Unleashing creativity with his design creations, Jon Sealey, a renowned British architect-designer’s “Thailine” Project, in Bangkok, is spectacular in its approach, nature, theme, concept and sustainability. The Design Director of Marques and Jordy, leads his team in multiple offices in London, Dubai, Quanzhou and Bangkok.
The Beautiful Design of ‘Thailine’
Down-to-earth, humble and ever-ready to enlighten others with his knowledge and experience, Jon is a renowned and respected name in creative direction among his peers. After his graduation from the Manchester School of Architecture in UK, Jon moved to Thailand in 2004, as a Senior Designer to work on high-end retail hospitality projects for A49 Group, in Bangkok. Today, he heads two architectural firms, namely, Marques & Jordy, and GLC Dubai, as their Design Director and Creative Director respectively.
The Night View
Starting his designing career under the renowned designer Alister Petrie in London, Jon moved to South Korea to explore, as a freelance architect. Destiny made Jon to arrive in Bangkok in 2004. Since then, he has been designing high-profile projects in the region with great aplomb. The 650,000 sq m mixed-use development in Bengbu, China; the 150,000 sq m mixed-use development for Lilanz; and the 250,000 sq m Mall development in Fuqing are some of the prominent projects, Jon has led.
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In the last four years, Jon has co-directed the 5,000,000 sq m mixed-use master plan of Eco Island in Fuzhou, China; Linca Centre master plan, FTV Hotel Legian in Bali and many other prestigious projects. A 55-km long infrastructure project for Bangkok’s Skyride and Skypark was designed by Jon Sealey in 2014. A passionate professional, his breathtaking design creations explore and fuse the boundaries between art and architecture.
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Jon Sealey – the architect-designer talks to Johnny D about his latest creations – the 960,000 sq m THAILINE! What goes in an architect’s mind to create something beautiful, spectacular and beyond imagination?
Johnny D: Please tell our esteemed readers about Marques & Jordy.
Jon Sealey: Founded in London, M&J is driven by a pursuit for creating love through design. We believe, our surroundings and emotions directly influence the designs, we work on.
We are a tightly knit team of highly skilled young professionals creating art, architecture, urban planning, interior design, exhibition, and product design. We speak 8 languages, throughout our 3 offices globally. We are skilled in the latest digital modelling and visualising techniques like BIM, parametric and generative design. We are passionate and committed to challenge and transform conventional nodes of design. The team’s collaborative approach extends clients ambitions and produces award-winning and ground-breaking work.
The Future of Bangkok
JD: What are the current projects in various cities and countries, the firm is busy with?
JS: At the moment, we are doing a 5,700,000 sq m development in Fuzhou in China; a series of wine labels for a startup company and a fashion line for our fashion show in October.
A Total Public Space
JD: Please enlighten our esteemed readers about the 960,000 sq m “Thailine” Project.
JS: I have lived in Bangkok for 11 years. Thai people have been extremely good to me, on many different levels, over the years. Designing the “Thailine” presented an opportunity for me, to give something back. It’s a 960,000 sq m master plan for the development of the areas, under the existing highways. It involves commercial, residential, office space and a host of new recreational facilities – all stitched together with cultural Thai elements. The vision is to make Bangkok a sustainable green city, which is forward thinking and more of a reflection of the people, I know and love – the people of Thailand!
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JD: The designing process must have been supported by an extensive research work. In brief, please state the obvious.
JS: Yes! The research started 3 years ago, when I became fascinated with these areas. When you look at them, they are a reflection of what’s needed in the city. There are badminton courts, markets, old run-down shacks. They are full of life and colour, but not a nice place to live or visit. I personally went along the whole area on my bicycle documenting and talking to the local communities. It was fascinating!
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JD: What was going in your mind, while designing the master plan of “Thailine” Project?
JS: Emotions! I wanted this to be about the people. It couldn’t be another modern master plan, with no respect to the vernacular. It had to have very strong Thai routes and something, which enhances and adds to the heritage of the city. Bangkok has become very modern, over the last 15 years. Many people feel, there are parts of their heritage being slowly stripped away. I wanted people to be excited and wowed by the intent, something everyone is proud of! What I created was a new way of life, to these areas.
Skyride – Elevated Cycling Lanes
JD: Please tell readers of Design Trends, something interesting about your brainstorming sessions with your team.
JS: I found my team, mainly Thai were extremely passionate about what we wanted to achieve and there were so many ideas. I think when you have areas like these in a city, like Bangkok with so many things to fix it, opens a massive state of opportunity for designers to fulfill their dreams on places, where they live close to. We spent months, developing certain areas with some unbelievable developments. It was so exciting to reveal the massive potential of these areas and how they can effect generations to come. Some of the ideas were super cutting-edge, whilst others were very rational. The answer I felt was to mix the two, in a kind of hybrid typology.
JD: How much time did the team took, to come out with the master plan?
JS: Excluding the three-year research work, it took us near about 9 months. It was a longer period, than we normally spend. It was important, that everything was right to match the perfect ‘T’.
