click above interview to see China CCTV’s special design intro on Roger
click above interview to see China CCTV’s special design intro on Roger
总而言之，不可否认的是，上海会成为深圳在国际设计领域的模范，而且会比我们想象中发展得快，为了让中国设计师在国际市场竞争中成功，我们要很重视培训和教育系统，完善管理和把质量标准提升到国际竞争者的水平，这样我们才可以在世界最多人口的国家诞生新的设计明星，现在就只有Philippe Starkes, Zaha Hadids, Marc Newson, Ron Arads, Kareem Rashids等等这些外国明星，希望将来在在座的各位中会出现与他们齐名的大师。
Q: In terms of clients, how do you make a balance between clients’ taste and your design concept? A: I believe the clients come to me and my design studio due to my ability and competence. When they disagree with my concept, being a good designer, I usually tell them the reason why we do this and why we don’t, and the implication of this. After they realize you have all supportive reasons behind the design, they will respect you. After all, you are more professional than they are. A designer, who does whatever he is told to, runs counter to the real art. Q: how do you refuse the clients? You think of yourself a ‘bad tempered’ man. A: Well, I have bad temper indeed, but I know how to respect my client. ‘Persuasion’ is always my first choice. Actually I persuade my students in the studio as well. They are happy to work with me because they don’t only obtain knowledge but have fun. Q: Students? Haven’t you finished teaching career? A: It’s far away. One of main reasons that I came to China is to see whether I can teach Chinese even international students with my knowledge and skills. Currently, there are many young designers and fresh design graduates. I will focus on educating them both theory and practice, which is totally different from Chinese education. I lead them to do the projects and research; therefore each one can learn some knowledge, like latest material, architecture technology, etc., and then they can share these knowledge in a weekly presentation. An individual can never learn all in any industry by themselves, but by sharing, our studio has accumulated lots of valuable knowledge, so you can even say see this is a new university. Q: What’s the difference between Chinese students and international students? A: Chinese students are very good; they are passionate about learning and have talent. However their thinking is a bit ‘rigid’, and they are not used to challenging the tradition and text books. Therefore what I’m going to do is teach them to get used to asking ‘why not’ by practice. Q: We know you have got a home in Chengdu which is a quite different from Shenzhen, so why did you come to Shenzhen? A: Business is the main reason to lead me to Shenzhen, besides; there is a good atmosphere of design here. Shenzhen impresses me by modern, clean and simple and efficient urban plan. Unfortunately, there is little old architecture, which is a shame to the local residents more or less. Q: Is the old architecture so important? A: Yes, it is. It’s the invaluable cultural legacy to human beings. Without it, it is very hard for our offspring to understand and experience their ancestors. In London, you can see many ancient buildings maintained very well, which reflect the cultural details of London and remind people of old times. It’s sad and disappointing to see many old buildings vanish overnight while China is growing. Q: Finally let’s talk about Mao Bar. A: Mao Bar is a theme bar which was run by my wife and me. I like Chinese culture, Mr. Mao and Chinese ancient philosophy. I made the bar on my own to show a concept of combination of dining and fashion. To me, Mr. Mao is a symbolized fashion element. Any product influenced by it gives a special feeling.
