This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.More info

The Power of Design with Benoy's Trevor Vivian


The Mag’s “Power of…” series is a series of interviews that highlight our interviewee’s status as an industry leader. We speak to them about their experience, insight and the “power” of their initiatives in relation to everyday life. In April, we speak to Benoy’s Global Director, Trevor Vivian, about the power of design.

Great design is about people.

I wanted to make a better place for people.
This was what drove me to switch from draftsmanship to architecture over 40 years ago, when I was in university in New Zealand. Since then, my career has taken me around the world, from Australia to the UK, where I first joined Benoy; then to the Middle East, Shanghai and now Hong Kong, from where I lead the company’s APAC operations.

Out of all the cities, I especially enjoyed Shanghai’s Puxi for its human scale. Walking around the neighbourhood was always pleasant: there were many local stores and restaurants, the streets were lined with trees and the buildings had just five floors. It’s very different from Pudong with its aluminium and glass skyscrapers. The best design, in my view, engages at the human scale and evokes an emotional response in the community. So I think a mix of scales and textures is the way of the future…

“The primary purpose of design is to bring people together.”
… because it’s about building spaces that people like to use and like to be in. As an architect, I always imagine plans as light and dark – which spaces are going to be bright, narrow or grand – as well as how people are going to use these spaces. Rather than building monuments to our design ability, we want to be known for creating spaces that people identify with and come back to.

So, we design buildings that speak to the locales, by sourcing materials locally and emphasising local elements to make them relevant to the area. For Sanya’s new retail and entertainment development at Haitang Bay, which just opened this year, we took inspiration from the tropical island setting – it’s open-air, shaded and breezy, with the roof canopies replicating the shapes of the indigenous pearls and seashells. It’s a place visitors can relate to.
We call it creative commerciality – the idea that a design can be both aesthetically inspiring and economically viable. For example, we approach retail design by looking at the customer journey when designing shopping centres, such as Hysan Place and the Elements Mall in Hong Kong – and also all other types of developments. Airports, for instance, have a whole range of users, from passengers to airline employees, to delivery and logistic personnel. For the expansion of Heathrow Airport, we started by asking, “How can we add value to these user journeys and make them more appealing?” It is the user journey that creates a meaningful connection between people and place.

I also see architecture as the backdrop to people’s interactions.
We used to be people who gathered to see and be seen in squares and other public spaces, and for a time we’ve gone away from that in an attempt to accommodate more people or a commercial perspective, or to create all those impressive statement landmarks. But now we’re coming back to the community as we become aware of the importance of social wellbeing. Our role as designers is to provide people with gathering points and spaces to live and work.
In this sense, Taikoo Place has done remarkably well with its public spaces to encourage interaction. I’m particularly impressed by ArtisTree, and you know where to find our staff members when the Tong Chong Street Market is around – it’s a great location that allows people to relax, have a meal and come back to work.

While the primary purpose of architectural design is to bring people together, the built environment also needs to adapt to their changing needs. This is why it’s so important to design in flexibility. Take our scheme for Alibaba’s new campus in Nanjing, for example. One of the ideas has been to incorporate automated vehicles that deliver goods to places and people, in response to modern changes and the transition towards smart cities.
At the end of the day, people choose whether they want to keep or get rid of a building. But if we design with purpose and offer seamless, meaningful user experiences that create a bond between people and place, perhaps our creations are more likely to stand the test of time? Only time, of course, will tell.

Designing with sustainability in mind is more important than ever today – find out why responsibility matters with Pret A Manger Hong Kong’s Perry Kwok.

Do you work at Taikoo Place and want to be featured in The Power Series? Get in touch.

App Image