ANDRÉ FU, FOUNDER, ANDRÉ FU STUDIO
Interior Architect André Fu is celebrated globally, not just for his elegant interiors, but for a whole host of design-led projects. Just a few short years after graduating from Cambridge University in 2000, he launched his eponymous design studio and quickly gained critical acclaim for the interior design of The Upper House, Hong Kong. From site-specific museum commissions to contemporary art gallery spaces, right through to furniture design for Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades collection, his studio’s portfolio is as diverse as it is original. Inspired and influenced by the different cultures that have formed the backdrop to his life, his elegant style bridges the aesthetic gap between East and West.
Following the recent launch of the much-heralded Claridge’s Spa, SPACE caught up with André to discover more about his approach to design.
Where did you grow up and was it a creative environment?
I was born in Hong Kong and left for the United Kingdom at the age of 14 for my formal education. I have always been fascinated with the world of design—I still recall how I enjoyed drawing mazes for my fellow classmates to work their way out of when I was merely six. My interest in architecture was born out of the times I spent in Europe and also my childhood in Asia, which has culturally inspired my appreciation of the notion of lifestyle in many ways.
Looking back, was there a pivotal moment that helped launch your career?
The Upper House was a major milestone early on in my career, as it was the first hotel I was propositioned to design.
One of my first residential projects had been featured in the Sunday papers in Hong Kong and it caught the eye of Keith Kerr, the Chairman of Swire Properties at the time. I was shortly called for an interview and a fortnight later I was entrusted with the opportunity to create what is the Upper House.
At the time, I only had a team of three working in my studio and was just several years out of Cambridge, making it an incredible opportunity to be given. It was an exacting but truly career-changing experience.
Your design styles are often very different—sometimes clean and linear and other times bold and curvaceous. What is your starting point when embarking on a new interior project and what elements will influence the aesthetic?
I always start my research process by placing the project in context. This includes the planned location—I will be interested in how I could respond to a specific sense of place. I also explore the intended vision for the project and consider how I can interpret it through my own design lens and develop it further. I take on projects where I believe I can offer a unique aesthetic response to a brief, and, ultimately, contribute authentic, long-lasting value.
With my architectural background, my approach to design also begins with the articulation of the space and its layout. The objects within, and the palette, textures and finesse of touches will follow if the integrity of the space is well-considered and intact.
Is there a particular period in history that you turn to for design inspiration?
My work is a form of visual storytelling that draws inspiration across different times, places and cultures, always taking into consideration the local context.
Your work has been described as ‘Asian minimalism with modern elegance’. Your recent design of Claridge’s Spa embodies this perfectly. What was the inspiration and the intention of the design?
When it came to the design and inspiration for the spa, the vision was to introduce something genuine and authentic to the spa culture. On that note, we have opted to create an experience that is rooted in the spirituality of the East within the context of the iconic hotel’s art deco history. I felt that integrating my own experiences visiting traditional Japanese temples and Zen gardens in Kyoto would promote a genuine sense of mindfulness and balance, offering what I consider to be an authentic retreat experience.
You include the use of a lot of natural materials within your designs—including wood, marble. How important is traditional craftsmanship to you?
Craftsmanship and customization are a key part of my work—I always believe in the authenticity of each experience and the human touch is always a critical element reflected throughout my projects.
What is the appeal of commercial and hospitality interior design versus residential design?
Creating private residences is all about finding a way to express the owner’s personality. The personal level of engagement of residential projects are often challenging as it is operating on a very different scale and it is highly personal. This may have a tremendous impact on the way the project is to be managed.
On the other hand, hospitality design is appealing to me because of the way each property could adopt a very unique and different narrative which would then be able to interact with an expanding audience on a daily basis. I always say that the environment that I have created serves as a backdrop, and it is the way it is operated that shall bring life and soul to a hospitality property.
Many clients have asked me to work on their private homes after staying in my hotels but as my focus is more on hospitality works, I rarely take on any private residential commissions.
Your name and studio have become synonymous with luxury. What is your definition of luxury?
I define luxury through the essence of the experience, rather than through purely visual, stylistic notions. The general perception of luxury means opulence, something very grand and decorative but for me, true luxury comes from comfort, where the experience has been designed around the guest. The real sense of relaxed luxury is not about physically what you see. It is that feeling of entering into a place, and the place is designed around you. You feel good, you feel relaxed, you feel comfortable—that for me, is hospitality. In the past, it was about grandeur and elegance. For me, right now it is about comfort and calmness.
Do you have a ‘design ambition’ you have not yet fulfilled?
To design a public park—I have always been fascinated with landscape design as each plant species represents a distinct persona and character.
Where do you call home and how would you describe it?
I live in a duplex apartment in the south side of Hong Kong with a vast balcony that juts out to embrace a 360-degree view of the city’s intriguing Deep Water Bay and Middle Island.
I moved into the duplex apartment about 7 years ago in 2015. I was drawn to its double height 6m high volume. I wanted the space to evolve with time and opt for a purist palette of ivory plastering, French limestone, and a solid wide plank oak parquet flooring measuring 300mm in width.
For the lower arrival level, I have created a salon that serves as an area dedicated to the artisan pieces and objet d’art that I have collected over the years—from the likes of Ai Wei Wei, Antony Gormley to Francois and Claude Lalanne.
Upstairs, the en-suite guest bedroom, and my bedroom are located. The island tub, with its view out to the ocean, is a centrepiece for my daily ritual.
What is the best piece of advice you would pass on to a young interior designer?
Good design takes years to realise and a lot of obstacles ought to be overcome in the process. The key is for young designers to understand that it takes a huge amount of patience to create and realise a project, and this level of endurance is particularly challenging in our times when things are driven by speed.
The Knightsbridge Pavilion Penthouse at the Berkley Hotel
The Wellness and Wellbeing floor at The Maybourne Riviera.
IN THE PIPELINE
The Claridge’s Penthouse
A handful of new suites at Villa La Coste, Aix En Provence
Waldorf Astoria Osaka
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