Despite a slowdown in Mainland China, one Hong Kong firm named Lead 8 has expanded considerably over the past year. The firm is barely 2 years old. We spoke with Co Founder, Executive Director & former Montreal architect, Claude Touikan, about the firm’s quick rise and their waterfront proposal for the Pearl of the Orient.
By Yuha Scarselli…
Integrated design is a driving factor for growth and progression for resourceful development. At its best, architecture as a design realm seeks collaborative sustenance with all aspects of its wider society. Be it architectural design, urban design, interior design, even branding, all forms of multi-disciplinary design can be fused with social responsibility attitudes, by designers across the world.
Lead 8 is one such design studio that fuses a social conscience with design thinking across a broad spectrum of architecture, interiors, branding and graphics. Specializing in the “design of large-scale mixed use projects,” Lead 8 was co-founded by Claude Touikan in 2014, in Hong Kong. As one of the eight Directors, Touikan explains Lead as signifying Living, Environments, Architecture and Design, and the 8 symbolizes the eight founders who formed the company. Eighteen months since its launch, Lead 8 now has a team of over 100, operating out of Hong Kong, with studios in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. In Touikan’s own words, “what unites the eight founders is a desire to create a company that is led and owned by leaders with a passion for design; with longevity and fairness enshrined in the (company’s) ethos.” Delving into the subject of an integrated work style, Touikan throws light on the company’s work culture; one that is factored around the “direct relationship between performance and rewards; where better years deliver higher yields for all, and in times of challenge, the challenges are felt and shared by all.” This is a key attribute of Lead 8, which applies also as a business cushion against the market trends, such as the current effects of the China stock market. Speaking of stocks, this is something that many firms have to fight with when it comes time to go public. People will want to buy standard life shares, or other shares, as an investment, and when that market fluctuates so too does the wellbeing of the company. Whether this is on NASDAQ or the Chinese stock market, this is universally felt.
As a multidisciplinary design studio, Lead 8 has been commissioned to design and deliver many large-scale development projects. with one of these being HarbourLoop in Hong Kong. The design vision for this new urban environment, elucidates Touikan, is to “transform Hong Kong’s world famous waterfront and underutilised coastal geography, connecting Hong Kong Island to Kowloon in a continuous loop, into an urban cycle and walking network, world-class pedestrian space and iconic civic destination.” The 23 kilometre project is a social mission at its core, through its goal of “connecting communities, bettering pedestrian and bicycle safety, creating new open spaces with restored natural habitats, and encouraging a healthy lifestyle by creating a mobility loop that integrates cycling, running and walking.” HarbourLoop is projected to attract development along the route and generate significant social and economic impact. Also at a cultural level, the project is aimed to “raise the profile of Hong Kong as a healthy liveable city by giving its residents a sustainable and realistic transport and leisure solution, making the most of the unique waterfront topography,” clarifies Touikan.
The design objective for HarbourLoop ensures “the route integrates high quality public realm in a continuous journey around the circumference of Victoria Harbour with two major infrastructure interventions that close the loop to the east and west,” describes Touikan. With Hong Kong being one of the most densely populated areas in the world, HarbourLoop is intended to be the city’s “first mobility network prioritising zero emission modes of transit”. Based on the models of High Line in New York, the proposed SkyCycle in London, Lead 8 is “motivated to create places for people,” explains Touikan, so enabling Hong Kong to re-position itself as a walkable city.
The common perception of Hong Kong is one of a city that is primarily business focussed and also a “concrete jungle”. However, adds Touikan, this same city is also blessed with a dramatic harbour, steep hills and valleys and the open green spaces. Lead 8 is thus capitalizing on both the density, and the unique geography, in order to deliver “new benchmarks in liveability” with their HarbourLoop vision. This is both a project and a company to watch out for!
Read more about HarbourLoop in this article from Designer and Designing magazine.