Hong Kong-based interior architect and designer André Fu eschews stylistic conventions in favour of approach-driven design. Olha Romaniuk writes.
André Fu – founder and principal of André Fu Studio (AFSO) – lets his design approach rather than a particular aesthetic drive the vision for his projects. Fu, who established his studio in 2000 shortly after graduating from Cambridge University with a Master of Architecture degree, cites only the fact that all of his designs exhibit a certain kind of Asian sensitivity as a common thread. Indeed, it can be said that Fu’s sensible and attentive approach to his projects renders any demand for signature style superfluous; Fu’s projects stand out on their own, with a keen understanding of the space, client and audience driving the aesthetics and the overall design approach.
Having recently been named ‘Designer of the Year’ at MAISON&OBJET ASIA for his work on signature projects like The Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore and The Upper House hotel in Hong Kong, Fu continues to create spaces that transcend the boundaries of defined styles and focus on experiences instead. With collaborative, multidisciplinary ventures that now include his new lifestyle brand André Fu Living, Fu talks to Indesignlive.sg about his influences, his design philosophy and the importance of storytelling.
You started your design studio AFSO the same year that you graduated from the University of Cambridge. What prompted you to establish your own firm right out of school?
My studio was set up as I was offered to work on 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.
You have described your work as approach-driven rather than style-driven. Has your design process changed or evolved over time?
My personal involvement and the approach given to each project remain unchanged. However, my design language and understanding of the industry have evolved over time. I have also been heavily influenced and enticed by all the ingenious collaborators that I have worked with over the years.
Does the design process remain the same, irregardless of the project type?
The process to design remains the same – yet with each project I will set a goal for my team, be it something to respond to, a sense of place, or a way we would re-define a certain type of experience. I should hope that every project is unique in its own way and every time we are telling a different story.
Your projects span a range of typologies, from curating bespoke rug collections to designing the interiors of exclusive residences, restaurants and presentation spaces for fashion brands. How do you decide what projects you want to take on next?
It always boils down to a few basic factors – the nature of the project, the location of the site and, most importantly, the collaborators involved.
AFSO’s impressive roster of hospitality projects includes the Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore and Shangri-La Hotel in Tokyo. What do you focus on when you are designing for such well recognised brands? Does user experience play an important role in your design considerations?
Typically, a lot of established brands would come to me and entrust me with a common goal to inject something new into their portfolio. I trust my response to each brand is different – to acknowledge the brand’s key value and ethics, whilst reinterpreting the brand with my own design language.
Indeed, my exposure to a growing audience has allowed me to understand the impact of design better, yet I still enjoy challenging myself with the pursuit of new possibilities within the realms of relaxed luxury.
You have been recognised for your work on many landmark projects and have recently been named MAISON&OBJET ASIA’s ‘Designer of the Year’. Which project do you feel has been one of the most defining of your career?
The Upper House hotel, in its vision to challenge the definition of a luxury hotel. It is conceived as an urban escape that allows guests to enter into a world of calm and sheer comfort. The honesty in the design makes it rather timeless.
You have stated that your designs embrace the context of modern Asia. What does modern Asia represent to you and how do those qualities come across in your design?
The dynamics, the speed and the modernity of life in Asia today are a key to my designs, yet perhaps my aesthetic is also rooted in the historic pursuit of balance and purity. It is the world between the two that informs my design philosophy.
You are launching a new lifestyle brand called André Fu Living. What is your vision for the brand?
I saw it as a means to challenge myself, and to see whether the type of experiences offered by my projects could be made tangible. The vision for the brand will be composed of a collective of collaborations, from established brands to small artisans. It is also an online retail platform that allows all products to be seen holistically together.
As a sequel to Fargesia, our first eau de toilette created with Cult perfumer Fueguia 1833 Patagonia, we shall be previewing a collection of bathroom fixtures under the name of The Skyliner. The series is designed in collaboration with U.S. brand Cooper & Graham.
What interesting projects are you working on now and what is next for AFSO?
We shall soon be launching our first project in Aix en Provence, France and a new edition of our book by Assouline that will also be previewed during MAISON&OBJET ASIA.