Their buildings dot the globe, but you probably couldn’t name one, nor would you ever guess they had come from the same practice. They have built a gargantuan conference centre in China that looks like a teetering stack of mirror-clad Jenga blocks, an enormous concert hall in Singapore in the shape of a crumpled beetle, and over 9.3m sq metres (100m sq ft) of shops, offices and hotels in variously sculpted towers across Asia and the Middle East. Now Aedas, one of the largest architecture practices in the world, plans to bring its flashy brand of mixed-use huge projects to London. And there is very little to stand in their way.
Our Chinese clients have their sights set on London, and they know what they wants
the Welsh-born chairman of Aedas, who presides over the 1,400-strong practice from its Hong Kong headquarters. “They are used to high rise, high density, truly mixed-use developments – having everything on one site, so you can live, work and play without ever leaving the building. We think that’s the way London needs to densify.”
Based in Hong Kong since 1983, when he worked on the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank headquarters with Norman Foster, Griffiths has built up an empire of offices across Asia, with bases in 13 cities, from Shanghai and Singapore to New Delhi and Dubai. Last week Aedas announced a demerger from its European offices, where the scale of work was on a “different trajectory” (i.e. too small), but it has already set up a new base in London with the aim of importing its high-octane brand of gigantic Asian projects to Europe.
The company has come to specialise, Griffiths says, in a particular kind of urban development that has grown out of these fast-paced emergent economies. It is a design philosophy that conceives chunks of cities like self-contained ocean liners: clusters of high rise buildings that are “glued together” at their bases on podiums that brim with retail and leisure, usually perched on top of major transport nodes.