Born and raised in the Far East, over the last 24 years Concept i has specialised in retail and leisure design, east to west across geographic and cultural boundaries. Here, RLI sits down with Founder/CEO Geoff Morrison to discuss how the company made its name, how it is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and how it plans to move forward.
A company with a global portfolio, awards on an international scale and inter-cultural work, Concept i employees span over 10 nationalities practising six design creative professions, the more unique a project presented to them is, the more they thrive. Since its launch in 1996, their track record of completed projects and their strong presence in the industry continues to foster client trust and sector awareness. With clients that demand out of the box thinking, rigorous design and construction processes along with strong commercial success, this is what continues to drive the international design firm forward.
“This year started at full throttle and then quickly transitioned into this unforeseen period of COVID-19. In December we won a prestigious retail design project in Wuhan, China,” explains Geoff Morrison, Founder/CEO of Concept i. It’s continued progress shows the very strong sense of resolve and determination in our industry. As the impact spread, we refocussed our 2020 priorities to firstly; ensure the highest level of service possible during the lockdown, secondly; continuously monitor any possible financial impact, and thirdly and perhaps most importantly; embrace a positive work ethic of “helpfulness” – to assist our clients as much as possible.”
Like many firms, the business has responded by developing its remote working and team communication capabilities. The Shanghai studio first experienced the impact of this virus in January and February, whilst the lockdown in China directly affected the company’s people, its office and its client organisations with little time to prepare. This experience allowed the company to better prepare its Bangkok head office plan as the virus spread.
“At the time of writing, our China studio is re-open with clients and projects running well, and our Bangkok studio are working from home. The virus has incentivised more efficient communication, less wastage on time, energy and commuting, local and international travel. Our teams’ check in, say good morning, get to work earlier and perhaps work even longer hours,” explains Morrison.
A “people first” business, Concept i has and will continue to stay ahead of its global competitors because, as Morrison puts it, they listen harder, respond faster and go the extra mile beyond their client’s expectations. They share in their client’s unique needs and challenges and these extra efforts really help to build and nurture trust and long-term partnerships for future work.
When asked about what the company’s most important investment has been in the last year, Morrison explains that they have expanded their Shanghai Studio, brought in and filled several key leisure-related design and management positions, and invested in training, leadership coaching, professional development as well as updating their parametric design capabilities. “Last year we joined the Ryder Alliance, a global consortium of over 450 like-minded professionals, spread across eight partner firms, in 21 cities and seven continents. This gives our clients access to major resources including anything from parametric façade engineering, to BIM technology, and specialist architectural services.”
Concept i’s current portfolio spans the UK, Cairo, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Bangladesh, Bahrain and more. Some of its key projects include Citystars in Cairo, a 250,000sq m retail makeover which is currently at the tender stage and it is a project that will transform Egypt’s magnificent myths into architecture of starry galaxies, papyrus riverscapes and solar ships. Newcastle’s Whey Aye Wheel, the tallest observation wheel in Europe has recently received planning permission and the company are the lead designers, working with the UK Ryder Architecture towards its implementation. Hanglung Group’s Spring City 66, Kunming opened last August and is a spectacular mixed-use development with slick, luxury retail interiors by Concept i. They continue to progress New World’s K11 Mall, Ningbo and Fosun Group’s Chengdu Financial District Mall interiors towards construction.
Outside of retail and leisure-related projects; they are designing the Bangkok Transit System’s new prototype “Smart Station” which is the result of an invited competition last year. The project positions the Sky Train network in line with global trends for user convenience, mobility and O2O connectivity. They are also planning and designing an 80,000sq m International Expo/Conference Centre in Dhaka, and a five-star, 600 unit eco-resort in Cox’s Bazar.
“Retail design is in the midst of unprecedented disruption. The impact of online shopping has changed retail forever. Client briefs are now more extensive, demanding more research, analysis, exploration and rationalisation. Designers are tasked to “future proof” projects where the future is unknown and future trends will continue to evolve from the “internet of things”, where work, eating, socialisation, shopping and playing all become one,” explains Morrison. “As Asia’s first retail & entertainment design studio, Concept i are true to our origins. We thrive where retail and entertainment collide. Our design professionals explore fresh, cutting edge, innovative ideas and solutions with our clients. As a one-stop-shop for architecture, interiors, graphics and landscape, we strive to ensure our work is relevant for people today and in the future,” Morrison concludes.