• 3MIX FORUM
      2020-04-09 10:39
      63

      Never Let a Good Crisis go to Waste
      (Repost from :
      https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/never-let-good-crisis-go-waste-ro-shroff/)


      Societal Changes and their Economic Repercussions

      Whether the above quote is attributable to Sir Winston Churchill or a version of it to Rahm Emanuel, the sentiment resonates even more during these weird times of Pandemics, social distancing, financial destruction, and death.
      If history is of any measure, this too will pass, and everyone will go back to their bad habits (compulsive handwashing may linger a while longer) as the New Normal arrives. But can this once in a lifetime event fundamentally change our DNA and societal habits? Probably not much immediately, but there will be enough residual collateral that will have major repercussions on our social lives as well as the global economic structure. The important thing is that we all learn something from this crisis. It will be a shame if life goes back to its carefree pre-Pandemic indifference and this entire personal and economic devastation has little or no residual effect.

      So, what can we learn, predict and anticipate from this debacle and as Thought Leaders of the Built Environment (Architects, Planners, Interior Designers, and Engineers), what can we do to evolve things for the better?
      Here are some suggestions, reflections, futurist ramblings and prognostications related to Personal and Public Space with each topic followed by a subjective ranking from 1 to 10, 10 being the worst-case scenario or an absolute occurrence.

      The Handshake may be a thing of the past

      Sad! The firm handshake exuding warmth and confidence (Dude, you the man! indicative of raging machismo or Good to Reconnect indicative of Soft Power) may have seen its summit as well as nadir. There will no doubt be a reticence to engage in this societal nicety, as virus transmission fear will linger on for months, possibly years. So better get used to its absence. In the scheme of things, it's probably an insignificant loss, but it will be a shame if the substitute is a Wave of hands, a Namaste or the ridiculous Elbow Bump. Ah well! The price we pay for human connection and communication, but hey, we live in weird times.

      Ranking: 7

      Design and Economic Repercussions of Social Distancing

      Will the 2m / 6’ apart “Social Distance” become a permanent norm or will it all evaporate once the Pandemic becomes a thing of the past? And if it continues and becomes the new normal, what repercussions will it have for Assembly type of venues (concerts, sports events, movie theaters, airplanes)? Will the airline industry have to rejig airplane seating and only sell every other seat (much like Business Class on any European Airline) and will movie theaters need to be redesigned to seat a maximum of 50 people instead of 100? The economic impact of this is going to be incalculable with the result that some venues like new Cineplexes and Sports Arenas will massively shrink in size as the majority of viewers resort to watching blockbusters and sports events in the comfort and safety of their own homes on their 60” QLEDs with personal Sensurround systems. “Go Big or Go Home” has a completely new meaning.

      And another vestige of the previous era, the Shopping Mall, already going through an identity crisis, will redefine itself in new hybrid models infusing workplace and residential uses. Also, the fundamental DNA, size, and shape of such facilities will continue to evolve and morph into smaller venues and footprints. Fewer people go to these facilities today primarily to buy apparel or goods anyway, preferring e-commerce with next day delivery by Amazon or Alibaba. As it is, current and future designs are trending to go less on Fashion venues and more into the Experience-driven mode with mini arenas and climbing walls, basketball courts and fitness centers, showrooms and museums, urban farming and art workshops, expansive restaurants and the ubiquitous (although smaller) Cineplex. “Placemaking” initiatives, transit connectivity and inclusion of residential and hospitality components will continue to be absolute essentials.
      The prognostication here is that, in time, all such facilities will eventually overlap, hybridize and blur into indecipherable nodes of activity and also shrink in size. It does not necessarily sound the death knell of the Urban Marketplace or Mall or Social Gathering Forums, just more targeted, compact, flexible and visceral urban environments, with a variety of uses but also with more surveillance and crowd control. All this also posits major conundrums for Developers and Designers if Social Distancing norms continue for a while. Economic repercussions of such change are potentially going to be enormous but also hard to predict. Assuredly smart minds will figure out ways of changing the dynamics and providing alternative avenues of profitability.

