When André Fu completed The Upper House hotel in Hong Kong 10 years ago, he quickly became an overnight sensation. The Chinese interior designer, who has worked with Louis Vuitton, The Berkeley in London and Waldorf hotels, is recognised for breaking away from opulent interiors typically associated with hospitality. Instead, he opts for a fresh, contemporary mix of simple forms and clean lines, redefining contemporary notions of modern luxury.
The eponymous book, Crossing Cultures with Design, offers an insight into the architect’s complex creative process, presenting 18 recent projects, complete with over 300 colour illustrations and original hand-drawn sketches, ranging from a Louis Vuitton conversation chair to guest rooms made up of a few brief brush strokes. Describing design as a “highly organic, natural process,” the book is loosely organised to reflect common themes, such as cultural filtering; relaxed luxury; and modernity versus classicism. “Creating this book has given me a fresh insight not only into the past but also into the future, by allowing me to reflect on the influences and development of my design language,” says Fu.
The book cites the Bauhaus School as one of the designer’s main inspirations, especially its abstract geometric forms. Other defining influences include the avant-garde architect Mies van der Rohe, whose modernist designs were made to maximise the experience of movement between spaces. Whilst this has led some critics to label Fu’s work as eastmeets-west, such labels would be reductive. Less about combining one style with another, Fu’s success lies in his ability to merge designs with the culture that surrounds them.
A prime example of this is the Villa La Coste, which translates the bright light and dry landscape of Provence into an airy, streamlined design, using rustic materials made of natural stone and rough-edged timber. Another example is The Mitsui Kyoto, a hotel located in front of the ancient Japanese capital’s Nijo Castle, where the walls are decorated with hand woven coverings that evoke the traditional craft of kimono. Some commentators have been quick to shelve Fu’s interiors under the “minimalist” lexicon – presumably because many of his designs feature indistinct, open-plan layouts and floor-to-ceiling windows, which he punctuates with understated, modernist furniture and sculptural elements. Yet the devil is in the details. Looking beyond the sleek, restrained forms and silhouettes reveals a careful layering of textures, colours, patterns. Despite appearing “simple,” viewers find that Fu’s designers are indeed anything but.
It’s this very precision that makes Crossing Cultures with Design such a delight to read. There’s a warmth and comfort to Fu’s interiors that come from a fine-tuned sense of balance and what works together, meaning that the closer you look, the more eclectic his taste seems to become.
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Image: K11 Artus by André Fu, Hong Kong.