Aedas is one of the world’s leading architectural and design practices and enjoys a strong presence in Asia’s retail and commercial sector, particularly in China. Here, RLI sits down with Christine Lam, Global Design Principal of Aedas and Design Director for Novotown to discuss the current trends in the retail industry and how the Novotown project in Zhuhai is coming along.

The world-renowned firm Aedas is home to 1,200 creative minds in design studios all around the globe. Sought out for design solutions for today’s much challenged retail world, Aedas concluded that retail malls must graduate from being “machines for selling” and function more as sophisticated cultural and social centres for the future communities.

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“Last year was definitely a challenging year because of the pandemic and the lockdown and quarantine measures it brought,” explains Christine Lam, Global Design Principal and Design Director for the Novotown project. “It has had a huge impact on physical retail; however we have seen a boom in the e-commerce market in the last six months, particularly in China.” Lam goes on to explain that what Covid-19 has done is present an opportunity to take a breath and for the company to rethink what they could and should do for shopping malls and retail and what they can provide for people. “I think a new definition for shopping is needed as today shopping includes social interaction, whether that is meeting family members, having a group of friends gather, or even going out on a date, it is a part of our culture.” While the new shopping experience leans more heavily towards the digital side, a general consensus remains that it will always miss an element of what makes physical, in-person shopping so unique. Modern ‘shopping’ is evolving and Christine explains that these areas need to become 24/7 spaces and include other activations aside from the traditional store.
This inclusion of flexible activation spaces and modern shopping trends is just one of the reasons the Novotown scheme in Zhuhai, China stands out from the crowd.

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Situated where the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea intersect, Hengqin Island is positioned in a natural landscape of tropical forests, green hills, natural springs and blue coastlines. Roughly three times the size of Macau, the island is the largest among the 146 islands of Zhuhai and is designated as the Hengqin New Area Special Economic District.
Set in the Cultural District of Hengqin Island, the brief given to Aedas for Phase 2 of the Novotown project by its client Lai Fung Holdings Limited called for a unique world-class mixed-use project comprising of diverse components including retail, office, sports and cultural facilities such as the exclusive and innovative themed pavilions of Real Madrid World, an automobile experience centre and a Novotown Clubhouse.
“The vision was to create the cultural and commercial Heart of Hengqin. The solution was to design a master plan with a disposition that facilitates synergy between the different functions to encourage a hybrid experience,” explains Lam, Design Director for the Novotown scheme.
Implementing a unique design, the work done by Aedas allows for seamless interaction and transition from activity to activity, whether this is indoor/outdoor activities, eating/shopping or recreational/social. All the various needs of consumers are met within one flexible, multi-use space.
The two standout facilities of Phase 2 are Real Madrid World and the automobile experience centre, the former is set to become a state-of-the-art leisure & entertainment hub within a football experience centre setting. The design of this centre is inspired by bio-dynamics and aerodynamics and the form and the curved motif of the building is designed to reflect the movement and trajectory of striking a football.

Meanwhile, the automobile experience centre will be home to motor sport-themed experiences and the design of the structure is based on the motorsport racer’s perception of kinetic energy. Within the centre, the main entrance is situated on the second level and allows direct access to the elevated walkway that links to adjacent pavilions, offices, dormitories, retail and hotel in the existing and future phases.
Within Phase 2 there will also be the Novotown Clubhouse, the third anchor in this ground-breaking development. Taking its shape from that of a resting butterfly, the upcoming clubhouse is designed to serve both local long-term residential members as well as catering for short-term visitors.
“Novotown’s diverse offering is a catalyst to activate Hengqin Cultural District, catering to international and domestic visitors while creating the necessary infrastructure for a thriving local community, becoming the commercial and cultural Heart of Hengqin.”
Moving forward, the company believes all the different offerings that will be available at the Novotown scheme will ensure people’s engagement around the clock as they try to design and create with the future in mind.
“What we are designing and drawing right now are developments that will be built in a few years’ time. This was the idea behind Novotown, to design it with the future in mind for today’s consumer. We will continue to explore new trends and consider designs for tomorrow and that is what we will continue to ask of ourselves each and every day,” Lam concludes.