B+H Architects has taken its innovative approach to architectural development and used it to establish a new way of thinking
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Tom Cullum
As a direct result of its bold ideas and action over the years, B+H Architects has built a legacy to stand above all other companies in the industry.
With a reputation for collaborative work, going back to the firm’s beginnings executing design for ‘starchitects’ - celebrity architects - in its early days, the Company was able to establish a firm footing while still relatively new to the market and has evolved into one of the most prominent companies in the business.
“Today we are recognised both for our role as design architects, as well as our ability to carefully execute fully-realised concepts,” begins Karen Cvornyek, President and Regional Managing Principal, Asia of B+H Architects. “When it comes to continuously creating inspiring designs, we fully appreciate the importance of collaborative thinking and value teamwork with a continuous dialogue from our clients to our contractors along the way.”
As a multi-sector firm working in studios around the world, B+H has a recognisable advantage in its highly evolved and competitive global business environment. Thanks to its work in multiple sectors, the Company can bring insights gathered from their global practice to inform the new dynamic and inclusive cities we are beginning to see.
“We respond to the needs of our clients with a holistic approach, fusing local acumen with a global attitude that allows us to uncover innovative and inspiring designs,” explains Cvornyek on the Company’s working philosophy in every locality. “That results in inevitable challenges of operating a global design firm with offices in regions that differ greatly in terms of cultural, social, and economic nuances. Cvornyek however believes in the strength of talent diversity to overcome delivery challenges.
“We cultivate diversity to hire, train, and retain the type of people that will help us live our brand and contribute to our goals to transform spaces, communities, and economies through a new model of consulting.”
Legacy of creative solutions around the globe
Now with more than 60 years of experience in global markets, B+H delivers creative solutions across a broad spectrum of services, which include architecture, interior design, master planning, landscape architecture and Advance Strategy services.
“We work from studios in Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dubai, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle, with more than 350 team members that are committed to responding to the needs of our clients,” continues Cvornyek. “Each employee is empowered to think strategically, design boldly, and leverage advanced technology to deliver the best solutions for our clients. Our multigenerational team buzzes with creative human energy.”
Winning a design competition for the Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport marks B+H’s first foray into Asia. After opening doors in Shanghai in 1992, B+H established itself as one of the first foreign architectural firms in China. The following 25 years saw B+H’s presence in China continue to grow and in turn fuelled its expansion into Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong
Covrnyek adds: “A quarter of a century’s experience in Asia has fully equipped us with perhaps one of the most comprehensive understandings of local culture, aesthetics and construction methods, enabling us to maintain the momentum that allows our Company to build upon our success.”
However, B+H is not resting on its laurels with Cvronyek maintaining: “To continue progression as a firm, both within our organisation and in collaboration with our clients, we continue to seek ways to disrupt ourselves and challenge our assumptions to inspire and inform the ways in which we approach designing for the future,”
Multi-sector work: iconic developments
B+H’s success over the years has embraced a wide range of sectors, comprising work in commercial, corporate, retail, healthcare, hospitality, institutional and educational, residential, industrial, sports and recreation, mixed-use, and transportation.
When B+H began work in China more than 25 years ago, it encountered a nation that was poised for grand developments.
Cvornyek affirms: “Leveraging B+H’s innovative spirit at a time of unprecedented economic growth, we have been privileged to participate in China’s transformation into a leading global economy. We have been working on a multitude of groundbreaking developments that have epitomised the aspirations of different generations over the decades.”
The Shanghai Hong Kong New World Tower was perhaps one of the earliest iconic developments in the history of China’s biggest city and global financial hub; located along an upscale commercial street, Huaihai Road, the building overlooks the central People’s Square and witnesses the rapid transformation of Shanghai’s growth.
“The tower is 58 storeys high and holds a prominent position in the city’s urban skyline, and at the time was one of the first buildings in the region to be built with North American design principles,” Cvornyek describes. “The building was especially unique in its design - bringing parking into the podium of the building - through its contemporary, yet classic aesthetic that is standing the test of time.”
