【青建专访】Aedas创始人、主席纪达夫 Keith Griffiths
发布时间： 2022-05-13 浏览（575）
I met Keith Griffiths in November 2017 for the first time, when Aedas organized the "City Icon" exhibition in CAUP, Tongji University. Keith flew from Hong Kong for this exhibition and gave a speech with Aedas Global Design Principal Ken Wai at Bell Hall. Following the event, I have listened to his speeches during various occasions, including the Super Tall Building Industry International Summit, Forbes Forum and TED Talk. I felt his immediate charisma during his many appearance on popular media outlets. He is always energetic, clearheaded, and is malleable in his position when placed in various circumstances. At school, he came across as a genuine mentor who had a clear passion for architecture and for sharing his experiences with students. During industry events, he acted as the chairman and founder of the company, explaining Aedas' ideologies, concepts and introducing each project clearly and effectively.
Aedas is no doubt one of the most successful architectural design firms, ranking as the world's top ten architectural firms for 15 years in a row. Aedas’ designs range from super-large infrastructure and commercial complex to small private villas, all of which exemplify creativity and innovation. Although I have already briefed myself in many of his speeches and have familiarized myself with much of his ideologies, as the founder of such a great firm, I still remain curious, hoping to learn more through the interview.
In your opinion, how has Covid-19 affected our lives? Do you think the world will go back to normal, pre-Covid-19?
I think the virus is a relatively short-lived occurrence. I think it may be about 18 months until we can find a vaccine for the virus. However, this epidemic is changing the way we live in two ways.
First, it will accelerate changes thatare already happening in society, althoughit's not the reason that causes those changes. Ilivedin Hong Kong in 2003when SARS first started to spread. Prior to 2003, Hong Kongwas a very congregational society. SARS has changedHong Kong completely. People got very scared and everyone started to wear masksand keep social distance. Hong Kong people changedfor the better.The venues for mass gatherings wereshut down and people developed new way to socialize. When Covid-19 started, withoutany instructions from the government, Hong Kongpeople wore masksimmediately. It wasn't a change aboutmasks, buta change in societal habits.Hong Kongbecameavery cohesive society, which tended to be quite strong and acted in an effectiveway to benefit the entirecommunity. When Covid-19 came along,the speed at which societyreacted was quite remarkable andthat worked out in both Hong Kong and Chinese mainland.
Secondly, we areexperiencing a move fromphysical social interactionsto onlinemental interactions. Covid-19is accelerating the development of this situation. We have all learnt to communicate online and we have new software to do it very instantly and effortlessly.Online retailhas already become an integral part of our life. If we put those things together, what do they mean for architecture?If peoplearecomfortable to socialize online and don't need to meetas much,obviouslythe shopping mall will face great challenges. An offline shopping mall is a closed architectural space based on entities, and a recreational way that exists through social interaction and consumer shopping.
The Covid-19got rid of that instantly. People started to reflect on the past and realize that social needs will still exist in the future, but not necessarily through shopping space. When the Covid-19 is over and people come out from social isolation, they will demand more public spaces to interact socially, but at comfortable distances. This will affect the spatial form of future cities. People will think about whether the current urban space is what they need and they are desperate for change.
Chinaisleadingthe change. It isleading towards a model of higher density, high-rise cities sustainability. The city will regulate itself in smarter ways. Infrastructures, such as road and railways, will be coordinated to create space for pedestrians and vehicles on the road will be reduced. What we have to realize is that the urban population density in China is more than ten times larger than that of its western counterparts,meaning we need more public space on many more levels to make the city porous. So I think Covid-19 willaccelerate this demand, when developers want to start the commercial development, they will start to think about how to make roofs accessible, moreopen decks, and more outdoor space, and how to have more windgoing through a more natural environment. At the same time, architects will also have to consider social needs and locked them into their designs.
Covid-19 also makes us realize that we don't have to be travelling to an office and working in an office for 8 hoursa day. Of course, we still can't hold without meeting people, so we still have to travel to our office to meet and cooperate. But working from home and shifting travel from peak to off-peak hours will make us experience how we can be more effective at work. We work longer, and will be able to think and create more spontaneously during our most creative time period. This also makes us rethink the necessity of setting up a dedicated work area at home instead of a temporary office space. That’s something we will need to think about when designing apartments in the future.
