Think Globally, Design Locally

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As technology continues to draw the world closer together, architects, designers, and hospitality brands must balance the need to streamline development across multiple projects with environmental sensitivity and awareness of local culture.

In the abstract, this means drawing inspiration from around the globe. In practical terms, designing locally means sourcing building materials—from decorative elements to plumbing fixtures—from reliable suppliers with strong local service networks. Though tastes and customs vary widely around the world, TOTO products have one thing in common: an established, eco-friendly, global network covering everything from production and distribution to sales and service.

How do designers and clients work together to meet contemporary challenges like climate change, water scarcity, and human rights, to name a few? We asked five designers from top global design firms to talk about the ways they’ve met these modern challenges.

Assembling the Best Team

Collin Burry is the Design Director at Gensler, a global architecture, design, and planning company, headquartered in San Francisco. The firm has designed everything from Facebook’s new Menlo Park HQ to the 632-meter-high (2,073-foot) Shanghai Tower in Shanghai, and SFO’s Terminal Two. For Burry, the key to working successfully is assembling the best team possible from the company’s extensive network. “We offer global resources to every client and to every project, but we believe that the best design is informed by local insights that only people authentically connected to a market can inform,” says Burry, who points out that their teams are always led by local talent who apply lessons learned from the best work around the world. For the Shanghai Tower project, Gensler pulled together a dynamic team of experts from their 11 offices around the world, and tapped Shanghai native Jun Xia to take the lead. “Jun’s deep roots to Shanghai have helped us create a highly-innovative building that is a true representation of China’s ascension as a world power,” he says.

Maintaining Cultural Authenticity and Environmental Sensitivity

Maintaining a company’s high standards of design quality and project delivery is the biggest challenge for Sara Schuster, an Associate Principal at STUDIOS, a global practice with six offices around the world including one in Mumbai, which opened in 2012. “Every challenge from licensing and legal requirements, to construction capabilities, to developing local resources with everyone from engineers to associate firms, must be met with long-term investment and commitment to deliver the highest quality”, she says. “There are no quick fixes.” Moreover, as local consultancy skills develop, foreign designers face growing competition from local firms—though collaboration is also increasingly common.

Generally speaking, Schuster sees trends moving towards cultural authenticity and increased sustainability both in the United States and abroad. Take the Jaipur Residential Development in Jaipur, India, for example. The project sits on a prominent site adjacent to Statue Circle, a memorial to the city’s founding, so STUDIOS took inspiration from local landmarks, as well as the principles of Vaastu, the ancient Hindu doctrine that describes how the laws of nature affect human dwellings.

The site was studied as a grid, with specific building functions allocated throughout to achieve a natural balance. STUDIOS began developing a massing scheme with units encircling an internal courtyard that, while efficient, did not provide sufficient ventilation or outdoor space, so the design evolved to include a sloping cascade of individual, stepped terraces. The final massing slopes upward from northeast to southwest, in keeping with Vaastu doctrine, with tiered residences that face Statue Circle. Finally, the continuous vertical penetrations within the stepped East tower massing bring daylight and natural ventilation to the interior of each unit, and a water feature within the courtyard aids in passive cooling of the complex. The end result is housing that is both culturally appropriate and environmentally responsible.

Accommodating Difference

One of the biggest driving forces trends in the whole global-versus-local debate is the millennial generation, whose travel preferences are dramatically different from those of previous generations. The hotel industry, in particular, is focused on adapting to that

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