Fast forward to recent years, at the northernmost region surrounding China’s border with Mongolia lays another ambitious yet iconic development the Company has designed - the New Ordos Airport at Inner Mongolia.
Cvornyek explains: “Our design intent aims to convey a sense of the local culture and encompassing landscape, appealing to a traveler’s sense of wonder and adventure.”
Inspired by a Mongolian yurt, the airport’s most compelling interior feature is a sun-filled check-in hall that is covered by a grand dome. This space is used to highlight art reflecting the culture of Inner Mongolia with murals depicting the history of the area. Responding to its environment, the building’s unassuming nature harmonises with its surroundings while sinuous rooflines mirror the natural landscape.
“The continuous form of the building structure can be seen from miles away on the low-density terrain of the city; combining well-considered transportation planning elements with sustainable design principles, the airport appears as a prominent and culturally iconic development but remains surprisingly unobtrusive to the surrounding,” Cvornyek continues. “Sophistication in design is unmistakably more welcomed by today’s generation – Iconic does not always equate to being pretentious.”
Elsewhere outside China, the Company has seen a remarkable undertaking of hospitality projects in Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia and the Maldives. One high-profile project in progress is the DoubleTree by Hilton Ha Long Bay Hotel & Condotel located in Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam. The impressive two-tower development, nestled on an existing hill fronting the renowned UNESCO heritage site Ha Long Bay, comprises hotel and residential suites complete with retail space, a casino, conference amenities, and complementary landscape design. Thoughtful incorporation of terracing and banding throughout the landscape design interprets the local contours of the terra and is reminiscent of local rice paddy fields.
Cvornyek describes: “With the hotel tucked into the natural landform, our architecture, planning and landscape teams envision it as a hospitality icon with a strong sense of place. The adjacent serviced apartment tower rises 100m perpendicular to the bay, and its memorable profile curves along the ocean boulevard, inspired by the sail shape of the traditional Vietnamese junks. The entire development reflects the natural beauty of the surrounding land and foothills in the pristine Ha Long Bay.”
In another instance, The Shells Resort & Spa Phu Quoc, located on the largest of the Vietnamese islands, appears highly memorable amongst guests for its use of natural materials, such as wood, bamboo, and stone, for the structure and finishes of the chalets and bungalows. With an integrated programme of 100 chalets on terraces clustered around pools and gardens, and 40 overwater bungalows made accessible by platform built out of the shore rocks and beach, it received the widely acclaimed “Loved by Guest Award” by Hotel.com in 2016.
Patient-centric, sustainable approach to collaborative healthcare design
Perhaps one of the Company’s most impressive feats is its work on the Singapore Changi General Hospital Integrated Building & Medical Centre within the Simei Road healthcare precinct. The collaboration between B+H and RDC on this project has been ongoing since Phase I - the Integrated Building at gross floor area of 39,800 square metres - built in 2014, and Phase II – the Medical Centre Building at gross floor area of 46,000 square metres - set for completion in 2018.
“Alongside its clear connections to the overall campus, the Integrated Building was designed to work in harmony with the surrounding urban landscape while providing flexibility to accommodate future developments,” adds Covrnyek. “We were able to completely re-imagine the campus as a community hub for wellness and healing through an environment that encourages patients’ smooth transition back to their home and community.”
The Integrated Building’s design perfectly demonstrates a patient-centric, flexible and sustainable approach, achieved through close collaboration with the client and community. A Rehabilitation Centre, Geriatric Centre and Integrated Services Hub are amongst a host of outpatient programs, services and facilities within the building, as well as a tower for inpatient wards with access to daylight and healing gardens, while overlooking the surrounding green buffer.
Interchangeable spaces support patients with different needs at different stages of care, building adaptability into systems to allow for future expansion and changes.
