Our architectural journey has been relentlessly optimistic and exhilarating, one which has embraced both the possibilities and the challenges of global practice in the 21st century.
In the year 2000, two Swiss architectural graduates – Manuel Der Hagopian and Grégoire Du Pasquier – joined up with six friends in Geneva to form group8, which was more of an architectural collective than a formal corporate practice. The eight young architects shared their ideas, engaged in debate, contributed to each other’s projects, and the fledgling partnership quickly made a name for itself: within a few years group8 became well-known for the hothouse intensity of its creative processes and for the quality of its built projects in the Geneva region.
Der Hagopian and Du Pasquier wanted to broaden their horizons, they had become aware of the increasingly global nature of architectural practice, and they perceived that the constraints of Switzerland’s tightly regulated building codes would limit their creative progress. Attracted by the entrepreneurial energy of the emerging property market in Asia, they expanded their operations in order to enjoy the best of both worlds.
In 2007, Der Hagopian and Du Pasquier opened a studio in Hanoi, whilst retaining their collaborative role in the Geneva partnership. As a result of the pair’s European experience and newly acquired Asian enthusiasm, the new venture accelerated the trajectory of their architectural expertise. Whilst they were enjoying the critical acclaim that their Swiss projects were receiving, they were now attracting a range of commissions in a completely new environment.
Climatically, culturally, and economically, the rapidly growing cities of Asia were indeed a world away, but the two architects judiciously implemented a strategy of cohesion, which embraced and resolved the perceived contrasts between East and West and between the Old World and the New. As Der Hagopian and Du Pasquier repeatedly declare… “From West to East, we have an ongoing love affair.” On the one hand, they brought their Swiss rationality and structural logic to Asia, and on the other they could now consider their European projects with a fresh set of ideas for pragmatic construction and socially responsible design.
The newly formed Hanoi studio was thrust into the limelight with the 2009 competition-winning scheme for Punggol Waterway Terraces in Singapore. Completed in 2015, the project demonstrated a commitment to both environmental sustainability and social cohesion, and it has set a benchmark for large-scale public housing in densely populated Asian cities. The same environmental and social philosophy underpins their ongoing designs for commercial and residential developments throughout Asia, and many of those in Vietnam seek to reinterpret the traditional connections between rural villages and communal life.
A continuing stream of public and semi-public projects in Switzerland have seen a conscientious reassessment and reinvigoration of urban precincts, in both the cities and interconnected villages of a country that is feeling the pressures of increasing densification. As in Asia, a consistent awareness of context and the environment is coupled with community responsibility.
Now known as G8A, the thriving offshoot from the original practice became an independent partnership in 2014. Headed up by Der Hagopian and Du Pasquier with Nicolas Moser and Laurence Savy, G8A has offices in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, and Geneva.
A fundamental reason for the success of G8A has been the capacity of the architects to adapt and assimilate their strategies for dissimilar locations: the underlying strengths of their architecture are calibrated for the specific climatic, cultural, and economic demands of such seemingly varied contexts. Singapore is not Hanoi, and Geneva is not Ho Chi Minh City, but the architecture of G8A is immediately identifiable and the factors that determine that architectural signature remain constant.
G8A’s designs for Asia reflect an unusually finely-honed eye for detail, their recent work in Europe introduces newly-acquired techniques for practical and efficient construction, and all their architecture demonstrates a passion for creating places that are humanly scaled, culturally vibrant, and environmentally responsible.
Our journey, from the year 2000 into the new millennium, still has a long way to go, but we believe that G8A now leads the way for genuine – carefully considered and deferential – design reciprocity between geopolitically diverse modes of thinking.