      Ranking: 5

      The Workplace will change radically

      There will definitively be a paradigm shift in the planning and design of the office space as we know it. The Pandemic forced everyone from New York to Shanghai, and Mumbai to Sydney to work and communicate remotely, share virtual celebratory events and maintain the obligatory distancing. This extreme isolation may have a reversal of sorts in the short term where everyone is starved of social connectivity (as the human being is ultimately a social animal) and the pent-up demand may see a short resurgence of life as we knew it. But the longer-term proposition may portend other priorities. This could manifest by the contraction of required physical environments and smaller real-estate investments for many organizations as may be up to 30% of the workforce may work remotely, from home, the neighborhood Starbucks or Timbuktu at any given time. And within the typical space, endless lines of “benching” or Dilbert style workstations will become an artifact of the industrial age. Assigned space will constitute maybe only half the total amount of available desks, the remainder being “hot desks” in industry jargon. This phenomenon itself is not yet universally accepted as a panacea either and there have been several vocal detractors within the industry, citing issues of belonging, visual and acoustic privacy. Also, new models of the Co-working and Collaborative Workplace (the WeWork debacle notwithstanding) will become more economically viable to corporations that are reticent to invest major funds in the constantly evolving arenas of work habits and physical spaces.

      The bottom line is that the traditional Office Space as we know it will change considerably, with new models of future office buildings morphing into smaller configurations with clusters of reduced sized floor plates connected by common vertical cores and interspersed by sky decks and gardens promoting a biophilic approach to design. The current universally accepted models of hermetically sealed 2,000 sm / 20,000 SF floor plates with central cores may become an antique notion while smarter climate-sensitive façade systems, better indoor air quality, sophisticated and ultra-fast connectivity aided by 5G and No-Touch and Disease Prevention strategies will become de rigueur in the design process.

      Ranking: 6

      Drones will rule

      Six years ago, when Jeff Bezos touted Drone technologies for delivery on a 60 Minutes episode, it was regarded as an experiment in science-fiction. But with the exponential growth in the delivery business, during and post-pandemic, and the shortage of drivers and warehouse personnel, it is inevitable that drone technologies will fill in the void not only for deliveries but for logistics and automation, not to dismiss peripheral uses like aerial photography, fighting terrorism and wars. Much of it is already in existence today and the volume of such technology will get more visceral, universal and hopefully safer and cheaper.

      Ranking: 7

      Conclusions

      A word of caution and maybe even comfort. All this is not going to happen overnight. Built Environment industry Futurists and Thought Leaders expect the change to be relatively gradual, yet inevitable. It takes almost five years from initiating an idea, validating it, designing it, evolving new technologies and the plodding construction process itself. The process will be measured, but the paradigm shift is an absolute given.
      There is always the danger of over-reaction and mandatory edicts. Being social animals, the need to congregate, fly to exotic destinations for pleasure or business, and enjoy a movie or ball game together is not suddenly going to go away or vanish. There will be incremental changes over time and possibly well-deserved, albeit for different reasons. But it’s doubtful if there will be a sea change in attitude or business in the near future.
      All of this will also have huge economic repercussions and the Real Estate sectors globally will have to do a lot of strategic soul-searching in terms of returns and competitive pricing, which may go up even as the amount of space consumed is less.
      Prognostications, in a way, are easy to fabricate and have shock value (the new book After Shock, 50 years after Future Shock, is a must-read). No one saw the Coronavirus coming and it has been the proverbial Canary in the Coalmine, accelerating change and completely redefining aspects of life. Notwithstanding such Black Swans (metaphors that describe an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact, with the benefit of hindsight), life as we know it will go on as human beings are fundamentally resilient and malleable.
      Change though is always Inevitable. The question, whether we embrace it and benefit by it remains to be seen.
      Ranking: 10


      (NOTE: The opinions expressed here are solely author's own)

       #3MIX Forum#
    • 3MIX FORUM
      2019-10-28 18:38
      59
      3MIX @ CTBUH 2019

       #3MIX Forum#
    • 3MIX FORUM
      2019-08-05 16:22
      60

      SIAM- I- AM (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)
      Ro Shroff

      Let’s cut to the chase. ICONSIAM, the 750,000sm, $1.7 billion Retail and Luxury Residential development on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok that opened nine months ago, is by far, the best Retail and Leisure destination in the world today. Nothing in Vegas, Singapore or Dubai comes close to it. Keeping superlatives aside, this project exudes luxury, elegance, style, and history in a highly sophisticated way. More on that a little later.

      Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Bangkok for a couple of days when it was still relatively less humid. As designers of commercial projects of all ilk, we are always looking for newer developments all over the world and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. While the quintessential two-story American version of the Shopping Center is essentially dead, the vertical Mall, or as euphemistically often referred to as Retail and Leisure Destinations in architectural jargon, is alive and kicking in Asia (and maybe even New York), where eight to ten story structures chock-full of fashion, fun and food are the norm. Get used to this idea, as there is more of this typology in the works all over Asia. ICONSIAM reinforces this model by seamlessly assimilating luxury brands, mid-market fashion, Thailand’s first Apple Store, a Takashimaya, a plethora of restaurants, cafes and bistros (over a 100 total), a 3,000 seat Auditorium and Exhibit Hall, a 14 screen state of the art Cineplex, a three-level grand Fitness Center and Spa, with Sook Siam, a Floating Market reinterpreted for an indoor environment as well as a Heritage Museum with permanent and temporary exhibits into an holistic eight-level structure cascading towards the riverfront and flanked by two luxury residential towers, The Magnolia Waterfront Residences (315m) and The Residences at Mandarin Oriental (270m). And a lushly landscaped River Park with landings for boats and the water taxi completes the waterfront setting.

      Accessibility is still problematic but serendipitously mostly by water taxi for now, till the Skytrain station is completed next year. There is something for everyone here, for the nouveau riche Indian, Chinese and Saudi women spending mega bucks at the LVs, Pradas, and Fendis, to the millennials foraging the grand Zaras and H and M's, to the tech-savvy Apple faithful, to those with culinary aspirations, and the starry-eyed tourists and locals meandering through the cheesy but elegantly designed "Floating Market / Souk" offering street food and Thai delicacies, handicrafts, accessories, and dance performances …… a grand destination for every market segment without anyone intimidating the other.

      Arrival is best by the water taxi, after sunset, as the exquisitely lit vertical glassy façade takes your breath away, exuding transparency and signature identities of the luxury brands. There is the ubiquitous Bellagio and Dubai Lake type synchronized fountain show welcoming and entertaining the visitors or those departing the center

      Architecturally we have all seen better stuff, but the project does respond to its waterfront setting gracefully, cascading down to the third level deck outside the Foster-designed Apple Store with trees as partitions. The piece de resistance is the 24m high 300m long saw-toothed glass façade, an impressive engineering feat affording complete transparency, with panels fabricated in Germany and brought to the site on river barges. The signature icon at the summit of the glass facade seems to be a metaphoric Thai welcome gesture “Sawadee ka” presumably gilded in gold leaf. The architectural design is credited to Bangkok based Urban Architects Co. Ltd but regrettably, their website is of not much help and the project is not even mentioned. The Interior Design is credited to Benoy as the lead firm coordinating other specialized disciplines but it’s unclear whether the firm was involved till the end. But whoever designed the interiors, there seems to be a cohesive approach of careful detail, aggressive use of muted colors and textures including gold leaf, burnished stainless steel and fritted glass and the conception of several voluminous spaces. The sixth level food zone, Alangkarn, is appointed by 24 restaurants opening to Tassana Nakhon, the riverfront dining terrace. A vertical garden and a 20m high columnar waterfall compete favorably with the just-opened The Jewel at Singapore's Changi Airport. And a key aspect of the design is the phenomenal lighting design, both for the exuberant exterior and sparkling but non-intrusive interiors.

      The Residential Towers are imposing in height but mostly non-descript architecturally and targeted for the uber-rich, with two-bedroom apartments selling for $2.5 million.

      So why does just another Shopping Mall deserve a second look? This expose is not meant to be a gushing endorsement of a commercial and vanity project, but a clinical look at how such a setting and development can serve multiple agendas (cultural identity, profitability, and design nuance) simultaneously. The entire Retail industry is going through an urgent metamorphosis, countering the buying habits of millennials via e-commerce by making these destinations more visceral and experiential and less fashion-oriented. Whether it's ski-slopes, aquariums, waterparks, sports halls and mini stadiums with E-Sports, climbing walls and ice rinks, exhibit halls, exotic car showrooms, and mini-zoos, multiple food venues and marketplaces and megaplexes with 4D and 5G, “Experience” is IN.