At the same time, I found a trend was developing rapidly. Office workers prefer to have more breakout spaces and outdoor terrace spaces. This will also cause changes in architectural designs. In the future, the office building will no longer be a single floor plate with a glass wall around it, but more outdoor spaces need to be introduced. Before, the bottom of the city with porosityallowed people to move in public and semi-public spaces on many levels. In the future, high-rise buildings will also form social spaces and achieve porosity. This trend will also promote the development of residential areas, shopping malls, and offices into multi-purpose spaces.Right now, my team and I are working hard together to present flexible, porous, and complex architectures in high-density cities through designs, thereby hopefully realizing the beautiful vision of improving life by architectures.
In the earlier interview with Richard Paul, he mentioned ten design principles of RSHP. Does Aedas have similar design principles?
I worked with Richard Paul many years ago, and we know each other well. Regarding Aedas design principles, I think architectures needs to fulfil three elements. Firstly, architecturesmust satisfy clients. Then, architectures must fulfil the government’s aspiration to build a beautiful city, including meet planningand regulatory requirements. Lastly, and most importantly, architectures must meet the needs of communities. Whether developers sell buildings, or governments change regulations, communities are always there, so ultimately, we need to consider the needs of those people who are going to use the building or who will be impacted. That's mystarting point, and all other design principles are based on this. So we need to use local designers, to confer with local people and dig deep into local cultures, to meet the planning requirements of local governments and combine local conditions with international experiences.
For example, if there is a bio-medical facility project, we will involve our Seattleoffice because they have rich experience in this aspect. However, if we do the design project in Chengdu, we will consider the cultures and lifestyles of local residents, for instance, people there are keen on outdoor spaces, big terraces, and abundant green plants because of the local climate. So we don’t need ten design principles. We just need one. We are designing for our people who are impacted by ourbuildings.
Compared to setting a specific style, Aedasalways works hard to be local and global, and truly embedded ourselves in the cultures we design for. Weneed to drop the idea of creating a stylistic brand, even though labelling yourself is easy for sales and getting more projects, as clients can understand and categorize your brand easily. In Aedas, designers are fully empowered to design. They work on the projects and get solutions by combining their own design style, international visions and their research on the projects and urban cultures.
What do you expect Aedas to develope in the future?
In the future, I hope that Aedas will not only be a design firm, but also a professional consulting agency where we use our expertise in providing professional advice benefitial to the society. For example, I have been serving the Link REIT in Hong Kong as a Non-Executive Director and advises on the architectural design matters.More and more of our design directors are also involved in such roles in various aspects of urban development. We want to be not only a design company, but more like an urban design doctor, a watchera guide, and a caretaker of urban development. At the same time, we will understand the city, help the city and integrate into the city with our design work. These can’t be described just with a few words, but that’s the direction I’d like to see as Aedas moving ahead.
Your website states that Aedasis the world’s only local and global architecture and design practice driven by global sharing of research, local knowledge and international practice.How do you define “world’s only”? Because some other design firms will argue that they are also design firms with local research and global practices combined. What makes Aedas so outstanding or unique?
First of all, it's a collegiate global platform which shares knowledge, experience, software, financial tools, management and legal tools in the company. Most importantly, it's a shared platform of architectural design, knowledge and experience. How does it sharethat? Every project we do has two design directors, one of them, is the design director that runs the team who is going to design the project and the other one must be from a different team, and ideallyfrom a different office, in this way, they can complement each other in design thinking. For example, if I'm designing a project for Shanghai in Hong Kong, I will probably invite one of the Shanghai directors to work with me as a jointdesign director. The Shanghai director can help inform me of Shanghai andbe acquainted with the culture, allowing me to start the project immediately. The Shanghaidirectoris also internationally visionary because he has been working as aco-director, possibly on a project in London or the Middle East or Singapore. Therefore, through this platform, every design director in this company is well informed of local cultures with an international insight.
We have a Global Design Summit for 3or 4times every year, where 20 to 30 designers gather together from different offices to discuss project designs. Usually those people work on their projects at different places, but by designing together, they share their knowledge, understandings and build a good friendship. So we constantly try to find new ways to build new intellectual networks, so that our staff across the world can really embed themselves into our corporate culture, understand the day to day issues of projects and share their knowledge with colleagues in the rest of the world.
