Eric Phillips: Helping redefine the world

By Linda Deng in Seattle | | Updated: 2017-05-20 01:47

Eric Phillips: Helping redefine the world

Architect Eric Phillips says raising his daughter in China has been one of the great joys of his life. Provided to China Daily

Designing Alibaba's new headquarters intertwines work with nature

In March, NBBJ, a Seattle-based architectural and design firm that creates innovative environments for companies like Amazon, Google and Samsung, was selected to design Alibaba's new Hangzhou headquarters — Alibaba Xixi Campus Phase IV Project.

With a completion date of 2019, the 180,000-square-meter headquarters will be composed of a collection of buildings utilizing neuroscience research and sustainable design strategies creating a connected environment where Alibaba employees can thrive and help propel one of the world's largest internet companies.

"We are thrilled to be designing the new headquarters for Alibaba," said Eric Phillips, NBBJ's Asia partner, who works in the firm's Shanghai office. "Our design strategy pushes the envelope for workplace environments in China. We're bringing in nature and unique amenities to keep employees active and engaged in a way that's never been done. We are designing a workplace that fosters innovation and connectivity — a home for the employees of the future."

Phillips is not only managing the project but oversees day-to-day business operations of the firm locally, managing business opportunities and guiding the long-term growth strategy for the region. He also serves as a member of the firmwide corporate and commercial strategy team.

"The design is centered on health, well-being and enhanced cognitive performance through the integration of architecture, landscape, and interiors," Phillips said. "What we know from the existing Phase 1 of the campus (we are now in Phase 4) is that there was a deep appreciation for bringing the natural environment into the campus as an amenity for Alibaba staff. As such, we've been able to take ideas from the first phase, then enhance and expand them as a way of evolving the core values of the entire campus."

The company also helped to build corporate headquarters for leading companies in China, such as Tencent, Suning, Microsoft, La Chapelle and others.

Their recent design for Alibaba's new headquarters also has natural and unique amenities to keep employees active and engaged in a way that's never been done before in China, suggesting there is a trend among China's technology companies.

"One of the most innovative features of the design is that each employee's workspace will be less than a minute from outside green spaces, allowing for rejuvenating fresh air breaks," Phillips explained.

There is a sports center at the heart of the campus with basketball and badminton courts, ping-pong and billiards tables, along with a yoga room and wellness center with fitness machines.

Phillips said he has noticed changes among his Chinese clients in recent years.

"What has profoundly changed in the past decade is that they no longer look to the United States or United Kingdom with a desire to incorporate their latest thinking," he said. "Today, we have clients critically evaluating the best practices of the United States and United Kingdom, internalizing them, and asking what it means to their specific business."

He said that represented a drastic shift that shows the rapid maturation of the Asia market and sets the stage for a reversal, or at least a rebalance, in where the world looks for innovation and business best practice success.

"The next decade will be even better," he added. "As a Western architect practicing in China, it became very clear very quickly that I, along with my firm, must embrace these challenges and turn them into opportunities. Both scale and speed are direct representations of our clients' businesses. China corporations are expanding internationally and growing at a rapid pace."

Phillips said he loves China and that is why he has chosen to live and work there for the past nine years.

"Raising my daughter here has been one of the great joys of my lifetime," he said. "My wife and I have been able to give her skills and cultural understanding vital to her future.

"It's also rewarding to be here as the country's impact on the world continues to grow. If you look at the 21st century, without doubt, China and the larger Asia region will play a big role in redefining the world," Phillips said.

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