SPARK 2020 09/12: Why does the China market respond well to SPARK’s design?

A good life should be full of expectation, surprise and gratitude.  —- Plato

Contemporary design in China is at an intriguing stage. The country has traditionally been known for, at one extreme, its refined historic architecture and the other shape driven mega projects. Now contemporary design and architecture focused on place and people is becoming more prevalent. China’s culture is rich with influences and referenced in many different ways in SPARK’s work.

Throughout SPARK’s 20 years of working across Asia and 15 years in China, the market has responded well to SPARK’s work, perhaps the reasons could be explained as follows:

1. SPARK is good at fusing international contemporary style with Chinese local culture

We care about the spirit of the place and carefully consider how to design a building, that not only displays contemporary characteristics, but also tells a story of the local history and culture. By combining the heritage of the site with a notion of future inspiration, a creative SPARK can be created.

SPARK’s urban regeneration projects display these characteristics, an example is our recently completed master plan for the historic Guangzhou International Shipyard. The design features elements like “the future dock” and the “culture ships” combined with a riverfront heritage park evokes the memory of industrial heritage. The futuristic image of project layered with a sense of history affords a new and meaningful contemporary character for the development.

SPARK’s Guangzhou shipyard master plan: aerial view

SPARK’s Guangzhou shipyard master plan: culture ships

SPARK’s Guangzhou shipyard master plan: riverfront heritage landscape

2. SPARK is good at “cross-border” thinking that brings a unique creative element to projects

We are a culturally diverse studio and enjoy the spark of our “cross border” conversations. We make a point of immersing our staff in culture in all its forms from art, music, and film to science and technology ensuring our projects are redolent of our cultural diversity and our SPARK style.

SPARK’s Starhill Gallery is perhaps the most well-known “high end” retail mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. SPARK’s design transformed the image and street presence of the existing building into an internationally recognisable icon. The façade renovation was inspired by the tailoring of opera costumes of the French designer Christian Lacroix,that display a great sense of theatricality and sculptural form.

SPARK’s Starhill Gallary: sculptural facade

French designer Christian Lacroix

SPARK’s Starhill Gallary: sketch by Stephen Pimbley

SPARK’s Fai Fah Prachautis is an interior regeneration project. A yellow circulation path runs vertically through the building, creating a sense of a colour and drama, inspired by the yellow brick road from the 1930s movie The Wizard of Oz.

SPARK’s Fai Fah: workshop

SPARK’s Fai Fah: axonometric diagram

SPARK’s Fai Fah: staircase

SPARK’s Fai Fah: art studio

3. SPARK embraces new technology and when combined with our 20 years of local market and technical experience we can deliver appropriate design solutions

We consistently search for new design and construction technology and materials, and apply the research to each project , part of the process in helping our clients meet their ambition.

An appropriate example is SPARK’s transformation of Singapore’s Clarke Quay. The old river frontage and shophouse lined streets were ingeniously reimagined into a pleasant activated al fresco street. Elegant street covering canopies provide environmentally friendly shading and cooling. The lightweight canopies are covered using the self-cleaning ETFE foil (Ethyl Tetra Fluro Ethylene), the first application of the material in SE Asia.

SPARK’s Clarke Quay: ETFE canopy

SPARK’s Clarke Quay: ETFE canopy and fan

Our research covering passive cooling in classical architecture such as the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain proved that we could manipulate air flow to cool Clarke Quay’s spaces naturally. We employed the technique at Clarke Quay to accelerate air flow through the streets “venturi effect” to naturally cool the environment.

SPARK’s Clarke Quay: diagram

4. We are good at creating exciting and pleasant experiences

We believe architecture needs to engage with the environment to create interesting and pleasant environments for people. We like to reinvent rules and traditions, creating new frameworks to build engaging atmospheres and pleasant socially sustainable experiences.

SPARK’s Shanghai International Cruise Terminal is a headquarters office development located north of the historical ‘Bund’ centre of Shanghai. The focal point of the development is a structure named the “Shanghai Chandelier” a glass-clad portal. The Chandelier provides the development with a focal point unique identity afforded by the Chandelier’s futuristic suspended structures.

SPARK’s Shanghai International Cruise Terminal: night view

SPARK’s Shanghai International Cruise Terminal: Shanghai Chandelier

SPARK has recently transformed an old Singaporean mall into a youth focused retail and education destination named GR.iD. The fun graphics and bespoke interior installations provide a new social experience for the young generation, including unique social washroom, event and gathering spaces.

SPARK’s GR.iD: social washroom

SPARK’s GR.iD: event space

SPARK reshapes people’s everyday experience by delivering special moments, designing something magical, something that’s not ordinary, something that brings a spark of joy and fun into people’s lives.

SPARK partner Min Wei. September 2020