There are only about forty featured projects shown on Aedas front webpage, and Aedas evaluates and updates the list every quarter. Is this an incentive mechanism for design creation?
We have around 100 projects on our website, among which 40 are featured projects. I think this create a competitive atmosphere in the company, which isgreat for architects’self-development. For designers, it’s not only about presenting projects on our website, but it also means their teams are recognized and will be recommended to the media, enter the contests and even win prizes. We create this atmosphere, where designers are competitive, while at the same time, they realize they need to interact with each other and draw more inspirations for better designs. Therefore, designers make very frequent exchanges, designers in different offices often discuss with each other through various channels, competing with each other, but also learning from each other, because a good design can’t be created behind closed doors. We also frequently evaluate newly completed projects and present the best selections on our official website.
At the same time, in order to encourage design excellence, we have a very equal and fair sharing mechanism. So our employees are incentified to do well. They can grow and move up as much as they can, without ceiling restrictions, and eventually become a shareholder and even one of the company's owners. Many companies do not offer subscription rights of shares to ordinary employees. In Aedas, when you reach a certain level, you can buy shares and receive dividends. At present, we are having a second-generation management team in the company. We have also proved this business model to be very successful and robust, inspiring employees to create good works, which is similar to a research institute.
Besides sharing knowledge within the company, how does Aedas spread out the design principle to the public and influence and promote the whole construction industry?
While other design directors and I always talk about Aedas designs at different places, we still believe that the best way to influence the industry is to convey innovative ideas and our vision to clients through drawings and finally realising the project. Considering the long project cycle, we must ensure our designs are at least 5-10 years ahead of time when doing them, therefore, it is very important for us to keep the information updated quickly.
Secondly, we recruit fresh graduates from the top architectural universities in China and excellent overseas graduates with an MA degree. These young designers are very talented and can fit in with Aedas team very quickly, who are also empowered to be involved in designing, and can bring their strengths into full play. Their positive experience at Aedas creates a word-of-mouth buzz about the company. We are fully aware of the advent of some powerful networks in China, and great changes are taking place every day. Since most of our works are in China, We are very keen to reaching out on these instant social media platforms so that we could get our message acrossand respond quickly.And this communication approach also affects the communication channels and approaches in other regions. So all the directors in different offices, including myself, are doing more videos, talks and interviews like this. Recently, due to the Covid-19, many exchanges have been conducted through the Internet, including online courses, and we have also gradually adapted to video communication, including drawing in front of the camera.
Aedas has been listed as one of the top ten architectural firms in the world for fifteen consecutive years. Apart from the design, what arrangements does Aedas have for the company's structure and management?
Architects in many companies are struggling with too much work they shouldn’t do, such as financial and legal work, dealing with government departments, and administrative work. We recruit full-time staff to share these tasks and free up our architects' time to the greatest extent, allowing them to focus on communicating with clients, and on architectural designs. As the chairman of a company with around 1,400 staff, I still devote 70% of my time to designing. You can imagine other designers spend more time designing.
The decision-making process in our company is also different. Compared with Hong Kong office with 650 employees, our other offices are smaller, but these local offices can make their own decisions. In terms of projects, they are not subject to the instructions of Hong Kong, and design directors and teams in those local offices can make their decisions based on the actual progress of their projects. Once they are empowered, local designers work together to lead the project.
You do both designs and academic work, including lectures, publication, etc. As the company grows, has your role and time allocation been adjusted? What do you think is the importance of communication?
When I set up the company 35 years ago,there were just two of us. I had been a teacher in a university as well as a designer. I spent about 20%of my time teaching and 70% my time designing. This is still the case. I spent quite a big part of my time teaching, actually more teaching in the company. I am the only design principalwithout a fixed team in the company, because I work with different teams, inspire them, and contribute my design experience and knowledge. In return, I also learn about different urban and community cultures from those teams. I like to communicate, and I enjoy the process of talking and getting feedback, where I can learn so much. Architectural practice is more than simply sitting and drawing, it includes communication with people.
青年建筑：您推荐的 J.G.Ballard 的《Vermilion Sands》这本书中描述的景象，像一面镜子一样印照着现在全球的局面，您推荐的另一本卡尔维诺的《看不见的城市》被很多建筑师所喜爱，我本人读后也非常喜欢，能否与我们分享一下您喜欢这两本书的理由？
The scene described in the bookVermilion Sands, which you’ve recommended in the past, reflects the current global situation. Another bookInvisible Cityby Calvino, is loved by many architects and I quite enjoyed reading it. Can you share with us the reasons why you like these two books?
