Interview: Designer Andre Fu

We interview Internationally acclaimed interior designer Andre Fu on his design philosophy

Internationally acclaimed interior designer Andre Fu founded Afso in 2000, the same year he graduated from Cambridge University where he read architecture. Fu's projects - like Opia for Jia Hong Kong and the lobby of Jia Shanghai; Azure at Hotel LKF and Duke's Burger - have featured in publications like Wallpaper, Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure. Recent jobs include the recently opened Upper House at Pacific Place, Agnes b La Loggia at ifc Mall, the Horizon Club lounge, Piacere and Nadaman at the newly opened Shangri-La hotel in Tokyo, and Cassia restaurant and lounge at Singapore's Capella resort.

VITALS

  • Occupation: Founder of Afso boutique design studio
  • Age: "I would rather not talk about it"
  • Home: Mid-levels, Central
  • Stimulants:Visiting fine art exhibitions featuring works by Mark Rothko, Candida Hofer, Anish Kapoor and Andreas Gursky
  • Relaxants:Reading historical references about interiors

Design philosophy

"I have always believed that without an understanding of the old you cannot create something new. The more a project has a specific historical reference, the more knowledge I need to gain about that period. "Design for me is quite a natural thing. To put it bluntly, I have a natural reaction when I walk into a room, or when I start talking to a client and really get interactive with them. It's like a mental collage. Once it starts to build up, there will be a moment when I sit down and sketch things out very quickly, and then that will become the interior concept."

On interiors

"I have always been interested in architecture because I am interested in how space works, but equally I'm also interested in the lifestyle aspect, how spatially a room can have a certain emotional connection with the person going in there. The more I have been in the business, the more critical and observant I am. I perceive every project as being quite different and unique in its own way, so every time it's a new agenda."

On good design

"For me a good design has to have a fourth dimension, for the person who is visiting it or using it. Equally it should fit the purpose. If someone asks me to design a cutting-edge modern Japanese restaurant, as compared with a private home for a young couple, the approach would be very different. I talk about emotion a lot, which is sort of the fourth dimension. It's something that I cannot create. I cannot create an emotional connection but I can provoke it. What is potentially very measurable is when the space has the talent to provoke emotions. I think it's basically the connection with its user."

"I talk about emotion a lot, which is sort of the fourth dimension [in interior design]. I cannot create an emotional connection but I can provoke it."

On communicating

"In my work I am interested in the interaction with the client, and we really work together. It's important to have that mutual understanding of deliverables and to make sure that from the interior to things like the use of glassware, tableware and uniforms everything is maintained as one consistent language."

On work and play

It's very hard for me to draw a line between the two because of the nature of my job. I'm just passionate about travelling, seeing things, experiencing things. These are the things people do on a leisurely basis but when I get inspired or see things that I respond to, it becomes an image or basis for my design. Lifestyle is my work but equally it's something I enjoy doing so I don't really differentiate - when I go travelling, say, or when I dine out – between whether it's my work or whether it's my hobby."

His inspirations

"There is nothing more inspiring than to see a customer being soaked up by the interior – its atmosphere, decor, and all the software that goes with it. It is the lifestyle aspect of hospitality venues that inspires me to continue to push the boundaries. Everything has a way to inspire, it just depends how you see it. It's not necessarily visual elements; it could be people that you meet, people you interact with or a piece of technology. Even though my work seems to be extremely luxurious and high end, some of the ideas may come from seeing something in a small mundane restaurant or shop or whatever - it's not just about seeing really grand, really beautiful institutions."

On success

"I'm increasingly given the recognition and the opportunity to work on some very prestigious projects. I'm passionate about what I do and I also feel that I have every reason to make (these projects) unique in their own way." [Fu describes himself as a calm person who is passionate about life.]

When asked if or how he deals with the stresses of his job, he says, "I don't know if stress is the word. When I am given these sorts of projects, obviously expectations are extremely high, not just from the client but even from people like you who have read about me and know me through past projects: 'I want to see what Andre has produced for this kind of venue'. But I try not to think about it too much because good design doesn't breed from that; it breeds from the elements that I have talked about - the historical reference, the understanding of what the vision is. You just kind of do it."

On luxury

Luxury for Fu is "enjoying the moment". "It could be the simplest thing as long as you learn to appreciate it. I have always believed that simplicity means quality."

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