ANDRÉ FU, FOUNDER of AFSO
Can Faik talks to AFSO-founder André Fu, Maison & Objet Asia/Designer of the Year 2016, and one of the world’s most sought-after creatives…
Design studio AFSO, established by André Fu in 2000, is recognised for its work in sybaritic and unique hospitality venues.
With its head office in Hong Kong, the studio’s client list includes luminaries such as Maybourne Hotel Group, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Shangri-la Hotels, Swire Hotels, Capella Hotels, Park Hyatt Hotels, restauranteur Alan Yau, Louis Vuitton, Lane Crawford and gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin.
What is your role at AFSO?
I am the founder of AFSO, my Hong Kong-based studio, which I set up in 2000 when I was offered a private commission at the time. It took place in a rather organic manner – I have now
embarked on this unintended journey for just over 10 years and I have never looked back.
What makes AFSO different to other design companies?
The dynamics, the speed and the modernity of Asian life today are integrated deeply into AFSO, yet perhaps our aesthetics are also rooted in the historic pursuit of balance and purity.
What five words would you use to describe AFSO?
Timeless, thoughtful, luxurious, relaxed, pure.
Has your life changed after winning Maison & Objet Asia/Designer of the Year 2016?
I have always believed that Maison & Objet is an important celebration of modern artisanship and the title is a tremendous recognition to be given. Such recognition is undoubtedly a milestone for the studio and it has given the launch of my Andre Fu Living brand a wonderful framework to communicate with a greater audience.
How is the current economic climate affecting the hotel design market? And has AFSO felt the effects?
Thankfully, my studio has always been offered a steady flow of project invitations and we are allowed to select those that we felt connected and inspired.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does AFSO stand out from the rest?
I believe in my instincts and more importantly, the experiences that we have curated through each project. It is never about differentiation from other designers, but experiences and stories that I am trying to realise.
How would you define your ‘Hotel Style’?
A modern aesthetics that embraces the spirit of contemporary Asian sensibilities. I have always been reluctant to describe my style, as I am currently working extensively in Asia, with our portfolio extending to a few upcoming projects in Provence and London.
Perhaps storytelling is a key part in my work and much of the design inspirations are drawn to embrace the sense of place – that is why stylistically, I would consider my work being extremely diverse. However, the pursuit for comfort and a sense of relaxed luxury remains the heart of my beliefs in design.
What does design mean to you?
I have always considered myself a spatial artisan – and the purpose of design being a means to create places for people to be in.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
Public spaces are extremely key to the hotel experience as it typically interacts with a vast number of people on a regular basis. The articulation of public spaces is always a fascinating aspect of hospitality design to me.
Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?
In my career to rate, there is a stronger growth of hotel design in Asia – I believe social media has facilitated the desire to travel in many ways and the demand for more personality-driven hotels for the niche market is also evident.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
There is a bigger diversity in design aesthetics and a stronger desire for personality-driven hotel experiences.
What has been your favourite project to date?
A recent collaboration with COS to create a unique urban landscape installation to showcase their fashion collection. We took over a derelict pier in Hong Kong’s waterfront and converted it into a sensory journey. There is also The Upper House Hotel, my most holistic completed hotel to date.
What would be your dream hotel project?
Perhaps Villa La Coste is one that best exemplifies the ideals of a dream project – its location, scenery and its context in the realms of art, architecture and winery.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
Hotels that are more personality-driven.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
Cheval Blanc Maldives, Park Hyatt Tokyo and the Berkeley London.
What do you want in a hotel room?
A sense of comfort is key – as style and glamour is always the topic of hotel design, yet comfort is an aspect that is easily forgotten.
How did the published Assouline book come about?
A collaboration that was birthed through an introduction between myself and Prosper Assouline.
What’s next for you?
The opening of Villa La Coste in Provence this summer.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
I guess the pursuit of work/life balance is always an underlying belief of mine – making time for myself to reflect is always key.