Pierre-Yves Rochon, Principal and Global Design Director
SPACE’s Can Faik speaks to Principal and Global Design Director, Pierre-Yves Rochon, the creative visionary behind world-renowned design firm Pierre-Yves Rochon (PYR)
Pierre-Yves Rochon, (PYR) was established in 1979 by Pierre–Yves Rochon to create interior design solutions for luxury hospitality environments. Through their designs, the firm aims to enhance each aspect of the guest experience. Each unique space is composed of elements drawn from each property’s location, architecture, culture and history. Traditional and modern materials, textures and furniture combine to create new interiors that are elegant, engaging and soothing.
What is your role at Pierre-Yves Rochon?
Principal and Global Design Director
What makes Pierre-Yves Rochon different to other design companies? With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Pierre-Yves Rochon stand out from the rest?
I believe PYR is more than just an interior design firm – we are experts in the hospitality and travel experience. Our designers have the ability to analyse a particular building, the site, the city, and all its culture, and then translate it into tangible, touchable designs that are incredibly memorable for any guest. Clients tell me all the time that they want us to work on their next project because they personally slept in, dined in, or walked through one of our designs, and they could not forget it.
Many times we are approached for major landmark work and projects that are meant to help shape the face of a city – the Four Seasons George V in Paris, The Savoy in London, The Peninsula Shanghai, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and the Four Seasons Bahrain Bay, for example. We know there are competitors larger than us, but you will not find any other design firm in the world with our experience specialising purely in luxury hospitality interiors. The amount of concentrated talent in our company making this possible is really unique.
How would you describe Pierre-Yves Rochon?
A team of endlessly creative, dedicated, and culturally minded people who can gather around an owner’s vision for a property anywhere in the world and bring that dream to reality.
How is the current economic climate affecting the hotel design market? And has Pierre-Yves Rochon felt the effects?
As a whole, the current climate surrounding luxury hotel development is the strongest we have seen in recent years. We’re all very glad to see tourism and hospitality continue to thrive, and we’ve felt the effects in a most positive way. We are pursuing work in new and exciting places, and we’re being approached for a great number of standout projects that have our designers and our clients buzzing. We are always grateful for that. At the same time, we are vigilant in selecting which projects we take on, because we know how important it is to have a good fit with the client, the brand and the location.
How would you define your ‘Hotel Style’?
Living and traveling around the world in different cultures has always kept me curious – and as any traveler will discover, if you remain open enough to the world around you, you see that no two places or people are the same. I treat each hotel the same way and cannot say there is any one particular style that we apply to all our projects. However, we believe in environments that are refined, yet comfortable, elegant but warm, and always timeless. The hotels we design are not overly trendy, and they don’t fall prey to any approach that might compromise the brand at any point. Crafstmanship and authenticity are of the utmost importance; we always keep this in mind as specific designs take shape for each hotel.
What does design mean to you?
To design something for a client is to have respect for the project: respect for tradition, culture, and the historical weight and emotions of a place. Sometimes designers have a tendency to put their personal preferences above a client’s actual needs. I think it’s important to keep the client’s needs first, and follow that with an appropriate design crafted in a most spectacular way.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
Very! Public spaces are vital in establishing first impressions and lasting memories of a hotel. Especially in the luxury market, people expect an extraordinary setting; to experience beauty everywhere. To connect the physical world with guests’ emotions is a complex, careful process, and public areas are a great place to begin because it’s where human interaction and engagement first occur in a hotel. When a guest reaches a hotel, the experience should begin with a grand sense of arrival and service; and a seamless experience from the outside-in. The lobby needs to feel like another world far away from everyday life, but still intimate, inviting, and full of possibility. Every design decision must be purposeful in creating a beautiful canvas on which guests can make their own memories.
Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?
We work in a diverse geographical range, throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and recently it seems like growth is happening everywhere. It is no surprise that China is extremely dynamic in real estate development, with new construction in particular, so that’s where we tend to observe a lot of activity. We are working on several new projects in China, as well as luxury residential developments there. It’s a joy to have the studio work on such international projects, but we also dedicate equal energy to working on important projects in our own backyards of Europe and the U.S.
What has been your favourite project to date?
Certainly I could not name a favourite, but one that perhaps holds the longest memories might be the Four Seasons George V in Paris. Our studio started this work in the 90’s when the hotel closed for renovation, and over many years, we worked with the client and operator to bring new life and prestige to this special landmark. A lot of people who know PYR’s name recognise us for our work here. To this very day, we continue to work for the owner to bring various suites up to date and reinvent the restaurant offerings. It’s an honour and a joy for us to have such longstanding relationship with our clients.
What would be your dream hotel project?
It’s funny you ask, because normally I’m the one asking our clients, “What is your dream for your hotel?” My own dream is to work on any project that will push our firm to explore other diverse avenues of design. I’m always appreciative that we are renowned for our expertise in European classicism, because it is a very precise skill that takes years of training and practice to sharpen. However, people usually aren’t aware of our huge range of ability to design anything from a historic, landmark palace hotel, to an ultra-modern, sleek new high-rise. Any project that will keep our minds activated and innovative is something I am interested in. Any project where we can shape the guest experience in new and different ways is something I am interested in.
What’s next for you?
I’m very hands-on in the studio, and I’m deliberate in mentoring and working with our designers to make sure that our founding ideals and dedication to authentic design remains steadfast. I think it’s important to instill these values with the next generation of designers, because it’s easy to go off track and get distracted by the latest fads and gimmicks; things that detract from the timeless quality of our work. Beyond that, I want to challenge myself and the studio to continue to work in new places, on interesting projects, with great partners, so we can keep growing and building on the momentum we have now.
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 think my family and friends would agree that one of the many aspects (and benefits) of being French is the inherent respect for the time needed to nurture one’s physical and mental health. Because I spend long hours on many projects, it makes me appreciate even more the nature of our culture to intentionally enjoy the pleasures in life outside of the office. At the same time, these activities, like travelling, dining out, exploring a neighbourhood, or simply spending time with loved ones – they are all related to my work in an ambient way. Simply living a good life shapes how I understand human behaviour and the positive effects of genuine hospitality. I always hope that this Parisian ‘joie de vivre’, or enjoyment of life, shines through in some way in all of the environments that I design.