“We needed to accommodate the mandate that 80 percent of wards would be naturally ventilated, strategically orienting the building to capture the prevailing winds which played a large role in the final design,” Covrnyek explains. “After completion in 2014, the Integrated Building has been certified Green Mark Platinum, Universal Design Mark Gold, Building Information Modelling (BIM) Gold, and more recently, the Construction Excellence Award 2017 (Institutional Buildings Category) - all awarded by the Building & Construction Authority, Singapore.”
The new nine-storey Medical Centre, currently under construction, will feature more than 130 consultation rooms and other areas including endocrinology and gastroenterology, all of which are dedicated to meeting complex specialist outpatient needs. Targeting Singapore BCA Green Mark Platinum design standards, it is on schedule to complete by end of 2018.
Covrnyek continues: “The latest plans for this facility echo a broader movement by the local healthcare establishments, aiming to achieve one-stop centres with a higher level of patient care.”
The Company is also eager to continue its work in transformative design through projects in the healthcare industry, responding to the needs of an ever-changing healthcare system and the impact of an ageing population. The thoughtfully designed Gleneagles Medini Hospital in Malaysia perfectly represents the emergence of new key principles in healthcare design.
“We believe that access to nature can significantly contribute to the wellbeing of patients, while also promoting healing,” explains Cvornyek. “Our teams worked collaboratively with the hospital, ensuring that our approach would include natural light, artful public spaces, natural and tactile materials throughout, and windows in patient rooms with views that connect them to the outdoors while also allowing privacy.”
Culture of collaborative ideation: best idea wins
Currently on the boards, B+H is undertaking currently is collaborating on the prominent TMX Centre in Toronto, Ontario Canada; tasked with the consolidation of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) and the TMX Group.
“Our design team has worked very closely with the client to create this new office space, advancing the culture of transparency, collaboration and innovation that the organisation strives to achieve,” states Cvornyek. “The existing workplace has remained relatively unchanged for more than a decade; therefore our client was ready to consider a reimagining of the workplace to encourage a fresh perspective.”
Through the close collaboration and discussion between the design and TMX teams, B+H has been able to define workplace typologies to suit both needs and expectations. This has entailed robust programming, planning and a preliminary design effort which has created a new workplace vision that has been embraced at the executive level.
On the other side of the world, the Company is currently working on the Shanghai International Cruise Terminal Linjiang Business Centre. This site is made up of a 243,800 square metre land area which is located at Wu Song Kou - the estuary of the Huangpu River - and will be a major mixed-use development for use of commercial, financial and commercial sectors.
“In a slightly different project, we are part of a team working on the Canadian International School expansion in Cambodia,” adds Cvornyek. “Designed specifically for 1,200 students, the school is an expansion of the existing primary school building and includes shared facilities, including a library, auditorium and sports complex.”
Empowered teams to inspire the future
Over the course of its many years of experience in the industry and now more than ever, B+H believes that inspired design will always come from inspired people.
“Our talent pool is vast, with a diverse group of multi-generational, multi-cultural experts that bridge various disciplines while offering unique points of view,” continues Cvornyek. “We have created a workplace culture that encourages open dialogue, creativity and collaboration.
“It has always been our aim for every voice to be heard and for all ideas to be celebrated, and therefore we ensure our Company is providing the opportunities for growth and enhancement in order to cultivate this talent.”
In providing its workforce with the technology, training, mentoring and support needed, the Company is able to aid them in achieving their goals. In recent times there has been a noticeable shift in B+H’s thinking and approach to addressing the challenges its clients face, recognising that in the present time of rapid change, the past is no longer predictive of the future.
“As part of our assessment of these changes, we have taken the time to clearly establish some goals for the Company over the next three- five years,” concludes Cvornyek. “We aim to continue to transform spaces, communities and economies through an entirely new model of consulting, which we will achieve through combining strategic thinking, bold design and advanced technology.
“We hope to ensure that our talent pool is empowered and able to apply design thinking to complex challenges, helping our clients identify the best opportunities and confidently invest in flexible solutions in times of rapid change.”