Wellness was once associated with spas (and spas alone), before a wellness travel spree fast caught on. Today, the same word has been anointed with a more holistic meaning, deeper understanding and new insights. By Jenny Lo
It is an exciting time, when wellness is gaining the global traction it richly deserves, opening up a whole new world of opportunity powered by innovation. It is more than a social mission, it is a belief, a conviction and a driving force. Let’s take a look at how the culinary industry, architectural firms and energy-efficiency practices are adapting to the changing consumer perceptions influenced by wellness.
Planting a Future
From baby boomers to millennials, their growing interest in healthy eating and concern for environmental issues have sparked a plant-based food revolution worldwide. Look around, there are now more plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy products than ever before. Even more impressive, these substitutes look, taste and appear like the real deal. In response, chefs, farmers, educators, policy makers, startups and food giants are working together to secure a future where there is sufficient access to nutritious food.
Global food giants Cargill, Tyson and Unilever, along with startups like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, have invested heavily in creating plant-based protein alternatives. The Los Angeles-based Califia Farms is a noteworthy example. Dubbed one of the 25 most innovative consumer brands by Forbes’ CircleUp25 in 2016, they are leading the plant-based food and beverage revolution, committed to making healthy and great-tasting premium beverages through transparent, socially-responsible manufacturing from farm to shelves.
While it may sound far-fetched to have vegetables as carbs, jackfruit steak, tuna tomatoes or meatless burgers that ‘bleed’, these items will feature heavily in restaurant menus in years to come. Where beef was once king at fast-food chains, more companies are expanding a serious vegetarian line, such as UK’s Veggie Pret and new veggie chains taking the lead like Amy’s Drive-Thru and Plant Power Fast Food. Closer to home in Shanghai, the one Michelin-starred Fu He Hui has glorified Chinese vegetarian cuisine with an haute spin, while offering diners an awe-inspiring journey of discovery of exotic plant-based ingredients from China.
Farmer-chef collaborations are also reaching new heights, with chefs becoming farmers and vice versa, resulting in restaurants bringing the table to the farm. On the global stage, lists such as Plant Forward Global 50, which honours industry stalwarts and innovators who have taken steps to introduce plant-centric menus, will become as celebrated as The Michelin Guide and The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Now, imagine a world where pesticide-free fruits and vegetables are produced in cities and grown within former shipping containers using renewable energy. Sounds like a pipe dream? Due to a growing number of millennial engineers and agronomers, such as Agricool, which sells strawberries in the middle of Paris, these “mini farms of the future” could soon be found in major cities all over the world. It does seem achievable, after all.
Wellness by Design
Wellness design and architecture are high on agendas. Design plays a significant role in human health, both biological to neurological. From basic environmental factors like daylight, air filtration and sound, to more specific personal likes and dislikes. How our environment looks and feels is integral to our well being. These days there is even a term for designing for wellness – ‘salutogenic’ design – and it is the ultimate investment in people.
Creating healthy living spaces as an antidote to the stresses of modern urban living is critical, especially in burgeoning developing cities, many of which struggle with the growing pains of rapid development – endless construction, traffic congestion, overcrowding and, of course, pollution. Working towards a world in which our built and living environments are sustainable and make us feel good is a challenge gaining traction with designers.
As buildings get taller and cities denser, it is vital to instill a sense of community and nature into architecture. Beijing-based Ma Yansong of MAD Architects designed the undulating Fake Hills apartment complex in the coastal city Beihai to look like the surrounding mountains, a visual standard-bearer in the fight against those standardized housing blocks of Mainland cities.
In Taiwan, Tao Zhu Yin Yuan, the 21-storey carbon-eating tower by Vincent Callebaut Architectures of Paris, will soon celebrate its opening. Shaped like the double helix pattern of human DNA, the tower is covered in 23,000 trees and shrubs in a bid to help purify the city’s air. Experts say this is a small but significant step forward in eco-friendly architectural design.
