Designers in Profile – Clay Markham and Bin Cao : Co Vice Presidents of CallisonRTKL

Bin Cao

Name: Bin Cao
Company: Callison RTKL
Position within company: Vice President

Name: Clay Markham
Company: CallisonRTKL
Position within company: Vice President-Global Hospitality Sector Leader
. Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)
BC-After receiving my Master of Arch. (Urban Design and Design Theory) degrees in both China and USA, I have been working as a design architect for about 22 years.

Clay Markham


CM-I have been drawing and designing architecture since I was very young. At 15 years old I knew I wanted to be an architect. Once i had graduated from high school, I worked in an architectural firm before attending Tulane School of Architecture where I received a Bachelor’s as well as a Master’s degree. I began my career working in ultra-luxury residential and hotels in New Orleans but very quickly focused exclusively on hotels and resorts. I have now been focused on the hospitality sector for 36 years and am the Global Sector Leader for Hotels at CallisonRTKL.

 How would you describe your personal design style?
CM-Focus is on the business of the hotel to drive the design. Remaining flexible with the look and planning is key to find the right balance for the brand and the developer.
BC -Contemporary but still contextual with a sense of place.

. Where does your design inspiration come from?
BC-Local culture and the context of the surrounding site.

CM- From the locale in which I work. Who is the guest? What will excite them?

. In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
BC- I see the influence of new technology and an increase in environmentally sensitive buildings.

CM- Unfortunately, efficiency. We will must deliver it but with new found character.

. Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2016 and beyond.
CM- 1. New experiences
2. New technology
3. More customization
4. The authentic vs the visual
5. Environmentally conscious

BC -1.Flexibility

2.The Future


5. Elevating the brand

. If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design, what would it be?
BC -The importance of understanding the goal, then making sure that your design achieves it.

CM- Stay flexible and balanced with brand and owner. Know the business of the hotel.

. How important are The International Hotel and Property Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?
BC-Quite important, as it’s an illustrious industry award and would be an honour to receive.

CM- Awards and rankings remain a very important tool for recognition in today’s market of heavy competition in the design world and the recognition by the brands as well as the developers. Many of the aforementioned look to these awards as a way to determine their designers and the level of talent required

. What projects are you currently working on?
BC- Quanzhou Thaihot InterContinental Hotel.

CM- Park Hyatt Hanoi, AC Hotel South San Francisco, JW Marriott/AC Hotel Calgary, Hyatt Centric Silicon Valley

. What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
BC- Designing more memorable hotel and resort projects.

CM- Deliver the highest quality design experiences for my clients and the brands. I have geared all of offices towards these goals.
. Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself

Your most treasured possession? A set of travel sketchbooks of Fabrice Moireau.
Your favourite holiday destination? European Medieval towns.
Your favourite hotel / restaurant / bar? Park Hyatt Ningbo
Your favourite book / film / song? Bu Shu’s Those Flowers
Your favourite food and drink? Chinese Longjing Green Tea
Your favourite way to spend an afternoon? I love to walk around in the Old Shanghai French Concession area and to chat with friends while sitting in a tea house or bar with jazz music playing in the background.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be? An artist
Anything else interesting? I love to sketch and paint.


Your most treasured possession? My wife
Your favourite holiday destination? Miiamo Spa Sedona
Your favourite hotel / restaurant / bar? Hotel Splendido Portofino/Rampaldi Monaco/Mezzinine Bar Singapore
Your favourite book / film / song? Seven Faces of Dr. Lao/Maiden Voyage-Herbie Hancock
Your favourite food and drink? My French steak and potato au gratin/Bordeaux-St. Julien wine
Your favourite way to spend an afternoon? (in no more than 25 words) At the spa with my wife
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be? Easy…A chef
Anything else interesting? I saw a quote lately that I love: “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” Love to travel and eat!