There’s an old saying in university education in the west that goes…..if the students are not better than you when they leave ,you have failed to engage them….and so progress, or increase the body of knowledge. These days this certainly depends more on the attitude of the students than the competence of the teacher, but the adage is still true in many ways. This is the philosophy I employ in SW design, and it’s one that addresses the issues raised in the 3 questions asked , stars or teams, backstage heroes, avoidance of brain drain. These are all comments that suggest a certain lack of resolution to the management or running of the business and this is not surprising as the design business in china is still quite young. I have also noted that the standard of training in university lacks a certain future proofing, like, this is the way we do it because this is the way we have always done it and, before you can do this, you must prove you can do that. In the west the approach is significantly different but suffers a certain similarity of result although for different reasons. To address all the above circumstances and questions, I have introduced an internship system, amongst other things, for both Chinese and international graduates and through the integration of these two groups have found a balance that avoids many of the pitfalls of either. As each individual progresses through the company they become confident to make decisions that are based on good research, thorough knowledge of materials, a growing understanding of the history of design and architecture, (something our Chinese graduates know very little of when they arrive here), and an ability to work with the client, not for them, to achieve a design solution that extends expectation and therefore satisfaction. Question one, everybody has had to ‘suffer’ the indignity of having their work represented by their supervisor, this is actually an important part of the business. What client wants to know that their project was undertaken by a young gun with only a year or two’s experience, equally what supervisor has the time or focus to complete all the projects that come into a busy office without substantial support from juniors. This is the way juniors become intermediates and then seniors and then supervisors and so on. I suggest that there is a certain inevitability to the first question through the process of business development, of course there are always those who claim others work as their own and that’s a different question, I suggest you don’t work in those offices if you don’t accept this situation. Question two is one of certain commercial sensitivity as I have taken thirty years to develop the management, administrative and academic structures I am attempting to implement and apply to this Chinese context. However, the question can be discussed through general objectives rather than specific details. I believe the business of design has two levels of approach. One is the’ we do all things for all people’ because we want to be the biggest, or the richest, or whatever, the other is, we want to be the best. To develop a style and approach to design which actually changes people’s lives for the better and acknowledges the real need to understand the place of design in business, not just an addition at the back end of the project. Additionally, and rather obviously, we need to promote a respect for the environmental and sustainable issues often talked about but rarely adopted in such a fast paced society as china today. It is through constant reiteration of these principles and the advantages that they bring that I avoid, I hope, the brain drain effects of simply pushing through the projects as if they don’t have any real purpose or creative, innovative value. I believe most, if not all, of my designers understand that they are experiencing rigorous and professional questioning of the decisions they are making on the projects they work on and that through this the design processes are understood and systematically employed by them. As they progress through seniority, they begin to ask similar questions of the junior designers and so again the process continues. I run design history and materials presentations which are researched by design staff, we conduct analysis of projects and we invite comments from clients and staff on the understanding that all suggestions will be considered, but not necessarily adopted. This gives designers the confidence to be challenged and to challenge, both necessary attitudes for successful design solutions. Self value and high morale is evident with the knowledge that they are in the most progressive design company in Shenzhen, if not china, they inherit a natural self confidence, and as this develops so does my company, so it’s a win/win situation for client/designer/company/the planet. Question three is a natural follow on from the above, there are no world stars in Chinese design. There are no phillipe starckes, ron arads, Philip johnsons, marc newsomes, zaha hadids, ross lovegroves, yet. I think question 3 suitably illustrates my first points, that design in china is still very new. It has not had time or opportunity to address the issues that promote real stardom, if that’s the appropriate word for a socially responsible leader, as top designers are. The policies and practices I am introducing are likely to lead to truly world class thinkers and practitioners of and about design. My strategies at SW are not just about developing a successful business but are geared to the future of Chinese manufacturing and the Chinese economy. When, as is the case, there become cheaper places for the world of manufacturing and designers send their production to viet nam or wherever, china will need innovative, creative and thinking designers to fill the gap and so become the first truly top chinese designers on a world stage where stardom comes as a result of talent and responsibility not just wealth or reputation. My business is geared to engage designers in a process that recognises all these issues and the place of team work to promote quality, people centered designs for our clients. Within this office, the issue of stardom or teamwork as options does not exist, we have both……… Roger B.
Q: How to vest modern function with the old style architecture? What’s the biggest difficulty? How to integrate both modern and classic? A: Essentially this is a matter of education. To achieve this, we need to appreciate our tradition and protect it. Old architecture was the fruit of our ancient architects, and it self had its own function which we need to learn. For instance, I used to renovate an ancient village in Oxford shire in UK. I didn’t mean to touch anything, but tried to reinforce the house and add in modern facilities before the old building could be re-used by the villagers. The village kept its soul but was endowed with modern values by me. Being designers, we need to appreciate the value of old buildings and architecture, instead of negating it. This is all about education. We have to educate ourselves before teaching other people. Only when people would use it with pleasure, will the value of architecture be realized. Q: Currently there is a phenomenon in China that many historic architectures and vernacular buildings vanish gradually while heaps of modern buildings arise. Conversely, in Europe, traditional buildings are protected very well. How do they do this? What can China learn from this? A: it’s true. Most of old European buildings used to be the royal’s habitats which were great designs with strong functions. I was in charge of a design for a fast food chain store in UK. The owner purchased many old buildings and asked me to renovate them with modern elements. Fast food is unpopular with English people and many of them would not like to choose a fast food store for a meal. Unexpectedly, the English people accept fast food because they enjoy dining in a place with original english culture. This is ethos edification. Actually, there are many amazing ancient buildings in China. As long as our designers renovate them with heart, we can see the creativity on those buildings. Unlike invention, creativity is defined as the discernment of and adaptation to future development with technical knowledge. We must find out the future of ancient architecture. Q: Foshan is a historic city in China which is rich in vernacular culture. Do you think about some projects here? Foshan is the biggest production base of building material in China, and how do you value the material here? A: I have heard of the city with its rich culture and I would like to take the opportunity to visit some architectures. SW is preparing for 3 to 4 projects here so we are keen to show my design and I hope my design concepts can be appreciated. Meanwhile, as a designer, I really appreciate the material here. In my opinion, this place is not only rich in building material, but rich in culture and designers. I think China is like a ship which is ready for the journey. The world is watching China and waits for it to march.
