Working in China, Part 4: Managing the Work

June 26, 2015

The team behind the Lao Niu Discovery Museum of the CNCC visits JRA's offices. From left, Mrs. Loretta Luke Yajima, JRA's Mike Meyer, Ms. Ni Zhang, Mr. Xuecheng Zhou and Ms. Hongxiao Li

The team behind the Lao Niu Discovery Museum of the CNCC visits JRA's offices. From left, Mrs. Loretta Luke Yajima, JRA's Mike Meyer, Ms. Ni Zhang, Mr. Xuecheng Zhou and Ms. Hongxiao Li

So you’ve finally signed the contract and work has started, but that's not the end of it. Instead, you’ve only begun your journey toward a new set of challenges.

It’s About Relationships
One of the most underestimated aspects of doing business in China is the value of maintaining an ongoing personal relationship with your client throughout the duration of the project. Keeping the client happy has a lot to do with the work you are providing them, but not entirely. Western firms often overlook this crucial aspect because we believe that if we do our work the client should be happy and we should be paid on time. Conversely, your Chinese competitors will spend more time "courting the client” even after the contract is signed - to ensure that the ongoing work process continues to go smoothly, which will hopefully result in getting paid, and in a timely manner. This does not mean that you have to take your client out to dinner every month or call every week. But checking on them from time to time to provide information or to just listen to their thoughts and concerns can make a world of difference.

Your relationship manager shouldn’t be your design lead, or chief analyst, or production manager, etc., as this can often muddy the waters between the needs of the project and the needs of the relationship. Instead, this should be an account executive or principal, someone who manages the project from a contractual standpoint, who focuses on keeping the communication positive and the client happy.

Always More to Learn
It’s important to remember that even once you successfully enter and compete in the Chinese market, there will always be much to learn as the business environment and cultural landscape continues to evolve.

For example, as you begin to make more in-roads into the Chinese market, you
may ask:

  • • What is the difference between a client who is a private developer and a government official?
  • • Why do some provinces have different tax terms?
  • • Why don't they conduct a feasibility study?
  • • What makes them think they can make that crazy opening date?
  • • Did they really get the land?
  • • Should I find a Chinese firm to be my partner?

These are all important issues that need to be understood in order for you to approach proposals and projects in the proper manner. By discussing these issues with your fellow industry professionals and learning from their first-hand experiences, you will be better prepared to understand and adapt to these issues as they come to light in your own business dealings. Hiring a local representative can also provide a great deal of insight and may be well worth the cost of consulting fees.

In conclusion, China is a complex yet dynamic market that will offer great opportunities to those who truly commit to adapting themselves to best fit the market and culture. It just takes patience, a willingness to learn, a flexible approach and an ongoing commitment.


Tags: Asia , Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: China Welcomes Its First Stand-Alone Children's Museum

June 24, 2015

In the wake of last week's dizzingly successful IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo, we are pleased to announce that Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum of the China National Children’s Center (CNCC) is now open to the public. Lao Niu Children's Discovery Museum is China's first stand-alone children's museum, a collaboration between the Lao Niu Foundation and Beijing Normal University. The 50-million yuan museum, located in the Xicheng District of Beijing, enables children from infancy through age seven the opportunity to enjoy an interactive and innovative experience of discovery.

Children and parents alike enjoy the interactive water table.

The Museum’s philosophy of education is to respect children, to value the moment when parents and their children interact with each other, and to improve cooperation, attentiveness and perseverance. JRA (Jack Rouse Associates) provided overall planning, design development, and fabrication and installation project management for the Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum’s 26,000 square feet of exhibit space, which is themed around the animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Playing pirate in the Drama area.

Within the museum’s five exhibit halls and fourteen galleries, children will be able to exercise their minds and bodies through observation, practice and exploration via a series of interactives and creative play experiences. They will also learn how to exercise proper judgment through testing, exploring and problem solving. Specifically, children will have the opportunity to:

  • • Immerse themselves in various scenes in the Drama area
  • • “Cook” and serve food in the Café
  • • Sell groceries in the Market
  • • Build a brick wall two stories high in the Construction area
  • • Role play as a veterinarian in the Pet Hospital or mechanic in the Auto Shop
  • • Ascend a colorful climber within the Museum’s Skylight Room
  • • Splash in the Water Table
  • • Discover the principles of gravity in the Flight Zone and
  • • Design and create art projects in the Art Studio

Learning about the human body through play.

Through the Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum, the CNCC hopes to provide children with opportunities to understand the diversity of their world, discover their potential and improve their resilience in the face of challenges.

