ALT-254 is a young Hong Kong-based architecture office that sets its ambition in not only creating spectacular designs but also realising built works that meet the expectations of clients. Sylvia Chan writes.
Top image: James Stewart (left) and Vincent McIlduff (right)
Founded in 2014 and led by architect Vincent McIlduff and project manager James Stewart, the six-member office of ALT-254 currently has five projects in four countries under construction, and explores different design management models that ensure the delivery of on time and on budget projects.
ALT-254 offers design and project management services to clients looking for either or both services. For each project, the office creates a unique and flexible project team tailored to the needs of the client. “What we are trying to create is a flexible design environment that is easily adaptable to the shifting needs of the client and the project, and so far this style is a lot of fun,” says McIlduff.
Effective communication with clients is essential to ensure that the clients’ expectations are understood and met. “When talking to clients we try to present the process [of design and construction] very clearly and simply,” says McIlduff. “We also keep the client informed as much as possible during the design and construction phases. This allows the end result, despite any necessary changes, to be exactly what the client expected.”
The Hong Kong-based office recently completed a store for REAL in Belfast, which sells high-end fashion and accessories. ALT-254 was responsible for the design and had created an in-house project management team that oversaw the construction of the project in detail. The office did the branding, interior design, and display design of the project; it also managed the project and handled all statutory submissions from Hong Kong. “The process was more time consuming than our retail projects in Hong Kong as we meticulously followed up on the [Belfast] project from here. However it did help that we were seven hours ahead, and we could have all the comments and emails sent to Belfast every day before they had even woken up!” McIlduff says.
The 160-metre-square elongated space of the REAL store presented challenges for the display of products. “We worked very closely with the client and developed a simple and refined interior that allowed the signature ALT-designed display units to act as focal points framing the clothes, gifts, and homeware,” says McIlduff. The unified grid shelving units of the store draw customers into the rear of the space, while the simple materials of oak, polished steel, and glass offer a simple palette that highlights the store’s products.
ALT-254 currently has two houses under construction in Niseko, Japan and in Lombok, Indonesia. In these two projects, local project managers have been appointed to help with the local coordination and translation. McIlduff says his team works closely with the local builders and consultants to gather information that feeds back to ALT-254 for refinement of the project management process.
For the project in Niseko, ALT-254 was challenged to develop a unique and iconic modular housing prototype that can be replicated and adapted for different scales. The first prototype is due for completion in December. Featuring an asymmetrical roofline for snow shedding and clad in zinc, the 360-metre-square wooden frame house with a concrete ground floor will create a recognisable silhouette on site. The design was inspired by local construction techniques and complied with local regulations, which speeded up the construction permit application process.
Construction of the Lombok House in Indonesia has commenced with ground works and construction to begin in November. The project is due for completion in April next year. The villa can easily be split into two separate units or joined together as a whole to provide greater flexibility for renting. The combined house will have three double bedrooms, a child’s bedroom, and a living area with a flexible plan that can be completely opened up to allow natural light and ventilation into the space.
McIlduff believes that working globally is now easier than ever and the architecture office aims to deliver quality projects locally and globally. “In 10 years’ time we would like to create offices abroad and even have an ALT construction firm, enabling us to truly deliver projects from start to finish.”
ALT-254 focuses mainly on residential and retail projects at the moment, but the office is also branching out into restaurant design and hospitality. “We have a large project in Hong Kong Gold Coast. It is purely project management [work] but we are very eager to acquire large-scale design projects as well. We believe that our operational method would be even more beneficial for larger projects, as the importance of communication increases with scale,” McIlduff adds. “We want to stay away from the impression that architects dream up unfeasible ideas, cost clients lots of money, and change their minds constantly!”
An ALT-254 designed and managed store for EVISU in Hong Kong will open in mid-September. A gym in Kennedy Town for Utime Fitness is also under construction.