By Colin Hastings
Concept i - an international design studio specializing in high profile retail/commercial, leisure and entertainment projects - won the contract to master plan and design the development last year. The site will include Europe’s tallest observation wheel dubbed ‘Whey Aye’, a phonetic rendition of the phrase ‘why aye’ in the local Geordie dialect meaning ‘yes, of course’.
Principal and MD of Concept i is Geoff Morrison, originally from Canada, who founded the company in 1996. With offices in Bangkok and Shanghai, Concept i has worked on over 150 projects in 19 countries. Geoff is clearly extremely pleased by his company’s latest success. “We are very proud to play such an important role in this huge development in Newcastle,” he said from his busy offices in Convent Road.
“It’s a wonderful project that will inspire people, create local jobs and boost the regional economy. The project touches a personal nerve – having studied and worked in the UK for almost 10 years, I was proud to take a lead role in such an innovative development from so far away. It’s a real testament to our Bangkok team that we win and take a lead position on this international design stage. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Other facilities include The Giant Sport Warehouse, comprising the newest active play, climbing and trampoline facilities, e-sports complex and a Quayside Golf Club, where golfers can compete internationally in virtual cyber space, at over 300 famous courses worldwide. The roof terrace is dedicated to competition footsal, tennis and basketball courts.
The Wheel ‘Terminus’, a five-story high entrance complex, immerses visitors in stories of Newcastle’s past, present and future as they move up to the Wheel launch deck. Following the Wheel sky voyage, visitors return to earth via a 20 m speed slide tower, or gently float down a suspended, gravity ‘roll glider’ track!
The company’s senior architect for the Giants on the Quayside is Francesc Domingo, a Spanish national and long-term resident of Bangkok. “All the buildings have been designed so visitors can ‘Feel the Wheel’ from wherever they happen to be,” explained Francesc.
The project is the brain child of the developer World Wheel Company, who have appointed Concept i as lead designer, supported by a consortium of locally based consultants to execute the project.
Geoff’s background is truly international with professional design qualifications from Canada and the UK. His work experience spans over 20 countries and 30 years of experience spread throughout the UK, Europe, Middle East and the Asia pacific region. The softly spoken Canadian first came here in 1993 to work on the design of Seacon Square, back then the largest project of its kind in Thailand. Not long after, he met and married his wife Patchara, a member of Chulalongkorn University’s first graduating class in landscape architecture, and also a director in the firm. Today, they are proud parents of two grown-up daughters who attended the New International School of Thailand, and are now studying and working overseas.
In addition to the Newcastle project, Concept i maintains an active portfolio of global retail, entertainment, and commercial projects. “Our projects receive top industry awards and recognition from our pier institutes such as ICSC, IAAPA and International Property Awards” says Geoff. “Our design for Capitol Mall, Istanbul won the 2018 International Council for Shopping Center (ICSC) top award for mall renovation in Europe.
“We are designing indoor entertainment parks in Kuwait, Bahrain and Vietnam, a 180,000 sq m mall redevelopment in Cairo, Egypt, a new retail center in Jeddah, KSA. and several exciting Bangkok developments”.
“Our ethos is to communicate and manage our creative process with utmost attention to clients and consumers. Concept i’s core team is 80 strong and multi-disciplinary including interior designers, architects, theme designers, lighting, graphics and branding designers. We are supported by a network of specialist sub consultants, carefully selected for each project. We thrive on collaboration and work with some of the top developers, designers and suppliers in the industry”.
Once operational, the observation wheel in Newcastle will offer 30-minute ‘flights’ and is expected to bring in 800,000 visitors in the first year. At its base will be a 11,000 sq m LED digital screen used for displaying information about local culture and events. The project is located at the east end of the Quayside, on the site of the former Spillers’ Flour Mill and Quay.