Feng shui is 'fundamental' to the property market
AMONG THE Irish architects and designers who have already voted with their feet and made the move to China is Frank O’Mahony, managing director of the Cork architects Wilson and also its company’s Dalian business.
“I’m on the ground here to get the traction. The key thing is you have to be on the ground to get the work,” said O’Mahony, who now divides his time between Cork and the northeastern port city.
With Chinese translation on the website, Wilson is making strong efforts to adjust to Chinese culture and ways of doing business.
Business in China is carried out through a complex network of contacts, and the relationships thus formed will hopefully lead to awarding of commissions, he said.
The move to Dalian was prompted by the slowdown in Ireland and the fact that Wilson had contacts there. Comments from building materials group CRH that the northeast was worth looking at helped them decide.
“Like almost everywhere else in China, this region has experienced an unprecedented development boom over the past decade and, while the pace is currently slowing, it is still of a scale unimaginable in Europe,” he said.
They first went out in early 2010 and set up a joint venture with a local partner and opened a permanent office. “We’ve done various projects including a government office building, a hotel on an island. And we’re finding that people from a year and a half ago are coming back to us now,” said O’Mahony.
The group had been told there was demand for contemporary European houses in China, but what they found instead was demand for traditional Chinese houses, and this involved some readjustment.
There are some fundamental differences between the Irish and the Chinese market, including the importance of feng shui, the idea that the land is a living, breathing thing filled with qi energy, and that individuals should live in harmony with the wind and water of our natural environment.
“Feng shui is fundamental to the Chinese property market. You can’t have a WC facing an entrance, for example, and we’ve had to scrap plans. But we’ve learned from it,” he said.
Among the projects they have worked on are a downtown shopping mall in Lushun, formerly Port Arthur.
In Lushun, Wilson also has a local government administration centre and exhibition hall on the outskirts, and an international five-star hotel and exhibition centre.