In Conversation with Chris Razzell

ASPECT insights
In Conversation with Chris Razzell

ASPECT Studios is celebrating its 10 year anniversary in China. Starting with the bid for the Guangzhou West Tower – that ASPECT worked on till completion in 2010 – to currently designing major placemaking projects like Shanghai Dream Centre and Shanghai Library. We’re proud to reflect on the past 10 years and excited to look forward to the next 10 years and beyond.

ASPECT's founder Chris Razzell gives us a candid reflection on his expereince in starting ASPECT Studios' entry into China.

Thinking back 10 years ago, what drew you to China?

Ambition to deliver contemporary practice. We had a focus on place, authenticity, specificity to site. We wanted to change the way people from overseas designed for China. That was from outside superimposed. We wanted to refocus inwards to draw from the power, beauty and grace of thousands of years of society and even longer in nature. This was underpinned by wild ideas on sustainability and the protection and future conservation of nature. Today this is now not such a wild idea and has become a reality in our time....in our 10 years in China, the difference and the new focus on the environment has changed.  Incredible inroads have been achieved. And lastly the scale of work attracted us. Huge and challenging. Fast and bewildering. But I guess everyone knows that and that’s one of the exciting things about China.

What was challenging in the early days?

You mean “what did we do wrong?” People often ask me that. We did everything wrong...but we learnt from our mistakes. We learnt to love the people, their customs and the country. That makes a difference to how you do business. And for me; I learnt that I needed to adapt. I needed to ground myself in China. In order to make ASPECT successful I needed to become completely immerse myself there. For eight years I divided my time between Australia and China.

What excites you about China?

 Everything! It’s vibrancy, its tenacity, it’s a “can do country” embracing positive fast change, achieving things most would not think possible a few years ago, let alone 10 years ago. It’s friendliness, it’s willingness to accept new ideas, new people and new adventures. It’s landscape, vast, stunning and magnificent

What are you most proud of?

Our people who helped make ASPECT Studios a reality in China. Our clients who supported us, believed in us and with whom we became long term trusted partners. Our work, projects like Four Seasons at Guangzhou West Tower, Vanke Xijiou Plaza, Qipan Shan State Convention Centre, COHL Foshan UniMall, CRLand MixC Shantou, and Shanghai Dream Centre - these are all projects based around people and local culture. They celebrate life and society and some conserve and protect habitat.

How does the industry in China differ to what you’d experience in Australia?

You’re kidding!? Everything is different and on every level.