SUCCESS STORY – OVERLAND PARTNERS SAN ANTONIO
For nearly thirty years, Overland Partners Architects has provided comprehensive design in architecture and planning that thoughtfully integrates technology, art, and craft through world-class, innovative, sustainable solutions. The San Antonio-based firm works throughout the world, with projects located in the United States, Latin America, and Asia. Their work is diverse both in scale and type, ranging from visitors centers and art museums to Fortune 500 headquarters, homeless shelters to luxury private homes, universities to urban design. Over the past five years, Overland has expanded their international work to China with the design of several world-class mixed-use urban renewal projects.
The expansion of their practice into China, however, has not been without its challenges. Working in a new culture and context brings with it many unknowns and the need for different design approaches. Some of the challenges encountered include differences in legal systems, written and oral communication barriers, and variations in technical requirements and deliverables.
The Alamo Asian American Chamber of Commerce (AAACC) proved to be an invaluable resource during this transition and gave Overland the confidence to continue their work in China by providing advice about doing business in Asia. “When I have a question now, I know I can just pick up the phone and find an answer,” says Overland principal James Andrews.
Andrews also cites the hiring of their first Chinese staff member as a major milestone for the firm. “It not only helped with communication and the understanding of technical requirements in China but also gave clients peace of mind knowing that they had a point of contact within the firm who spoke the same language.” AAACC was also able to support Overland by providing a community for incoming Asian staff through networking opportunities and social events.
The firm cites collaboration and the building of strong relationships as keys to their success. During one of their earliest projects in Guangzhou, China, Overland flew seven staff members to China for ten days so the design team could gain a first-hand understanding of the culture and current challenges of the region and nation, as well as demonstrate to the client their commitment to developing the relationship and doing excellent work.
Finding a strong, like-minded partner in Asia was also critical. The firm began working with the world-class engineering firm, Arup, out of their Shanghai office. With both Chinese- and English-speaking staff, Arup helped Overland develop relationships and successfully navigate language barriers and contractual issues.
To date, Overland has worked on nearly 20 projects in China, some of the most notable including an 85 km2 ecotourism master plan in Gaochun County, Nanjing; a new town master plan in Lijiang, a UNESCO world heritage site; and redevelopments of portions of the Qinhuai River in Nanjing and the Minor Qinhuai River in Yangzhou—both cities with origins that predate the Ming Dynasty. Recently, Overland has begun working on an aquaculture and environmental museum, a centerpiece of the Gaochun County ecotourism master plan.
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Overland Partners www.overlandpartners.com