Architectural firm Laguarda.Low leaves a local mark worldwide.
When it comes to design, the architects at Laguarda.Low know how to design and conceptualize some of the world’s biggest and most diverse stages. Since its inception at the beginning of the new millennium, the firm has garnered 60 awards in a diverse array of cities including Dallas, Troia, Warsaw, Budapest, Tokyo, Berlin, Las Palmas, Shanghai, and many, many more. We sat down with John Low, Co-Founder and Principal at Laguarda.Low, in the firm’s New York office to talk about their design philosophy and to highlight two of their most celebrated projects: OCT Bay in Shenzhen and the more recent mixed-use urban development in Jining.
With a team of over 80 professionals working out of offices in New York, Beijing, and an affiliated site in Tokyo, Laguarda.Low have eschewed the development of one specific aesthetic to produce designs for buildings and sites that incorporate the historical context and culture of the specific location. As Low told us, “We try to create a neutral background for the building and to develop a style that is particular to the place. We also try to design according to how we know people react to and interact with space in the different cultures in which we operate. In Asia, for example, as opposed to the US, the average consumer is not afraid of big spaces. That is something we take into consideration when we do a project.”
But enough about how they do what they do. Let’s get some on-the-ground insight from the work they have done.
If you take a look at some pictures of Shenzhen’s OCT Bay project, it is easy to get a sense of how the team at Laguarda.Low drafted the design to embrace both the shopping experience and the traditions with which the landscape is in conversation. For starters, the indoor environment of the northern part of OCT Bay draws its inspiration from traditional European retail arcades, incorporating courtyards, landscaping, and natural light to create distinctive spaces that shy away from often generic mall design. Furthermore, as a firm that, according to Low, “creates its design based on a deep respect for Chinese culture,” the eastern side of OCT Bay displays a modicum of sinophilia by drawing its inspiration from the traditional Chinese fishing village. With subtly choreographed waterways and shopping streets that seem to dance among the boutique hotel, the open-air stage spanning the canal, the waterside bar street, and the numerous retail shops, the experience of OCT bay is designed to be unique no matter how many times you visit it.
The firm’s design for the four-million-square-foot mixed-use project in Jining, which received the go-ahead after winning an international design competition conducted by the city’s Public Cultural Facilities Group in August 2016, will incorporate a plan that showcases respect for the surrounding environment and for Chinese culture. Though the plans feature a new hotel, a retail center, four office towers, and two high-end residential buildings, the architects were keen on making sure that the mixed-use space did not outweigh the importance of the four museums that are included in the design that feature the work of Mario Botta and a fine art gallery by SANAA. The design also includes a grand public plaza that integrates landscaped plantings, courtyards, and water installations into the experience of the space between the museums and the mixed-use buildings. Finally, as if to create a canvas on which the movements of time are painted and wiped away, Laguarda.Low chose white stone for the eastward-facing façades that match the the colors with which the plaza is paved in order to endow the space with a material unity. In short, if there existed an Olympics for architecture and design, Laguarda.Low would be its Usain Bolt. Who knows: they might even design the stadium.