More than a year into the global pandemic, RLI checks in with Concept i for an update on work in progress, trends and insights. Concept i, one of Asia’s leading retail and leisure design firms, celebrates 25 years of success in 2021. RLI connects with CEO/Founder Geoff Morrison and some of the firm’s key people for a round table discussion looking at changing trends shaping the world of design.

RLI: What have been the key drivers behind your success to date?
Geoff Morrison – Founder / CEO

25 years ago we would never have imagined where we are today, says Morrison. I say that with a great sense of pride, but also absolute amazement since we are in the midst of our third pandemic lockdown since March 2020. Nothing is predictable. Our personal and working lives are completely disrupted – we are not the same people we were in 2019. We dress, eat, socialise, network, work and play differently. We see this as a positive force to understand and use it to “up our game”.
The companies “i” ethos continues to define and drive the firm, concludes Morrison. “Ideate, Innovate, Impact”, this is our mission. Our talent is our future and we are excited and ready for tomorrow’s world of architecture and design.

RLI: From a global perspective, what design trends do you feel will become more and more prominent in the next few years?
Alec Wong – Managing Director (China)

Over the past decade, we have been part of China’s evolution as a global leader in architecture and design. China projects now comprise extensive teams of specialists, integrated design processes, robust BIM coordination, project and construction management. Today clients such as K11, Fosun Group, China Resources and Vanke Group require continuous innovation in the “art” and science” of buildings, with acute attention to new uses, processes, materiality and detail.
For example, sinuous forms, spectacular media and lighting, and luxury materiality define the brand identity of a leading edge retail/arts centre in Wuhan as seen above.

Elijah Jordan – Associate Director
As architects, we have a massive responsibility to design with a positive impact on our cities and living environments. Augmented and virtual environments will soon be everywhere and the cost of physical space will continue to rise. The architecture will be streamlined and optimised through the use of technology in every aspect of design, construction, operations, and efficiency. In the Phillipines we are designing facades that live and breathe. Buildings of the future will be healthy, human-centric and sustainable. An image above highlights a living, breathing retail podium that provides a lifestyle refuge in Manila, one of the world’s most dense urban centers.

Natalie Chelliah – Senior Interior Architect – Team Leader
Technology is helping our clients be an active part of the design process. Real-time software allows us to experience the space, mood and details, and better weigh up alternatives earlier and faster. Communication and information sharing technologies are now a seamless part of the design and construction process. Face to face meetings are “old style” and digital communications are redefining the way we organise our future work. Collaboration is at our core and is one of the fundamental tasks we need to solve with technology.

Image 2 - On the boards – a living, breathing retail podium provides a lifestyle refuge in Manila, one of the world’s most dense urban centers.
Mix-use / lifestyle mall, Manila
Image 7
Retail entertainment Complex, Saudi Arabia

RLI: What recent or new design or creative strategies are you planning given shifting trends and demands affecting the design industry?
Richard Wood – Director

The pandemic is already re-shaping our projects and client briefs. We see a growing demand for more flexible, changeable, food and entertainment style projects at all scales. A good example is MUNx2 at Seacon Square, Bangkok, named after the Thai slang for something somewhat crazy. The 27,000sq m space features curated events, eye popping arts and street culture. Creative terraces, galleries, live performace space, and co-working studios inspire free-thinking, interaction, play, and self expression. It is truly experimental retailing focused on food, play, social engagement, connecting and exploring and some of the unique events and art installations have gone viral in Thailand.

Kay Han Shi – Graphics and Branding Design – Team Leader
Everything is about branding – brand stories that influence and inspire the way we live. Brand values permeate our physical and cerebral world as a kind of “one roof” concept. The future demands more responsibility towards our planet, our health and wellness. Our work at Level 7 of the new Hong Kong Jockey Club extension expressed the clients brand ethos through healthy eating (two world class restaurants) integrated with healthy play, where four generations can spend valuable family time together. HKJC’s new leisure complex is a branded journey of healthy activities for family enjoyment whilst a state of the art children’s cooking school is a unique part of the program.
RLI: In the firms 25 years of practicing design across international geographies and cultures, what “take away” would you offer young designers of the future?

Francesc Domingo – Senior Architect
Design and architecture are much more than a utilitarian way of thinking – not only form follows function. What drives me is a design that transmits emotions or simply “wows” you. Design and beauty are a fundamental part of our lives – we have the responsibility to provide effective and experiential design solutions with the very best aesthetics for future generations. An example of this is Giants on the Causeway in Newcastle, UK which is a 35,000sq m collection of entertainment, food, sports and performance venues that is set within an “industrial chique” architectural style, inspired from the heritage of the site.

Duke Thavilap – Creative Director
Across such a diversity of countries and cultures, nothing is the same – each project must have a unique driving “vision”. Space will become very precious – malls are undergoing a radical metamorphosis with new indoor/outdoor experiences, expanding/multi-functional public areas, fresh entertainment, food and leisure experiences – our responsibility is to understand our client’s vision and bring cutting edge ideas and solutions to improve people’s lives. Understanding the vision is the key.

Raymond Lopez – Associate Creative Director
The journey element and how it leads to a discovery of something – this is what fascinates me in design. Design is a medium to bring meaningful stories and narratives to life. Nature and real time multi-media technology are seamlessly integrated to take visitors on a compelling journey. My hope is we can strike a balance between preserving our natural environment and the advancement of technology. This is perhaps, the most important narrative of our time.

Image 4 - MUNx2 – Seacon Square, Bangkok. Some of the unique events and art installations have gone viral in Thailand.
Seacon Square, Bangkok. Thailand
back cover
Giants on the Causeway, Newcastle, UK