The bucolic natural scenery and meandering waterways of the Xixi Wetlands in Hangzhou appeal to those who want to get back to Nature. A new 40-unit floating village-style residential project by British Firm David Chipperfield Architects taps into the ancient appeal of living on the water. Canals weave in and around the complex, with dark stone cubic buildings rising like floating monuments. Large windows welcome Nature in, shutters filter direct sunlight and the waterscape acts as a cooling agent to counteract the summer heat and humidity. Also in Hangzhou, on scenic Qiandao Lake, is the Ripple Hotel – the name inspired by the movement of the water on the lake – with Bauhaus-style architecture by German firm GMP and interiors by Shanghai firm XL-Muse. Here, the 12 duplex villas reflect a microscosm of Hangzhou’s natural landscape, incorporating natural materials like woven bamboo, wood and splashes of muted colour.
Wellness design and architecture is also about creating experiences. Calvin Tsao of New York-based Tsao & Mckown Architects knows this well and has recently created the Sangha Retreat by Octave, set on 47 acres overlooking Yangcheng Lake near Suzhou. An all-encompassing wellness retreat of private houses, apartments and two hotels, Tsao conceived Sangha’s master plan, buildings and spaces to encourage both congregation and quiet individual introspection, mindfulness, and self-expression.
Environmental challenges are prompting architects and designers to work hard to reduce – and even eliminate – their impact on the world around us. Some design thinkers advise that we should pay less attention to ‘form follows function’ and instead concentrate on ‘form follows environment’ in a bid to create meaningful projects that positively impact human behaviour. This rings particularly true in China where decades of development have led to stresses (pollution, congestion, industrial production) which negatively impact health and lifestyles.
Yet China has always embraced innovation and it is heartening to see this played out in eco-aware projects currently underway. Stefano Boeri Architects’ greenery-filled Nanjing Vertical Forest, backed by Nanjing’s Yang Zi State-owned National Investment Group is one example. The project, inspired by Boeri’s Bosco Verticale project in Milan (2014) is set to be Asia’s first vertical forest.
Two plant-clad towers (the tallest 200 meters high) form the centerpiece of the 6,000-square-metre site that contains 600 tall trees and 500 medium sized trees (23 local species) as well as 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs. Aside from regenerating local biodiversity, the vertical forest will provide about 25 tons of carbon absorption each year and about 60 kg of oxygen per day.
Inbuilt bioclimatic features help reduce energy and water consumption. When American architecture firm Perkins & Will designed the Shanghai Natural History Museum they saved 15% on energy consumption compared to a standard-design museum by including automated windows and skylights to naturally ventilate public areas and installing a geothermal heat pump which reduced heating needs by a staggering 86.2%.
On a more modest scale, a rundown cave house in Weinan, Shaanxi province, was renovated by architect Shi Yang of hyperSity who used the energy-efficient elements of traditional cave design (warm in winter, cool in summer) as the basis for his redesign. Shi preserved the existing arched walls and used rammed earth (mixing local clay and sand) for construction, redesigning the interior as a series of courtyard spaces and punching a circular glass light well in the northernmost area for additional natural light and ventilation.
Sustainable design was also the starting point for Beijing architectural firm OPEN’s new modular building system HEX-SYS. The award-winning project – a prototype of which was recently built in Guangzhou for developer Vanke – is composed of hexagonal units which can be disassembled and re-configured according to different site and programmatic needs. Light, industrialized, flexible, energy-efficient and reusable, HEX-SYS comes in three different unit types, each sitting lightly on the ground. A central column supports the funnel-shaped roof and collects rainwater at the same time.
SPA – Fashion Orientation
Now let’s return to our SPA industry. With the coming of the Internet Age and a boom in the “net star” economy, traditional SPA has undergone great changes. Nowadays more and more multiple and trendy packages are available at SPAs where innovative elements are combined together including beauty care, hairdressing, experiential retail, VR experience, private trainers for body shaping and yoga, and popular café and juice bars… In this way, SPA is creatively and closely connected to the lifestyle of modern young people.