Friday, we'll wrap up "Asia Month" with the fourth and final installment of our Working in China blog series. And be sure to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages for pics from last week's Expo.

The Construction area holds the building blocks for fun!

Tags: Asia , featured , Project Spotlight

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Working in China, Part 3: Using Outside Consultants to Get the Job

June 19, 2015

In our last segment, we discussed the importance of changing your business mentality and communication style when bidding on projects in China.

Guangdong Science Center

4. Getting It Right: Accurate Translation
Sounds simple, but are you sure your portfolio is properly translated or what you say in a presentation is accurately interpreted, so that the decision maker on the client side (who usually does not understand English) gets your message? Often, we all spend a lot of time writing an elaborate proposal or preparing a graphically beautiful package, but the only problem is - it's not in Chinese, or, even worse, it's poorly translated by a translation company that has as much insight into your business as they do with insurance or banking. High quality translation or interpretation cannot be overestimated. It's worth the time to locate professional translators that have experience in working in your specific line of business, who understand what you do, who care enough to take the time and exert the effort to get things right.

5. Get A Guide
If you were to go scuba diving in new waters, chances are you’ll go with a guide. What about navigating the waters of business in China? Even if you have been there many times, it never hurts to have a local resource to help you guide through unfamiliar territory. The sooner you acknowledge the barriers and get help, the sooner you are off to a more efficient and enjoyable journey.

Hiring a guide allows you to focus on what you do best – your business – instead of worrying about how to hail a taxi or how to interpret broken English. It is a small price to pay to engage a consultant who is versed in the Chinese business environment and understands its unique set of subtleties and underlying minutiae. Not only will this help you be more productive in your pursuit of qualified leads, but will also save you a lot of time spent in pursuing “opportunities” that are really wild goose chases. A knowledgeable representative can help you avoid potential clients just looking for free creative, will keep you away from participating in competitions in which you don't stand a good chance to win and can protect you from clients who just want to use your proposals as bargaining chips against your competition.

So you’ve gotten the job – congratulations! Now what? We’ll tackle that question in our final segment.

Tags: Asia , Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: A Kid's-Eye View of Peoria PlayHouse

June 17, 2015

JRA Blog Readers, we have a special treat for you today.  For the first time in JRA Blog history, we are offering a kid's-eye view of one of our newly-opened projects, Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum! Today's special correspondent is Keira McCoy, soon-to-be fourth grader at J.F. Burns Elementary and daughter of JRA VP of Marketing & Business Development, Shawn McCoy. Take it away, Keira!


Hi! My name is Keira McCoy. Me and my brother Finley McCoy got to go to the Peoria PlayHouse! It was so much fun! Here are some of the things Finley and me did!

My favorite thing I did was the ball pit! Finley and I both loved it! You do stuff with balls to get them into a hole. These include the ball gun, basketball hoop and the sucker thing.

Also they have a thing where you make balls float in the air! Here’s my mom checking it out.

Also, you can hear music, and when you do you go under all the balls that went into the big bucket and they drop on you!

But my brother’s favorite thing to do was to play with kinetic sand. He made sand castles and destroyed them! You can see he is making a sandcastle in this very picture!

Sand is fun, but it’s also messy! So in the next room, they have a vacuum and air machine. To work each different setting, touch the button right next to the word that says the setting you chose.

The vacuum setting sucks in sand, and the air setting blows sand off. It makes you clean, but as you can see, I used it differently!

Lights, camera, action! Those are some words you’ll hear at the Peoria Playhouse movie theater! You get to pretend to be the ticket person, draw on your face, dress up, change the setting of the movie, and zoom in.

3...2...1...Blast off! Super Keira and Captain Finley have left the movie theater!

Wait for me! Is something you’re gonna hear at the train station! You can drive the train and there is room for passengers. Also you can play with trains inside and outside the train.

So let’s hop on and go to the farm!

Cluck! Moo! Oink! Baaa! Yeeha! Rupp! Those are some of the sounds you’ll hear at the barn. Here you can pick fruit, climb a chicken coop, control a tractor, sort fruits and vegetables and see how farmers fill your kitchen.

It’s wet! It’s blue or clear. It’s water!

The water rom has a water bubble, plastic versions of what animals you might see in the water, a fish tank, a place where you can connect pipes!

In another room, you can play with tools like hammers, screwdrivers and saws! It’s like being a construction worker!

As a kid, your imagination builds up! And with this room you can build whatever you can imagine!

Also at the museum you can play a matching game, see how fast humans and animals heartbeats are, use a microscope and make music with your heartbeat.

