Award-winning New York architecture and design firm nemaworkshop recently opened a studio in Hong Kong as part of its expansion into the Asian market. Martine Beale finds out more.
For the last 10 years, New York-based studio, nemaworkshop has been creating bold design concepts for the hotel, restaurant, residential, and retail markets.
Comprising a team of architects, designers and thinkers, the studio creates conceptually striking spaces, such as the Madison Avenue espresso bar that resembles a library turned on its side, that have helped it become one of the most recognised names in the hospitality industry.
nemaworkshop was founded by Anurag Nema, and when the studio’s roster of clients and portfolio began to expand outside of New York City and into global markets, Nema began to look for an office abroad.
“Asia, Hong Kong specifically, exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, technology, and art,” says Nema. “We are inspired by the energy in Asia Pacific and are thrilled to bring our expertise to the area.”
The firm’s second location is situated in Wan Chai and demonstrates nemaworkshop’s engagement within the Asian hospitality industry based upon the firm’s work with clients in China and throughout the Asia Pacific region.
The Wan Chai office is headed by hospitality expert Kevin Lien, who has 15 years of experience working in all aspects of the hospitality industry in both Asia and North America.
In his role as principal, leading business development for nemaworkshop in the region, he says, “I am very excited to help bring nemaworkshop’s vision to the Asian hospitality market.”
Prior to joining nemaworkshop, Lien worked as a senior design director at Starwood Hotels & Resorts AP in Shanghai, where he gained extensive experience in Hospitality Design, leading and developing large-scale projects within the Asian market.
Regarding the move to Hong Kong, Lien says, “Since 2013 we have gotten interests for our designs from Asia, specifically China and India. Given the geographic and time zone difference between Asia and New York, we feel it is critical to have a local presence within the region, and the convenience of Hong Kong makes it an obvious choice.
“The city has great energy and a vibrant F&B scene both locally and within the expat community. There’s an experienced talent pool to draw from, and it’s right on the doorstep to China and her factories.
“The key focus for the Hong Kong office is to drive client relationships locally, making for more efficient projects and happy clients.”
The Wan Chai studio on Lockhart Road is a temporary address while nemaworkshop looks for a more permanent space to move into next year.
For now, the studio is the work-base for Lien and one architect from New York. “We wanted to foster exchanges between the two offices, and move people back and forth based on project needs,” Lien says. “We’d like our talents to really experience the local culture and gain better insights for design.”
As well as being known for its bold designs, nemaworkshop is admired for its sensitivity to cultural and social contexts, which come to the fore in its current project, the W Shenyang, due to open in early 2019.
The hotel comprises 280 rooms, including 30 suites, a 24-hour business centre, a spa, a fitness centre, an indoor heated swimming pool, a meeting and events space, and restaurants and bars, and will be located in Shenyang province in Northeast China.
Once ruled by the Qing dynasty, modern Shenyang is a diverse urban centre that combines Manchurian influences with cutting-edge industries and a vibrant cuisine and entertainment culture.
“The W Shenyang is ‘a saturated and elevated’ design and experience which is symbolic of the local culture and psyche,” Lien explains.
“Our inspirations drew from the historical, physical, and social context of Shenyang; the Manchu people, the huge scale of everything from buildings and road signs to the organised street dances, the over-the-top performance and theatrics in Er-ren Zhung plays that the region is famous for, and the scale of heavy steel and coal industries.
“We distilled all this down and mixed and matched these insights into a sort of design alchemy to come up with designs that bring a fresh perspective to the routine and the ordinary.”
nemaworkshop is also currently working on the Harbour School in Hong Kong. “The design is clean, modern, modular and fun. The school is conceived almost like a gallery; we wanted to create a canvas to facilitate student and teachers’ creativity.”