JD: The road ahead is full of great challenges with the approval of your magnificent design. As the Head Architect, what are the major challenges you are anticipating to execute the project, on the real grounds?
JS: The main challenge will be the many political obstacles, prevalent in Thailand. At the moment, the army is running the country. Although, things are stable at the moment, you never know when there will be another protest. This will affect everything. I believe, they are rewriting some laws of the constitution at the moment. Let’s wait and see.
A Section of ‘Thailine’
JD: Please share your experience, good and bad, working in Thailand as an architect.
JS: There are many cultural differences in Thailand. I have worked in a couple of Thai practices. They tend to run on a hierarchical system. Things tend to be a lot slower and laid-back than Europe too. It can be hard to progress in such an environment, as a designer. You have to fight and push yourself. At times, there can be communication problems also. Personally, I wanted to really push myself and get out of my comfort zone, in all instances of design. I found that, if you are ambitious and willing to challenge yourself and the people around you, Thailand can be an amazing place to work! It also helps that Bangkok is a stone’s throw away from amazing beaches. It also has great Mangoes and sticky rice (smiles)! To be completely honest, I would want to work anywhere else. Thai designers can be extremely creative and hardworking also. They never complain and show great dedication. I am extremely grateful for my team and the country.
Flora and Fauna will Exist
JD: Construction Engineers are breaking frontiers to give shape to Architects’ Designs’ Vision. As an architect, how much credit is / should be attributed to their conscientious efforts?
JS: I think construction and design now are integrated. A good project will have all consultants on-board from the start. The Architect is not the top of the pyramid anymore and they shouldn’t be either. A successful project is about working as a team. Ideas come from everywhere. Personally, I don’t care who has the ideas. It could be the engineer, the plumber or the cleaner. As long as it works, that’s great!
Paradise for Leisure Activities
JD: What will be the total time-period for executing the project?
JS: The project will be phased. It needs to be built and tested. Especially, new ideas like the Skyride (elevated cycle routes). The first 2km construction is estimated at taking 3 years. Project completion could take up to 10 years. It’s a political project, so we all have to be patient.
Spacious and Green
JD: What are the ‘Sustainable’ features, you have incorporated in your design?
JS: This project will aim to set new benchmarks in sustainable design. Solar energy will be capitalized upon, in the form of low level “solar trees”; rainwater harvesting for timed-irrigation; native plants placed for cooling and to attract wildlife; a new sustainable mode of transportation, in hybrid tuk-tuks; elevated cycle paths and eco-friendly materials used in the landscaping and architecture. There is a whole system of standards being drawn up, solely for this project, for the local architects to follow.
JD: What will be the total project cost on completion?
JS: This information is still confidential, at the moment. I am told not to release any figures yet.
Tapping the Solar Energy
JD: The Project is brilliantly designed, beautiful and beyond imagination for many. How much support you have got from the Thai Government?
JS: The Thai government is always open to new ideas. There has been a great deal of investment into creativity over the last 6-7 years, especially in Bangkok. Big projects like this, involve so many officials. Obviously, getting everyone to focus in one direction is challenging, but not impossible.
JD: Please describe the feeling to win awards, one after another with your design creations.
JS: Winning awards is great obviously, but it is not, why I design. It is kind of a by- product of a design, which either people like or works really well. I certainly don’t design for awards. I think you have to be passionate about design, to be a good designer. Designing things, like the “Thailine” will affect millions of people. If your heart is not in it, then don’t be a designer. If the design is good, the awards will just come, I guess (smiles).
A View from the Top
JD: How would you describe Jon Sealey, as a professional and a person?
JS: I guess, I am creative, fun, super hard-working and passionate about design and the impact, it can have on all of us. I try to be fair, but firm at work to lead the teams how I would want to be led, as a designer. I have a lot of self-respect and integrity I guess. I just try to treat others, how I would like to be treated. I am also a health and fitness freak.
The Architect Showcasing his Creation
JD: Please state 5 major awards you have won recently.
JS: The awards are:
2011 – Central Plaza Khon Kaen, Thailand, Achievement in Energy and Energy Conservation, “very good” level of energy (green label building) Ministry of Energy, Thailand
2012 – Central Plaza Khon Kaen, Thailand, New Building Energy Award
2014 – Jury Winner for “Petals” ‘Future of Shade” Sunbrella.
iF Design Award
Discipline Interior Architecture – Hospitality – M Hotel, Kolkata 2014
Luxury Properties Awards
Best Interior Design Award – J Hotel, Dubai 2015
The Spectacular ‘Thailine’
JD: Please tell our readers about your role as the Creative Director of GLC, Dubai.
JS: The GLC – Global Luxury Council was setup 2 years ago. I was invited to be the Creative Director to oversee all major design works. At the moment, I am working on a number of yacht designs for a Sheikh. In the past, there have been fashion shows and events, at key locations in Dubai. It is exciting stuff!
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