Even though it's getting much better, the U.S. trade deficit with China continues to be the largest trade imbalance between any two countries in the world. In 2011, for example, the United States imported $365 billion in Chinese goods… yet only exported $92 billion of American goods to China. To gauge and compare professional business services brought from one nation to the other, is even harder to assess based upon different degrees of control each country's government exercises. Quite frankly, to bring services to The People's Republic of China can be one of the most challenging things for a foreigner to accomplish in terms of business. The regulatory barriers are substantial, and diehard commerce norms still exist. Officially, women have the same rights as men in the workplace and yes, the party has promoted this sense of equality the past two decades. However, traditional Confucian thinking really does not sit easily with this notion of gender equality.
Based upon the above, can you imagine what an incredibly major triumph it was for the talents of Annie Aalto of Aalto Design, located in Fairfield, Iowa, USA, to be called upon to design a state-of-the-art stone floor at a 5-Star Shanghai hotel? Here's how it happened…
This new Renaissance Hotel was being constructed in the burgeoning Putuo district of Shanghai. The contemporary interior, designed by VOA Architects of Chicago, had a unique "wind pattern" theme. It included a "Tornado Bar," and swirling wind patterns seen in the ceiling were to be mirrored by a custom stone floor. Not only was this unique floor pattern to follow curvatures of the ceiling, it was to impart a motion effect directing the flow of traffic from the hotel's lobby right to the reception desk; from there to guestrooms and then, through the bar and seating areas. To add to this daunting design challenge, the client, MingJie Real Estate, also requested that the floor design include a representation of the RuYi, a Chinese ceremonial scepter or talisman symbolizing power and good fortune.
"This was really a good example of a great team effort," Aalto stated. "For the last few years, we've been partnering with Hawei Perrett of FNW Co in Shanghai, who functions as our project manager for upscale productions such as the new Renaissance. Communications were perfect, and under her guidance, the floor was installed precisely to our design specifications.
"Our client wanted to make sure the four subtle colors of natural stone chosen for the floor, which consisted of visually compatible marble and limestone, would transition nicely from one to the next, color-wise. The tonal patterns had to work together. In particular," continued Aalto, "one design goal was to produce a floor that was contemporary, impactful… yet still in some way keep it understated so not to take away from the rest of the lobby features"
Because of the long curves of this pattern which only could be achieved via computer-driver waterjet cutting, perhaps the main challenge of this project was for the installers to masterfully fit together each piece of stone after arriving at the jobsite from the nearby factory. This process was accomplished by incorporating complete in-factory layout, and then dry-fitting all stone pieces together at the site.
A graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, Annie grew up in an artistic family environment, which for the last 25 years has had an emphasis on the decorative flooring industry. Because of this, she has become an expert in all phases of the design and manufacturing process. Her father, Finnish-born artist Harri Aalto, has established an international reputation for visionary design excellence as Creative Director of Creative Edge Master Shop, the world-leading waterjet fabrication company serving the architectural & design community. Aalto Design was created to offer a unique, value-added design capability to further distinguish the work of that firm.
"Basically, we're an artisan workshop that happens to be situated in Fairfield, Iowa," concluded Aalto. "Even though we may be located in the Heartland of the United States, clients from around the world don't seem to mind. They know that our design work will meet their goals; and perhaps one reason why they continue to specify our services is because they know we look at every custom floor not as an installation project, but rather, as a long-lasting, work of art."