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Q&A with Chris Hardie, Visiting Professor at SSS

Chris Hardie
Chris Hardie is a Visiting Professor of Architecture at RGU. He is currently based in Shanghai where he is Principal and Design Director at Schmidt Hammer Lassen & Perkins and Will. Chris recently caught up with RGU Comms for a short chat about his experience during the Coronavirus outbreak, and how things have developed where he is.

When did this all start for you?

I was on family holiday in Bali at the time, as quite a lot of expats do for Chinese New Year, and my HR Director reached out to suggest buying face masks in Bali, because there were none to be had in Shanghai, and that’s when I realised it was bad.

The Government extended the holiday and shut schools, so we made the decision to head back to Scotland. We stayed here for about a week, with all our employees working from home, which we were already quite well set up to do. I decided I was going to head back to Shanghai.

I flew via Seoul and then that’s when it started to get a little more interesting. Someone arrived on the plane in full hazmat and that was the first time I've experienced that. We were one of only two planes in Shanghai airport, which is one of the busiest in the world, so that was quite a stark example of how thing had moved on.

How had things changed in Shanghai?

When I arrived back at my complex, security guards had set up a little station at the entrance where you had to register and get your temperature taken. We use WeChat in China and within this app there is a health tracker which now works on a traffic light system – green means you’re free to move around, and red means you need to report yourself in for quarantine. The Government is taking things seriously, and I think the people are quite willing to accept that these measures are in place for a very good reason.

I was quite lucky in that, by pure coincidence, I hit a sort of sweet spot as I left the UK before serious lockdown and arrived back in Shanghai when things were on the downward curve. I am able to go to work as are many of my colleagues, but we have our temperature taken at various stages throughout the day.

Things are gradually reopening here, but with pretty strict processes in place. For example, my hairdresser had to sterilize all the equipment right in front of me, you have your temp taken every shop you go into and sometimes they will disinfect your hands as well.

Any advice for us back in the UK?

I say my biggest piece of advice is just to take it seriously. That's all I would say is just take it seriously. So, you know, none of us are experts. So what we have to hope is that those who are in positions of power and have the right experts around them, that when they tell us to do something, we should probably do it.

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