      Given ICONSIAM’s enormous price tag and dubious contribution to urbanity, a critical review is mandated from multiple viewpoints, whether those entail economic returns, exacerbation of the city’s notorious traffic, issues of public accessibility to the city’s waterfront, and the tremendous amount of energy consumed to keep everyone cool. On the plus side, it is also a product with a high level of taste and elegance providing much-needed waterfront open spaces, contributing to the city’s global identity and responding to sustainability initiatives by increased density.

      There will certainly be detractors, if not from the architectural profession, then those from geopolitical and social pursuits, questioning the inordinate expenditure for a vanity project in a militarist government of an emerging economy already filled to the brim with retail centers. Whatever the viewpoints, it is a project worth a visit, whether as a casual tourist stop or as a review of a development that tells a convincing story and portends the future of these typologies.

      (NOTE: The opinions expressed here are solely author's own

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    • 3MIX FORUM
      2019-05-30 11:01
      59
      摩 • 坛
      3MIX TODAY @ TWELVE
      ...a debrief of the highlights at CTBUH2019 Shenzhen...

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    • 3MIX FORUM
      2019-05-23 11:35
      66
      Prognostications 2020

      Ro Shroff

      With the current impasse and fiery rhetoric in trade negotiations between China and the US, there is a lot of speculation regarding negative repercussions, slowdowns and hardships in both countries. The political intransigence on either side seems to be a product of personalities, national pride and one-upmanship. What follows is an encapsulation of several internal and industry forum discussions on how Politics and Economics affect businesses that deal with the immense China market in particular and others peripherally and what strategies can be adopted for survival or growth.  These are unscientific prognostications based on industry research, published articles, editorials and intuitive analyses based on the school of hard knocks. They are certainly not meant to be definitive but intended to give a general guideline of what’s in store for doing business in China broadly and in other disparate parts of the world tangentially.

      As everyone knows, Political stability and Economic growth are inextricably intertwined. Booming economies like the US are generally the result of stable political structures, notwithstanding the antics and petulance of the tweeter-in-chief. Both the US and China are relatively stable political structures and hence their economic expansions. The US today is a $22 trillion economy while China is a $14 trillion economy and catching up quickly. The interesting anomaly is that the US has a total (government, corporate and personal) debt of about the same amount as its GDP while China has a total debt of about 250% of its GDP ($34 trillion). So, what gives? The Chinese economy is controlled by the government as opposed to market forces and is based on the notion of continual growth and this has allowed it to maintain 6.5% growth for years despite frequent global slowdowns. This is manifested both by government backed institutions as well as the unregulated “shadow” banking system. In the longer term, it is also an ageing country, relatively prosperous at least for the urban population and within ten years China will become like Japan, saddled with insurmountable debt but also too satiated and unable to compete with hungrier economies.

      As a design practice straddling both countries (3MIX, an Architecture and Design firm is based in Shanghai and Seattle), we are continually vigilant about the state of both economies and how that may affect our growth or contraction. Happily, despite all the mud-slinging and dire predictions, there has been little perceivable difference within the property development industry in China. On the contrary, we have seen a noticeable expansion and urgency in mega-projects, urban redevelopment and infrastructure and new projects seem to be pouring in with greater frequency. There is always the possibility of things going south and a global contraction, banks getting skittish, lending restricted and projects put on hold. But historically, at least in China, these have been three-month long slowdowns, followed by massive quantitative easing, less restrictive loans, government encouragement to reboot massive infrastructure and urban projects, more domestic consumption, crackdown on corruption and foreign investments and everyone essentially going back to their bad habits.  

      Our prognostication is that the Trade disagreements will succumb to the eventual checks and balances, some compromises, face saving opportunities and warmer relations once the rhetoric is tuned down and some key agreements specifically about intellectual property “theft” are resolved. With 2020 elections in the US fast approaching, a long drawn out trade war won’t bode well for the current US leadership and China can simultaneously ill afford depleting exports, higher tariffs and rising debts exacerbated by its massive investments in the Belt and Road initiatives. Meanwhile it will prevent any clamp down on the still frothing property market in which substantial fortunes have been invested by a large percentage of the population and risk any form of dissent and social upheaval. So, both economies and leaderships will define a new playing field, resolving some thorny issues, getting back to a normal but mutually suspicious relationship.

