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Member Spotlight: 5 Minutes With Jeff Walker From Johnson Pilton Walker Pty Ltd

ACBC (NSW) Member Spotlight: 5 minutes with…Jeff Walker, Founding Director of Johnson Pilton Walker Pty Ltd, JPW Architects 

1. Tell us about your business and how you’ve leveraged your Australia-China connections to build your success in China?

Johnson Pilton Walker Pty Ltd (JPW Architects) has been working in China since 1999, commencing with projects in Wei Hai and Qingdao in Shandong province.

With a team of 60 people based in our Sydney office, where all design work is created, we have regularly won major international competitions in China.

Our work now spreads across China from Shantou and Shenzhen to Nanjing and Suzhou.

Without any representative office in China we rely on friendships and cooperative ventures with local Chinese Design Institutes.

2. What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?

My Sydney team includes several mandarin speaking Chinese architects trained in China and Australia, with all telephone calls and WeChat media contacts being answered by these experienced people.

Leaving me free to concentrate on design issues and project team work. My work ranges from intense design competitions to schematic design and presentation production.

We have several projects in construction which require regular monitoring, one major project in Shantou on hold and a major new city masterplan and super high rise mixed use office/hotel tower in Suzhou.

3. What would you say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business in/with China?

Honesty, professionalism, if successful in Australia follow the same model in China, contacts and friendships make it a long term commitment.

Whilst I fly in and fly out up to 10 times per year many of my clients and contacts are now friends, drinking partners.

4. How do you go about marketing your business in Australia/China and what has contributed to this success?

Architectural success comes from delivering a successful project with consistent professional service.

I was recently compared to an international competitor who was doing the opposite, winning a project then leaving inexperienced people to complete the work and providing poor service.

China is a large country with a large market but in the development industry everyone knows what is going on and who is doing what from north to south.

Our products are our marketing

5. You have been very successful to date, but there have no doubt been challenges - what’s been your biggest challenge that you have overcome in your business journey with China?

In 18 years of travelling and working in China I am sure I have made many mistakes, and certainly learnt a lot. But hopefully delivered with a professional honest approach, my Chinese clients forgive and accept my Australian foibles.

Language can be a barrier but friendship and quality Chinese staff with professional architectural qualifications and cultural background are essential.

6. What’s your motto/mantra?

Passion and long term commitment. Clients and government officials appreciate and quickly detect when someone is passionate and knowledgeable.


Jeff Walker founding director of Johnson Pilton Walker Pty Ltd, JPW Architects, and international and national award winning practice based in Sydney Australia.