Q: As a designer, pick up a word to describe yourself. A: People see you differently from you do yourself. If only one word is allowed to describe myself, I would say ‘uncompromising’. Everyone has its own principle. Once it’s determined, don’t compromise it to surroundings so easily. Of course, uncompromising doesn’t mean go your own way. Sometimes when other people propose a better solution, you need to accept it. It’s important to leave your heart open. Q: You have been to many places of the world. Which city would you most likely stay? A: I have to think about it. Shanghai is good, Barcelona is not bad, New York is ok and of course Shenzhen is good too. If I have to choose within China, Shanghai is my favorite city. Shanghai is a complicated city with multi-cultural atmosphere, diversified architecture, well preserved historic culture. Internationalization gives it life. Local people are friendly and can speak English more or less, which is convenient to me. Q: What’s your impression of Shenzhen? A: Shenzhen is very clean. It’s rare to see such a clean city in China. Shenzhen has done a good job in landscaping, so you can see trees and blossoms everywhere. It’s a comfortable place to live. I have been living in here for 6 months and I had a good time. Q: Pick up 3 words to describe your design style A: First of all, integration. Each design starts with the project’s feature to make it integrate with its environment, client, and material, then each part becomes integral part of the whole. Secondly, simple but sophisticated. Finally is challenging. Each job is a new challenge from which we learn and advance. Q: What’s your most satisfied work so far? A: To me, there is no such a most satisfied work because I dedicate to each single project with my heart. I should say there has always been no best design, but a better design. Q: Do you have any idol? Does any idol influence your creation? A: The older you get, the less idol you will have, because you realize every one has its limitation. Jimi Hendirix is a great guitar player who I used to admire as young and I still do. In design industry, Norman Foster is irreplaceable to me and so is Renzo Piano, although there are few idols to me in design area. Norman Foster dedicated his life to practicing an attitude to architecture. His work has been sustainable, practical and human related. Some massive buildings are environmentally and human friendly. For instance, HK airport, before start, you have to understand and respect people. Essentially design is to facilitate people not just to look good. Q: Which do you prefer, spatial or product design? If you didn’t choose design, what else career would you take? A: There is no difference to me because there is something in common between interior design and product design, common approach, attitude and philosophy. To be a designer, you have to have your own design philosophy and put them into design practice. Therefore it doesn’t matter to differentiate areas in design. I haven’t thought about other careers yet because I have been interested in design since young. My mother was a fashion designer, so since I had memory, I have been living in a visual world and all I have been doing is related to vision. If I didn’t do design, I would become an artist. Q: In Shenzhen, in a job of your interior designs—zhonghang, you created styles of ‘escape from urban, easy living and New York modern’. How did you come up with these inspirations, especially ‘escape’? A: Show room design is to maximize the needs of potential customers, so before we started we did a lot of research, and finally we focused on 3 typical target groups: a young couple, a couple with adult children, and a family with 3 generations, each having their own character. Interior design is far more than putting followers on the table, but requires designers have clear conception before start. Every people living in the contemporary metropolises are facing the pressure of survival, so home should play a role of port where people can rest. This is where ‘escape from the urban’ came from. Temporary escape is not equal to seclusion because the contemporary youth need elegance and fashion as well. This is the core of this theme.