      While China continues to grow and invest in massive urban redevelopment, taller buildings and new cities growing out of nowhere (notwithstanding the well-publicized “ghost” cities) the US economy on the other hand is expected to slow down after more than a decade of continual growth. However, West Coast cities like Seattle and San Francisco seem to defy those predictions and continue to grow exponentially, especially due to the continual expansion of the tech industry and the FANGS. Residential properties continue to teeter on the edge of affordability (one- bedroom apartments in Seattle renting for $2,500 a month) and the shortage of construction workers continues to inflate building costs upwards of $350 / sf. New York and Chicago also seem to be healthy and the $14 billion developments like Hudson Yards in NY come close to the routine mega projects in Asia. One thing however is certain that overseas money, especially Chinese investments in the US property market has trickled down substantially since its heydays in 2015 and the EB-5 program ($500,000 investment for Green Cards) has all but evaporated. The general prognosis is that the real-estate market in the US will peak soon and a period of stabilization will be imminent, although the complete dissolution of the economy in 2008 is not predicted due to stringent checks and balances in the economic sector in place.

      Meanwhile other economies, especially India and the Middle East are confronting their own issues and inner demons. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, traditionally hotbeds of iconic and ego-driven projects, are mired in internal political turmoil, relationships with Iran and Qatar, and a growing population of expats from South Asia. The Dubai market has been in doldrums for at least a year with the property market losing 30% of its value. Several iconic and “announced” projects like Caracalla's  Tower at Dubai Creek have been in a state of stagnation for over a year and the 1,000m Jeddah Tower seems stuck at 250m. The Dubai 2020 Expo may infuse some much-needed energy into the stalemate and the six-month long celebrations may thankfully turn the tide.

      India on the other hand is gearing up for the results of the next elections and predictably a weaker BJP government. At a 7.2% growth rate, the country has been an anomaly on the global arena. A raucous democracy, India is an infrastructure deficit, environmentally polluted and racially divided country that continues to surprise pundits and nay-sayers about its consistent growth and a stable economic and banking system. Although miniscule by China’s standards (a GDP of $2.5 trillion), it is a vastly undeserved market for its 1.2 billion people. Mumbai continues to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live but is currently saddled with a huge inventory of luxury residential properties that are routinely priced above $2 million. A new government or coalition may give a much-needed boost to the Real Estate industry and there are already signs of a rejuvenated retail and leisure-based segment along with commercial office buildings. But the country continues to be mired by corruption and bureaucracy, (although becoming more transparent and digital lately) and projects tend to move at snail’s pace, immensely frustrating global consultants and technology providers.

      So, the upshot in all this is to stay vigilant, nimble and aggressive, all at the same time, if design firms and advisers are to thrive in these disparate markets. But taken as a whole, contrary to economic predictions, the going generally looks good, albeit a little bumpy, whether selling Tesla or design acumen and global sensibilities.


      (NOTE: The opinions expressed here are soly author's own

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    • 3MIX FORUM
      2019-04-25 11:34
      59
      摩 • 坛
      3MIX Today @ Twelve 
      CHANGSHA VANKE GOLD DREAM
      …project open forum with the design team...

       #3MIX Forum#
    • 3MIX FORUM
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      56
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    • 3MIX FORUM
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    • 3MIX FORUM
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    • 3MIX FORUM
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      58
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    • 3MIX FORUM
      2019-01-29 16:34
      61
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      3MIX Today @ Four

      Introduction & Experience Sharing on Revit


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    • 3MIX FORUM
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      52

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      …project sharing with the interior design team...

       

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    • 3MIX FORUM
      2018-12-19 15:44
      55

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      WUSHANG DREAM PLAZA
      …project sharing with the design team...

       

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    • 3MIX FORUM
      2018-11-12 15:42
      52

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      3MIX TUESDAY @ TWELVE

      ...an extensive debrief of the highlights at this year's Tall Buildings Conference in Dubai...


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    • 3MIX FORUM
      2018-10-18 14:29
      54

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      with Carrie and Alex
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      …beyond work and design...

       

       #3MIX Forum#