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Building Client Relationships

Retail director Gregory Fonseca explains how trust, shared values, reciprocity and mutual respect leads to building enduring and successful client relationships.

Collaboration is the process of two or more parties working together to achieve an end goal. It underpins the strongest client/ consultant relationships such as the one which has developed between IKEA and BDP. This began almost a decade ago when IKEA’s executive in Denmark decided to create a more cohesive and overarching design vision for their business, providing continuity across their property portfolio stretching from Western Europe to Asia. To achieve this they sought an architectural partner with both the ability to realise their design ethos and the capability to execute it globally at IKEA’s pace. That partner was BDP. Over the intervening years the relationship has been both successful and prolific.


IKEA Centres - Livat, Beijing, China

In the early days BDP and IKEA worked collaboratively to map out consistent and coordinated processes suited to both teams’ requirements and hammered out a master framework agreement which is still in use today. However, the critical and defining feature of the partnership has been the time and energy devoted to establishing numerous one-to-one, human relationships at all levels within both organisations.



IKEA Centres - Livat, Wuhan, China

Trust, shared values and reciprocity are key factors required to make a meaningful partnership work - or become repairable in times of stress. The relationship between IKEA and BDP was forged as the global economic crisis was unfolding, creating uncertainty and change within both organisations. Open communications became the hallmark of the collaboration and worked best when maintained through a consistent set of players on both sides. As IKEA country managers evolved into corporate group officers and BDP architects rose to management, a multi-layered web of working relationships developed and was tested in moments of ambiguity. Trust was earned and developed over multiple issues, projects and time. Through open discussions and by challenging each other to achieve more progressive solutions, mutual respect was built up, layer by layer, between architects and project managers, directors and country managers, executives and owners.


It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too); those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

Charles Darwin

With a shared ambition to create exemplar retail spaces and places for people, a multiplicity of schemes has been delivered across six countries ranging from the first three in China to the most recent in Wroclaw, Poland. A common thread to them all has been the incorporation of design elements specific to each project’s location, culture and typology. This approach has enabled masterplan studies with varying conceptual designs to run concurrently in numerous international cities, all of them reinforcing IKEA’s global brand identity. For example during 2014 and 2015, three centres were opened across China (in Wuxi, Beijing, and Wuhan), each having a unique and distinctive design inspired from regional origins alongside which continuity is provided through repetition of key elements.


IKEA Centres - Aleja Bielany, Wroclaw, Poland

UK based designers travel to (and sometimes relocate in) various world locations at different stages of the design process, presenting to the client, coordinating the local design team and further developing the detailed design. The framework process allows a seamless handover to the local architect for design completion and construction.


IKEA Centres - Aleja Bielany, Wroclaw, Poland

Through sharing knowledge and challenging one another to reimagine new design and environmental concepts, IKEA Centre group and BDP have forged a partnership which continues to meet the changing dynamics of the end user. Darwin’s observation that humans need to collaborate to achieve greater levels of success has never been more current in concept – an ethos BDP strives to put into practice each day and with every client.