Spotlight – Dragon Long and Charlie Chen

Dragon Long and Charlie Chen are Woods Bagot’s newest Principals. Located in Shanghai and Hong Kong respectively, each have specialised at different scales – Charlie leads large-scale urban planning and design projects and Dragon spearheads Shanghai’s Interior Design sector.

In this Spotlight, we sit down with both experts to discuss dream collaborative projects, designing for different scales and creating better outcomes through collaboration across disciplines.

What would be your dream project to work on together?

Charlie Chen (CC):

Dragon is an Interior Designer and I’m an Urban Designer so any project we work on would be an exciting chance to mesh different scales because we’d be looking at a project from dual dimensions – Dragon would be working from the inside out and I would be working from the outside in. I’d dream big and say an urban regeneration would be a thrilling opportunity.

Dragon Long (DL):

I agree. I think that the ideal brief would be to create a new habitat where people can live and work healthily with orderly traffic, convenient facilities and smart buildings as well as comfortable and natural living spaces.

Post pandemic, people want elevated lifestyle opportunities and it would be amazing to work with Charlie to achieve an experience that’s been considered from zoom out to zoom in.  

CC:

Yes! It would be really interesting to work with an abandoned space to create a new city – injecting new functions and using our skills to get the local community to really engage.

Working with Dragon, who is an expert in the considering the precise details of the end user experience on a scale that’s so different from the one I usually work in, would colour the user experience in a way that would completely eschew the trap of the generic point of view – we could take something overlooked and make it unforgettable.

“It would be amazing to work with Charlie to achieve an experience that’s been considered from zoom out to zoom in.”

Dragon Long

Dahua 1935, Xi’an

With Charlie working on a macro scale as an Urban Planner and Dragon working on a more micro scale with his expertise in Retail Interiors, how would you collaborate?

DL:

Charlie and I have worked in Woods Bagot for many years and delivered lots of projects with different scales. For me, our successful collaboration is based on the premise that Charlie and I share the same belief and vision. We believe in People Architecture which is an important prerequisite for our collaboration, and I think our projects can complement each other in terms of scale.

Our frequent communication and cross-disciplinary knowledge sharing will lead to better outcomes of our works as the collision of multidisciplinary knowledge will produce more creative thinking.

CC:

I think the common thread is about placemaking and connection to local culture. Despite our different disciplines I think Dragon and I find inspiration in similar moments – the smell of a noodle shop that tells you that you’re almost home, the locals-only coffee shop or the past lives of a favourite building. It’s the things that make you feel part of a city that are worth taking notice of. I think Urban Designers and Interior Designers can work together to create places that are truly timeless.

DL:

It’s a common misconception that Interior Designers don’t work with public space. In China particularly, the scale of a mall project is so much bigger than something like a hotel or a house. Rather than being confined to four walls, Interior Design is often about connecting spaces. At the end of the day, it’s all about creating a better life for the end user at every scale.

CC:

Collaboration would happen around aligning a project’s identity and design logic. Regardless of the discipline we’re working in, at the end of the day it’s about connectivity, permeability and designing for the needs of the end user – our shared priority is about creating destinations for people to live well in.

“Despite our different disciplines I think Dragon and I find inspiration in similar moments – the smell of a noodle shop that tells you that you’re almost home, the locals-only coffee shop or the past lives of a favourite building.”

Charlie Chen

Xiamen Convention Exhibition Center & Sports Precinct

Vietnam Coastal World Masterplan

When you consider your different disciplines, how do you think you might challenge each other to create the better outcome?

CC:
A typical Chinese project is about three things: vision, speed and scale. Dragon and I would collaborate on the vision, and we know how to create quality projects in good time, so scale would be where we’d diverge – I work with in hectares and Dragon works by the millimetre. I think we’d feed off each other to create a detailed ‘bigger picture’.

DL:
I have collaborated with experts from different disciplines, and I’m open to different opinions and suggestions. When I work with different teams and experts, I usually come up with some bold assumptions to encourage discussion. When we define potential pain points early on, we can deliver better-integrated design solutions.

Another key point to make is that Charlie and I often work with different types of clients – my professional background in retail services means that I work with developers and Charlie’s means he usually works with government. I think we’d have a good time finding relevance for each client!

CC:
The beauty of working at Woods Bagot is that we have experts in multiple disciplines that allows us to understand design from the scale of a city down to the scale of a room. Not every Urban Designer has direct access to an Interior Designer with expertise in retail design – having the backing of a wider team is invaluable.

“Not every Urban Designer has direct access to an Interior Designer with expertise in retail design – having the backing of a wider team is invaluable.”

Charlie Chen

Dragon speaking at the Hotel and Shop Plus conference in Shanghai

Charlie in the Hong Kong studio

With 15 years of solid experience from architecture to urban design, Charlie has a strong understanding of development and management to the design process. His capability covers master plan and urban design in the field of regional planning, TOD, urban regeneration and complex and contributes to better urban environment with a sustainable and ecologically sensitive approach. He has been involved in multiscale of projects across China, working on projects in Beijing and Shanghai as well as Hangzhou and Kunming. Charlie’s projects have gained outstanding reputations in Southeast Asia, winning several international design competitions in Vietnam, Jakarta, and Dubai.

In the field of retail and workplace interior design, Dragon can always accurately grasp the project positioning, generate new inspirations to the interior space, and enhance the comprehensive value of the project, so that each project is highly forward-looking and innovative, able to get constructed with high-quality, and go beyond market and customer expectations. He leads with high proficiency, and is able to establish and maintain a stable and genuine partnership with customers. Under Dragon’s leadership, his teams have successfully completed a number of design projects with excellent design results, providing highly appreciated practical services.

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