It's hard not to slip into a state of tranquility when entering renowned architect Andre Fu's latest project: the newly-unveiled VIP lounge the Pavilion, tucked away in an unassuming corner of mega-mall Pacific Place.
With its striking oak-crafted structure, four-metre-high ceilings, elegantly curated interiors and even a marble champagne bar, the lounge is a luxurious haven for top-tier spenders (of the mall's new loyalty programme, 'above') seeking a little privacy and rest after a day of retail therapy.
On the day we caught up with the award-winning designer and architect, it also served as a welcomed escape for the busy man of the hour.
Since bursting onto the design scene with his boundary-pushing Upper House project in 2009, Fu and his team at AFSO have built an illustrious portfolio that includes Kerry Hotel in Hong Kong, Villa La Coste in Provence, Galerie Perrotin in Tokyo and collaborations through his lifestyle venture, Andre Fu Living. The luxury of tranquillity, we imagine, is a rarity these days.
Perched on the lounge’s Bose bluetooth speakers-equipped high back chairs, Fu told us about his creative process, dream collaborators and his definition of luxury.
What stirred your passion in design and architecture?
As a child, I always enjoyed drawing; I loved doing hand drawings. Coming from a traditional Chinese family, they had wanted me to pursue a career with professional qualifications, so I engaged myself with proper architectural training and becoming an architect was a natural path.
What inspired the design and creation of the Pavilion?
Exclusive lounges are not a new idea per se, but when a premium shopping destination wants to take it to another level, and have me on board to do it, there’s a sense of commitment from both sides to deliver something special.
The Pavilion has two chapters; the pop-up Pavilion and this '2.0 version' which is more of a permanent entity at Pacific Place. [Working on] it was an interesting journey—there is an aspirational quality to the programme, and I naturally wanted to give it a form that is out of the ordinary. We came up with this sculptural form that is very wavy with a curvilinear quality. It’s about all these curvilinear forms that are juxtaposed against each other that start to unfold in the middle. It feels like you're stepping into a world beyond.
See also: 7 Gorgeous Hotels Designed By André Fu
There's almost an 'Andre style' to your works: minimalistic, punctuated with modern elegance and a sense of serenity. How did such distinct aesthetics come to be?
I describe my work as creating places that embrace a sense of relaxed luxury. A lot of my projects take four to six years to come to life; nothing is a spur-of-the-moment-kind of thing, and I can’t predict trends ahead of my time. Theoretically, if I started to design a hotel right now it would open in 2022, so it’s important that whatever I do is truthful to that concept.
There’s certainly a visual purity that we strive for; but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be sterile and cold, it’s still very lush and comfortable. We try to create an experience so that when you sit on the sofa or the chair, you become the spaces around you. That is something that is core to my work.
The Upper House is perhaps your most renowned project. Coincidentally, it is also housed in Pacific Place. Did the hotel inform this project, or was this a brand-new vision?
It’s a hybrid of both—there is definitely a synergy between the Upper House and the Pavilion. When we were conceiving the Upper House it was always meant to be an aspirational moment for the mall. A high-end, niche, design and lifestyle-driven hotel experience that wasn’t previously offered at Pacific Place. When we were considering the Pavilion, the agenda had a similar type of vision: to create an exclusive, private lounge with the same aspirational quality.
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You’ve designed quite a few luxury hotel projects around the world. What drew you to those collaborations?
It’s a mixture of a lot of elements: a great client, great operators, great location. I love doing projects in Hong Kong—it’s my hometown and a lot of my friends are here but until two months ago, I hadn’t done projects here for a few years. Then we unveiled the Kerry Hotel; the carpet collection [with Tai Ping Carpets] and now this. It’s been four launches in one month—it's been crazy.
But designing in different cities, I get to explore and learn from other cultures. The locations themselves inspire the design—I’ve got projects that are very colonial; people say they’re very ‘Andre Fu’. But we’ve also done restaurants with red bricks, which is completely different from people’s associations of me at the moment. So I don’t really have boundaries, but there definitely needs to be a certain genuinity and timeless quality to the things we do.
Can you give us a glimpse of your creative process or approach to your projects?
Typically, I start projects through having a conversation with the client. We visit the site, understand the context of it, and naturally, a lot of imageries come into mind. It’s all kind of psychological. I work very closely with my team; I share the vision the client is looking for and we start to brainstorm. Slowly, a whole series of images come into play.
One thing that’s important in the conception stage is that I still love to draw by hand. Most clients like to see computer renderings, but I love to present hand sketches. The physical touch that comes from drawing feels more organic.
We’re in a social media age where it seems like everything from art to design and food has to be 'Instagrammable'. Is this a challenge faced by designers nowadays?
My priority has always been to make sure people feel good here [within my design]. Whether something is Instagrammable, I’ll leave it to the photographer. I’m more interested in being in the space and how it feels. There are certain hotels that look great but are terrible to stay at.
It’s the same with clothing; people are increasingly going for softer silhouettes and comfort. That’s why brands like Theory or Celine have been so successful; they captivate that purity but also practicality and affordability that people are looking for. I really think that’s the way forward for design.
You've built a portfolio of creating luxurious experiences for others. What does luxury mean to you?
I think luxury, to me, is having a moment of stillness and not have so much on my mind. It’s a nice feeling having time to be really focused on a certain thing and not have multiple things happening at the same time.
Last but not least, what would be your dream project or collaborators?
There’s no set agenda in mind; I've always believed that my future opportunities lie in the things I have created. Designing an airport could be interesting, or institutional spaces, museums, performance art venues.
I'm not ruling out hotels—I’m working on a few at the moment that will be unveiled soon. As for architects and artists that I admire? There are plenty—Carlo Scarpa, Jean-Michel Frank, Park Seo-bo, Agnes Martin, Mark Rothco, to name a few.
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