A Long Road Ahead for AEC Design Culture

A Long Road Ahead for AEC Design Culture

With the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), our economies are increasingly dependent on one another for products and services, and many architecture and design firms are competing for the first time in a regional market. International practice has become a reality for design firms. AEC member states are becoming vibrant spaces for experimentation, a process in which culture has come to occupy a central place.

The use of imagination and creativity in urban change play an important part in developing a better quality of life via the property market and the economy as whole. Due to the speed of growth in investment and a dynamic change of culture in the region, awareness of the value of design has become much greater in contrast to a few years back. Asia is indeed evolving into a living lab for architects and designers.

One of the greatest challenges architects and designers face when undertaking projects in ASEAN is understanding our clients. We have shared heritage and history as Asians, but nevertheless there is a lot to learn from each other when it comes to design execution.

It could be image in terms of scale, design, or expense, or the client could be just looking for a high-profile, high-status designer. It could also simply be economic return or social betterment. It could be access to resources that are not available locally, such as equity, materials and technologies, or even tenants. Understanding ASEAN clients’ design culture, regardless of their motives, is far more complicated than understanding domestic clients.

Countries in the AEC have been through tremendous economic transformation since the millennium, with average annual growth rates of 15.3 percent. However there has not been a blending of the design industries paradigm.Some strategy and experience of design cultures and industries was rooted in the late 2010s. Some even have not really started.

Although some developers and business owners quickly accepted the notion that design-driven thoughts for products and services were on the rise, that they could produce an essential added value to their business, and that creative individuals like architects and designers need more spaces and opportunity to exercise their creativity, the idea of design thinking as a way to help change mind sets and industry practices remains a challenge.

The notion of design-driven economy has also posed questions and challenges in some emerging regional economies. History of native innovation and design with added-value sources were merely found, and design is being seen as collateral for finished projects or services. Even some countries with rich history and heritage of design have not conformed to modern principles business of design and the designs for good business.

The desire to increase value-added product and developments owes a lot to design-led countries such as Thailand which have been major sources of cultural exports in terms of architectural design and commerce. It is one of the leading nations that steers such initiatives and the Thailand Board of Investment has announced incentives for creative industries. According to UNDP, industries are expanding and new enterprises and spaces are emerging across South-East Asia, and many Thai entrepreneurs have begun to participate in trans-local markets.

Given its design character in Asian countries, some challenges lie within our own cultures. There is a need to adapt to the global world experience in trade and the inevitable consequences of globalisation. The uncertainty inherent to the cultural and creative sector also emerges as a challenge of visibility, since in many of these contexts the cultural and design activities tend to be undervalued compared to other more important concerns for business organisation as a whole.

Design professionals and individuals in the AEC still need to work harder together to advocate a more creative environment in exchanging ideas, expertise and resources to support the development of the creative economy in the region.We need to explore more opportunities for joint and cross-disciplinary projects, even fashion and architecture or fashion with architecture. We should also make a strong effort towards knowledge sharing and creating more platforms for professionals and investors.

There is a long road for our shared economies to travel and designers need to act as the driver with responsibility for the passengers in our bus.

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