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Cross Border Design

Bruce Kennedy

Architect director Bruce Kennedy explains how international relationships built on trust and mutual understanding enable projects to be delivered to a coordinated masterplan without compromising the individuality of each concept.

Collaboration is the principle that underpins civil society. Acceptance that no man is an island recognises that when we work together we are part of a greater whole. This humanitarian ethic informs our work today as surely as it did in 1961, when the practice was founded and Yuri Gagarin completed the first orbit of our shared world.

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Nanjing Medical University, China

Our interdisciplinary, collaborative ethos naturally extends to embrace the aspirations of our clients and the users of the buildings and spaces we design. This outward-looking and inclusive attitude equips us well to respond to new cultures and contexts with curiosity and an enthusiasm to work in partnership rather than to impose. Moreover, when we engage in projects overseas, our vast multi-sector experience provides our clients with a cutting-edge expertise informed by an international, not parochial, outlook.

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Nanjing Medical University, China

In locations such as China, where the terms of our registration do not allow us to provide a full scope of service, we often work with local partners and seek out organisations that share our fundamental values and commitment to quality. This philosophical synergy is essential to the delivery of a project if it is to retain the integrity of its original concept to the point of delivery.

One such success is Nanjing Medical University for which We were invited to submit a design in competition with a select group of international architects. Our winning concept was underpinned by a desire to provide the university with a building more spatially rich and sustainable than was typical of Chinese education campuses. We formed a strong relationship with the Jiangsu Institute, Nanjing’s largest Local Design Institute (LDI) and, as we gained knowledge from them in the application of Chinese building codes, so we shared our expertise in techniques that deliver sustainable development. The LDI was committed to maintaining BDP’s vision and design intent throughout construction and the end result remains true to our competition design, delivering a pair of buildings that the client characterises as a regional landmark that is ‘very astonishing.’

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Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University, Suzhou, China

As the Medical University was rising in Nanjing, we were also developing a masterplan for Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University (XJTLU) in Suzhou. Our approach ensured variety through designing individual campus buildings using separate teams from our studios in London, Glasgow, Manchester and Shanghai. Architects from each of the UK project teams travelled to our Shanghai studio to coordinate development of each building in conjunction with local staff who in turn collaborated with the LDI to deliver the project. Technologies such as Skype and video-conferencing supported effective collaboration between UK and Chinese based teams working in different time zones. However, it was relationships built on trust and mutual understanding that enabled projects to be delivered to a coordinated masterplan without compromising the individuality of each concept. Now nearing completion, the result is a varied and engaging campus with which the client is delighted.

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Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University, Suzhou, China

At a time when a wave of popular discontent with the political establishment is challenging accepted doctrine about the effects of globalism on societies in the UK, USA and Europe, a call for protectionism seems to be gaining ground, threatening to narrow horizons. Our extremely successful collaboration with partners in countries far from the UK is evidence of the value of an outward-looking and inclusive culture in which working with like-minded partners toward a common goal can only benefit all concerned.