China Check-In

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He is doing just that, now mining business in Southeast Asia, which contributed about 40 percent of his office’s work in 2012 with many projects in Indonesia. The remaining 40 percent of the local Woods Bagot office’s work comes from projects in the United States.

[contextly_sidebar id=”48f030d0713c42d6b3dd7bddc0e67bfc”]In the long run, China should remain a rich source of business for Bay Area architects. Already it has more building space than any other country on earth, and during the next decade, investment in residential and commercial building is expected to jump at a rate more than double what’s seen elsewhere in the world, according to consulting firm Pike Research.

The building surge follows the Chinese government’s investment in housing and other building as millions of its rural residents migrate to cities. Most of China’s 1.3 billion people now live in the countryside, but within the next decade 52 percent of the population is expected to move to an urban area, Pike projects. In response, China is on track to build the equivalent of 30 downtown Manhattans every year, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Against that backdrop, China is expected to overcome its current slump and rise again. The country’s industrial production rose by a more-than-expected 9.2 percent in September 2012 compared to the same month a year earlier and up from 8.9 percent growth in August 2012, according to the BBC. Chinese residents are buying more, too, and retail sales for September 2012 came in 14.2 percent above the same month a year earlier, the BBC said.

By 2014, China’s annual exports of goods and services are expected to rise 9.2 percent, according to TheCityUk. That’s well below the 25.9 percent increase exports experienced in 2010 but is a far better showing than the modest 1.6 percent increase TheCityUk had forecast for year-end 2012.

That’s positive news for Heller, who frequently travels to China to keep his fingers on the pulse of development there and meet with prospective and current clients. In late November, the company won a major project to do urban design work in Macao, a region known as the “Monte Carlo of the Orient” for its concentration on gaming along with tourism, manufacturing and financial services. Keeping the long view, he expects the office-retail-housing project that fizzled last year to come back to life now that early financial indicators point to economic revival and China’s newest leadership is in place.

“I believe the downturn was the exception,” Heller said. “People should not underestimate the rate of growth and economic development in China. I think it’s about to amaze us again. I believe it will remain strong for a very long time.”

Silicon Valley-based Steinberg Architects is one believer. The company is ramping up in China, working on everything from office parks, retail developments, golf course luxury housing and 40-story residential towers for a client base that’s equally divided among private and government clients. The Registry recently spoke with company president Rob Steinberg. Here are highlights from that interview, edited for length and clarity.

What is your company’s presence in China?

We started working in China about five years ago. We now have an office in Shanghai, and we have about 25 people there. About 20 percent to 22 percent of our company’s overall volume comes from China, which we’ve tried to keep in that range. It could have gone higher, but we want to be balanced in our approach. We are working all over the country in a broad range of product types.

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Photos of Rob Steinberg by Chad Ziemendorf

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