The week that was 25-29th July 2016
Singapore – Shanghai – Xitang – Wuzhen – Shanghai – Singapore, Weekend 30-31th July 2016
It was Monday and Friday in the office this week, with a trip to Shanghai (and “surroundings”) in between. Monday was a big day as we presented our first concepts for the lighting master plan for one of Singapore’s new districts. As I mentioned last week, getting it right from the first step is crucial. My experience dealing with governments or clients that have been there and done that, is that you have to come prepared and make sure you have done your homework. While this is true for basically every presentation, it is specifically true for “experienced” clients as they will pick up on any misstep and once they find holes in your presentation keep pounding you on it. The trip to Shanghai was our kick off meeting for a new project and introduction to the team. We also took the time to go visit the site I Xitang and a similar site as reference in nearby Wuzhen, two very famous water towns, the first famous from Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible (sequel nr 3 I believe) and one of Shanghai’s top tourist attractions, just about 1 hour’s drive outside Shanghai. We are honoured to be designing the lighting for an extension to the town which will include a hotel and a commercial zone. On Friday it was back in the office for a de-brief and design decision time for some of our ongoing project.
Getting it right
I had been fretting this meeting leading up to it, having had several design and presentation meetings with government authorities in the past, so I made sure that we had covered every angle and the concept story build to lead them step by step through our design decisions. In the end it was not a tough meeting at all, in fact rather informal and relaxed, with little to no questions. Afterwards the lead consultant gave us a big pat on the back by complimenting us on a “quite good” presentation and explaining that the client did not have much to say because “they probably could not find any glaring things to criticise”…J. We did discuss the areas to expand further on, specifically those they were interested in (not surprisingly the smart poles) and we agreed on some deliverables for next meetings. The sustainability consultant, also present during our presentation thanked us for a “very interesting presentation” and shared that they had found some “great ideas that will tie in with the sustainability guidelines for lighting in terms of energy ad controls”. It is satisfying for any lighting designer to find a captive and appreciative audience on presenting a lighting concept, a nice reward for the efforts put in!
Similarly to a first concept presentation, a kick off meeting is equally crucial in any project. First impressions count, certainly if it is with a new team that you have not worked with before. First impression in a Chinese culture are even more relevant and as a “foreigner” they generally have high expectations from you! Communications also can get lost in translation and while we had understood that the meeting was to be an introduction to our company with some preliminary thoughts about the lighting approach to apply in this project, they had actually expected a full blown lighting strategy. Considering that the contract was not yet signed and our appointment fees not yet paid plus the fact that we had received only some general concept master plan of the project just a week or two ago, there was no way we could have done that. I could read the disappointment from their faces but after we clarified our position and explained in detail what they could expect from us the next time (for which I duly asked for a proper preparation time) the high spirits came back. We went to Xitang (despite the 40 degree heat!) to get a feel of the site followed by a night visit of Wuzhen to get a reference of the ambience that the client likes. It once again proved to me that you can never design from behind your desk…you have to emerge yourself in the culture and the life to understand. You can extract your own interpretations of what your experience but your need to have the reference!
No winding down!
Friday in the office was definitely not a winding down day with the week-end ahead, on the contrary. The morning was spent on catching up with the team on project issues and project planning a number of jobs that require our full concept presentations by the end of August…all hands on deck! With our other master plan proposal due for submission next week and my CLDA/IAC activities requiring conclusion by Monday I am in for a working weekend!
Enjoy yours! I leave you with some scenic mood pictures from my site visit to both Xitang and Wuzhen for those who have never been there…