If you’re ever in Peoria, the Peoria PlayHouse is a great place for kids to be kids.


Thanks Keira! Tomorrow, we'll profile the opening of another children's museum - one on the other side of the world...

Tags: featured , Project Spotlight

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South Carolina State Museum Receives Six Awards for Renovation, Expansion

June 15, 2015

The South Carolina State Museum recently received six awards for its major $23 million “Windows to New Worlds” renovation and expansion that opened in August 2014.  The industry-leading awards recognize the State Museum’s project for its extensive historic preservation efforts, unique and innovative design, and outstanding construction leadership.

As the state’s largest and most comprehensive museum, the South Carolina State Museum offers a unique, entertaining and educational experience to visitors throughout its 225,000 square foot facility located in the heart of downtown Columbia’s Congaree Vista. The State Museum is housed in one of its greatest artifacts, an 1894 old textile mill full of character and charm. In addition to beautiful meeting spaces throughout the facility, guests can explore outer space in one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, watch an interactive 4D movie and look through a vintage telescope in a one-of-a-kind observatory.
Through private and public funding, State Museum leadership and industry-leading firms, the State Museum successfully transformed its nationally registered historic facility into a world-class attraction with one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, a state-of-the-art observatory and the only permanent 4D theater in the state.  JRA worked with the State Museum to develop a thematic visitor experience that would embrace and highlight the history of the mill.

The strategic collaboration of many individuals and organizations helped solidify a high-quality project that has received the following 2015 awards.

  • ·         The Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Preservation Stewardship Award: This award recognizes those who have ensured the ongoing preservation of historic buildings, structures or sites through long-term care, planning, management, protection or continuous ownership.
  • ·         Historic Columbia’s New Construction in a Historic Context award: This award recognizes new buildings in a historic district adjacent to or within existing historic structures that complement the historic context.
  • ·         Gilbane Construction Project of the Year Southeast Division: This award recognizes excellence on projects that embody core values, commitment to quality and the Gilbane family legacy of excellence in the construction industry.
  • ·         Construction Management Association of America South Atlantic Chapter’s Project Achievement Award for Renovation/Modernization:  This award recognizes excellence in construction management specifically for projects involving renovation and modernization.
  • ·         American Institute of Architects South Carolina Design Award: This award recognizes excellence and innovation in architectural design. 
  • ·         American Institute of Architects Charlotte Design Award: This award recognizes excellence and innovation in architectural design.

“These awards are a direct result of a quality project made possible by the hard work of many stakeholders and an outstanding design and implementation team,” said State Museum executive director Willie Calloway. “We are proud to have successfully transformed our 19th century mill building into a true cultural destination.”

In addition to JRA, the State Museum collaborated with a variety of industry-leading consultants. Awarding-winning architects, Clark Patterson Lee and Watson Tate Savory, took their cue from the thematic design with an approach that both reinforced the rich historic fabric of the original structure and introduced additions that were contemporary yet sensitive to the mill in scale and rhythm. The museum then brought on industry-leading experts to construct the project, including Gilbane Construction (general contractor), Evans & Sutherland (planetarium contractor) and SimEx-Iwerks (4D theater contractor).  The project preservation, oversight and review were provided by South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Historic Columbia and the City of Columbia.
Although the project idea was formed in 1997, it was not until 2002 that serious deliberation, fundraising and planning began. The State Museum explored several design concepts and did extensive benchmarking, including a trip made by museum executive director Willie Calloway to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, which was the inspiration for the planetarium’s glass cube design. The final design plan focused on a historically-sensitive renovation, including repurposing existing spaces, uncovering and rehabilitating original interior features and adding modern additions to the exterior of the museum.
“Our goal was to embrace the mill and bring its original character back to life,” said Calloway.  “We paid close attention to every detail – from ripping carpeting out and refinishing 100 year-old wood floors, to bringing in reclaimed historic mill flooring, to removing sheet rock to expose the mill’s original brick interiors.  We also made sure any added features into the mill space complimented our vision of restoring and celebrating the historic mill building.”
In 2012, the State Museum broke ground on the 75,000 square feet “Windows to News Worlds” project to renovate and expand the Columbia Mills Building, the home of the State Museum and a former textile mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In addition to the planetarium, observatory and 4D theater, the project consisted of adding a new telescope gallery, lobby, store, meeting and office spaces, and student entrance and lunch room.
The new expansion is having a positive cultural tourism and economic impact and is providing many new opportunities to educate and inspire South Carolina students through innovative programming that focuses onscience, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Tags: featured , Museum , Project Spotlight

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