纪达夫：Vermilion Sands 是在闭环的环境中，关于社会的隐喻。事态如何变得错乱，正是对当今的我们的强烈隐喻，就像现在的全球环境，随着病毒的肆虐，一些国家控制住了，一些国家失控了，和书中景象如出一辙。《看不见的城市》是一本简短但令人惊叹的作品，可以从几个维度解析。首先，全书设定了一套十分工整的矩阵式的框架，将所有 55 个城市包罗其中。同时，它十分怪诞离奇和魔幻。马可波罗向忽必烈汗描述他到过的所有城市，每一个特征明显，像是个寓言故事，而寓言故事又限定在框架之中。它形成 了对建筑的强烈隐喻，虽然并非刻意为之。艺术家会幻想神奇魔幻的事物，而建筑师能通过在严格框架下的建筑物加以实现。有时候约束下产生伟大的艺术。艺术家经常跳出盒子思考，但你需要那个盒子。卡尔维诺通过设置工整的框架，将眼花缭乱的景象加以呈现。两本书完全不同，都不是建筑师所写，也并没有试图解读建筑，它们探讨了完全不同的事物，我都很喜欢。
Vermilion Sandsis a metaphor, depicting a society in a closed-loop environment. How things go wrong is like what we see now in the world today. As the Covid-19 is spreading across the whole world, some countries are under control, while some are not. That is precisely the same as what is described in the book.Invisible Citiesis a short but amazing book which can be interpreted from different perspectives. First of all, the book sets up a very rigid framework and everything of these 55 cities has to be within this matrix framework. Secondly, it's fantastic, fabulous as well as magical. Every city is a magical city because Marco Polo is trying to tell Kublai Khan about all of these cities that he has been to, each of which is distinctive, like a fairy tale. But each is a fairy tale within a rigid construct, and I think that is such a strong metaphor for architecture, even though it is not intended to be. As artists, we dream of fabulous and wonderful things. As an architect, we put those fabulous and wonderful things within the rigid construct of the practicality of buildings. Sometimes great art is cultivated from a restricted environment. Artists must think out of the box, but you also need a box to think out of, and Calvino, by setting up that very restricted framework, goes into the spectacular round.The two books are completely different, neither of them is written by architects, and neither of them attempts to interpret architectures. They discuss completely different things, and I enjoy reading them both.
What would you have done if you had not chosen to be an architect?
First of all, I didn’t choose to be an architect, but this direction was formed naturally and it wouldn’t be any other way around. From an early age, I was always drawn to beautiful architectures and spaces, and I couldn’t help drawing them. When I was around 14 or 15 years old, I was kind of an artist, painting to earn money. Moreover, I was good at expressing the spaces in my mind through two-dimensional drawings. Communicating with others so naturally, more and more people came to ask me to help draw spaces. Therefore, if there is no such thing as an architect, I would have been an artist or a sculptor, because constructing spaces and shapes really appealed to me.
Due to the pandemic, we conducted the interview online, but even across the screen, I was infected by Keith Griffiths' enthusiasm and authenticity. Although he has spoken about the development of the company on numerous occasions, he still remains patient in his explanations throughout the interview as his passion for the industry and the company’s ideologies were very prevalent.
除此之外，我们还谈到他推荐的书籍也被很多其他建筑师们所喜爱，他有一种 "英雄所见略同" 的兴奋；被问到："如果没有成为建筑师，您会做什么？" 的问题时，他大笑了，深思了一阵才给出答案。我们在一个半小时内畅谈了他的职业生涯和建筑行业的方方面面，他以独特的视角将观点娓娓道来，语调真诚而略带兴奋，让我独享了一次思想火花的碰撞，也期待下一次能更近距离地领略他的风采。
Amongst his experience, Keith also spoke on books he recommented, sharing his excitement when hearing the books are coveted by many architects. He reflected if his life would take a turn, with a laugh, had he not become an architect. Keith’s insights were intriguing, his tone – sincere met with great excitement, as we delved into the ins and outs of his career and the fascinating industry, that is: Architecture.
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