Christine Hau of Lead8 Architecture Firm on Design with Meaning
Christine Hau is the co-founder of the Hong Kong-based architecture and design firm Lead8, which in just seven years has grown from start-up status to one of the world’s largest companies. She tells us about her remarkable success and her own contribution.
For an architectural firm founded just seven years ago, climbing up to the ranks of the world’s largest firms seems such a remarkable achievement, it is frankly unbelievable. Yet that’s exactly the feat that Lead8 – a Hong Kong-based architecture, city planning, interior design, graphics and branding firm that has set up shop in a modest Quarry Bay studio in 2014 and now has offices in Shenzhen, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and London – managed to pull through.
Not only does it currently rank 53rd among the world’s leading architectural firms – with major projects underway in the Grande Baie region as well as elsewhere, and a team of over 250 people across five locations. across the world – but Lead8 is also gone. with five Asia-Pacific Real Estate Awards 2021-2022 for its large-scale projects in Shenzhen, Nanjing and Chengdu, as well as a pair of Gold Stevie awards for business excellence. Although continually engaged in the visionary exercise of re-imagining urban and interior life for a future that seems particularly difficult, such a degree of success must certainly have exceeded the wildest dreams of the founding partners of the company?
“When we created Lead8, we had already worked side by side for many years and shared a passion for creativity and design excellence,” says Christine Hau, one of the co-founders and executive directors of Lead8 who form the global group of the company. management team in Hong Kong. “We all wanted to make changes, bring new ideas to the industry and give back to our cities and communities through resilient, meaningful and impactful design. Setting up Lead8 gave us the platform to do it, so it was a natural progression for us. “
At Lead8, Hau oversees the commercial, financial, legal and operational aspects of the company, as well as its marketing, communications, branding and social responsibility activities. Born in Britain and one of the eldest daughters of Hong Kong parents who are constantly on the move, her businessman father expected her to work as an apprentice until an interest in it. design encouraged her to study in this field, which she would later combine with management.
“You can put on a nice dress or a nice jacket and it’s individual,” says effervescent and endearing Hau, with an accent that bears no noticeable trace of her Scottish birthplace, “but I think the design of the buildings – architecture and interiors – is for everyone. I am captivated by the beauty of forms and details in buildings and cities, so I studied subjects that united my passion for design with my affinity for business – business providing the means to transform creative visions into reality.
After completing her university studies, she started her career in the UK and eventually made the decision to travel to Hong Kong. It wasn’t just about having strong family ties here; she also felt it was a place where she could take her career to a new level and maybe a new direction. “It’s a fast-paced place and an international hub, where there are opportunities both here in Asia as well as connections to the West. “
In any case, Hau was already used to an international way of life. “We have moved and traveled a lot,” she says.
“Learning is not limited to formal education and books. Experience is also very important in life, this is how I raised my children. It also probably explains why I have constantly changed course in life, seizing opportunities to study and change direction.
After spending time in other international design firms, where she gained additional experience in areas such as finance, corporate law and governance, strategy and operations, Hau took the plunge and has joined a group of architects and designers with whom she had worked closely to found Lead8. . The team moved into their first studio in Shipyard Lane, literally around the corner from the greatly expanded King’s Road premises the company now occupies. “The move into this new studio was a defining moment for us,” she says. “This marked a milestone in our evolution from start-up to international design brand and set the stage for our next chapter. “
While the company’s meteoric growth is more than impressive, it must surely have something to do with the physical scale and breathtaking reach of imagination of many of its projects, in which every detail – from macro to micro – is taken into account, and both natural elements and the latest technology are an integral part. Yet for all the size and scope, Hau insists that much of Lead8’s work is underpinned by “design that understands people – and a willingness to push the boundaries to deliver destinations and unique experiences ”in their respective locations.
Hubei’s vast urban coordination renewal program in Shenzhen, scheduled for completion in 2024, is a perfect illustration of this approach. development. Another major business in the Greater Bay Area is New World’s 11 SKIES in Chek Lap Kok, which will be Hong Kong’s largest retail, dining and entertainment hub, in a development adjacent to the terminals of the airport, as well as Class A office towers, immersive educational experiences programs and even an indoor / outdoor karting track.
For sheer imaginative bravery, however, it’s hard to beat HarbourLoop, a Lead8 social responsibility case study that features a 23km-long footbridge and bike path circling Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, with two infrastructure additions. elegant connecting the two sides and a series of, culture and suburban centers along the way. “We did this to show the possibilities of urban design thinking for Hong Kong – a zero carbon network that unites both sides of the port,” says Hau. “As a design company, we have the chance to lead and spark conversations about the future, which influences change. “
As for her own role within the company, Hau says she uses design thinking to inform the way she oversees the business, financial, legal and operational activities of Lead8. “It gives me and my team the opportunity to run and build a design business differently and to help our team of designers do what they do best: create designs that give back positively. to our communities. We create the platforms on which our team and global operations can operate, and we encourage, support and empower our teams – we are passionate about our people.
When asked about her experiences as a woman in her industry, Hau says she thinks that “when it comes to work, women are traditionally gender aware, but that is changing – and I see the young generation of women and men active in this field. gap. But I’ve always had strong female leaders in the industry to look up to and my own experience has been that gender hasn’t limited my opportunities.
“Regardless of your gender, leadership isn’t just about being a boss. It’s inspiring, motivating and empowering those around you. Just as design inherently gives back to the cities and communities it touches, at Lead8 we are deeply committed to the next generations through mentorship and learning opportunities, and we are also committed to supporting causes that help build a better world.
And if you were wondering how – with eight projects nearing completion next year and several more about to take off – this working mom manages to strike a balance between office and home, Hau says ‘there is always a connection between work and life. “I am fortunate to have a supportive circle of family and friends, which helps relieve the pressure in difficult times. In any case, instead of separating myself, I prefer to balance these parts of my life, because I am passionate about Lead8 and the firm that we have created. Every day is different – and I’m not counting the hours of work, but the results we have achieved.
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