its focus, core values, skills and beliefs (or ‘vows’ as you call it) to keep on evolving with time.

How do you feel after achieving this milestone, where you have earned many prestigious Awards in Architecture world?

We don’t actually feel anything special most of the time except maybe once in a blue moon for about 30 seconds or so. We just keep going and frankly, we don’t design for the awards, we design for the experience of this journey of creativity. It is very hard to explain or fully describe to outsiders. Winning any design awards is the last thing on our minds most of the time. Having said that, we do greatly appreciate the awards from any organizers related to any design or media platforms including their jury panels. It is a recognition that our hard work has somehow been validated by our peers over the years, which has also been an integral part in our team building process of course. It gives us more confidence to go forward.

How would you describe your success?

I would say it is the result of nonstop collaborative hard work with all our past or present clients, designers, consultants, contractors, specialists, suppliers, drivers, trainers, accountants, chefs, educators, cleaners, photographers, media experts, publicists, journalists and design competition organizers, just to name a few.

What’s your opinion about Eco-Friendly Design?

I am not entirely sure any professional is actually qualified to answer this big question unless they are expert environmental scientists in a global context. What exactly is eco-friendly as every tree we chop and every plastic bag we dispose of will have some kind of negative or inevitable repercussion on the environment. But how does one justly or accurately quantify any of it? And then, one might ask if this eco-friendliness is even sustainable and for how long? We have to understand that sustainability is actually much harder to achieve than we could imagine. Environmental sustainability does not necessarily equate to economic sustainability either. Eco-friendly doesn’t always mean maintenance-friendly.

The problems are obviously too complex to be answered here with a few lines or paragraphs. Eco-friendly design is a big word as we need to ask ourselves to what extent is the approach in question good for the environment — in a biological or geological sense; on a social or economic level; or down to the molecular or atomic level. If we stop using hydrocarbons and ban the consumption of natural beef completely, we would have solved a big chunk of our current problems causing climate change. While I do agree with this direction in principal, one must not over-simplify our universe in order to accommodate our human endeavors or satisfy some preconceived goals we have. There still seems to be some distance for us before we could reach any kind of sustainable equilibrium.

What are your expansion plans in the coming years?

We have been expanding categorically by diversifying our design services in different genres as well as geographically by working for clients in countries beyond our immediate vicinity. Currently, we design Luxury Homes, Hotels, Retail Spaces, Cinemas, Exhibition Complexes, Future Workplace, Architectural Landmarks and we publish our own books with the latest one called “Archiphantasy”. Recently however, we have ventured into the world of Luxury Yacht design as part of our services. And with the Tonino Lamborghini Hotel in Phuket to be launched in the not so distant future, our works are gradually expanding to other parts of Asia and possibly beyond.

What message would you like to give to the young architects across the globe?

I would say, don’t think of yourselves as mere professionals but visualize yourselves more as inventors, businessmen and innovators for the Future. In that respect, think along the lines of GSCC, an acronym referring to “Growth, Strength, Competition and Cost Benefit Ratio Over Time” in every professional decision you make. Allow me to elaborate:

(1) Before you make any decision with the big picture in mind, ask yourself is the related business sector going to GROW? Or is it at the end of its cycle?

(2) What are your STRENGTHS as an individual or as a company?

(3) What is the COMPETITION in relation to the area of your Strength? One might be great at something but so are your competitors and therefore one mustn’t become overly self-absorbed and simply ignore the world we live in. This world is pretty big and competitive on so many different levels.

(4) From an economic point of view, one has to understand cash flow in order to survive in the real world. A lot of business pursuits will bring us BENEFITS but they all come with a price tag called COST including the investment of our time. So consider the costs before being only enticed by the benefits. Besides, those benefits may take years if not decades before showing up. You must try to examine some of these pros and cons during your goal setting exercise and before signing any contracts.

On another more spiritual level, remember to learn something new every day and open your hearts to the possibilities of the Universe. Savor and profoundly appreciate your experience in design which mirrors this miraculous and mystical journey of ours we call Life.

Year of Founding 2001
Funding Information Fully Self-Funded
Founding Members Alexander Wong
Office Locations Hong Kong and Shenzhen China
Company Strength Innovation and Design Based on Culture for Residential, Hospitality, Retail, Leisure, Exhibition, Work Place, Luxury Yachts and Architectural Landmarks. The Company is interested in finding original aesthetics and exploring the changing boundaries of genres, multiculturalism and diverse understanding of spatial reality.
Website https://www.alexanderwong.com.hk/

Comment here