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A life in architecture: John Rocha

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As a designer working across several disciplines, John Rocha is concerned with the marriage of beauty and functionality, whether it is a range of clothes, a piece of glassware or a building interior. As a native of Hong Kong, he has seen the furious pace of development forcing sometimes ugly buildings with unpleasant working environments on its hard- working population.

One beacon of light that, quite literally, stands out for him is Sir Norman Foster's Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank (pictured). 'It's so much more than a glass box. Yes, it's glass and stone and steel but it's a contemporary design that will last for a long, long time, and it also creates a really good environment for people to work in,' says Rocha, who has lived in Dublin for over 20 years but visits Hong Kong frequently.

His extensive travel has exposed him to many different interior spaces around the world, and this in turn has fuelled his interest and informed his design. But home has an inevitable pull and he is familiar with the bank's light, open, cool interiors as his brother worked there for many years. 'The lift is like a spaceship and you can see all the different functions and all the detail. I like to see things that are cleverly designed but that everyone can appreciate and use.'

It is Foster's non-elitist approach that Rocha clearly enjoys, repeated at later buildings such as Stansted Airport. 'It's Foster's creative processes that are so spectacularly on show. It's something that I can't even imagine being able to achieve, he is so ahead of everybody else.'

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