Established 75 years ago in Adelaide, Australia, Hassell has grown into a global design practice, with studios in Australia, China, South-east Asia and the UK. Priding itself on a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach, Hassell strives to create some of the world’s most creative and conscientious projects. As senior associate, Felicity Roocke leads the interior design teams at Hassell’s London and Cardiff studios. Hospitality Interiors’ Katie Sherry poses Felicity a few questions about her design inspirations, Hassell’s company ethos and what makes designing for the hospitality sector so special.

A personal view

What do you personally love about interior design?
Being able to create unique interior experiences is one of the most rewarding aspects of interior design. As an interior designer you can directly influence how people feel, inhabit, interact and respond within a space.

A huge variety of factors such as size, scale, contrast, combinations of materials, texture, furniture and finishes can all evoke different emotive responses. It’s very rewarding seeing something you’ve helped to create in built form, and even more rewarding when the people who inhabit it enjoy being there.

Thinking through ideas and collaborating with clients to create a narrative that is tailored specifically to them is a fun and rewarding part of designing – it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and motivates me.

How did you forge a career in the field?
I followed a fairly traditional path. I attended university, and studied for my degree amongst architects, urban planners and industrial designers for a Bachelor of Built Environment (Interior Design) in Australia and a Postgraduate Diploma (Interior Design).

After eight years’ work in Melbourne, I felt the need to travel and always had the view that I could become a more well-rounded designer by being exposed to new cultures, countries, experiences and environments – it always helps to see some of the projects you read about. I’ve been working in London on a variety of projects since 2001.

What inspires you in your work?
Travel, friends, collaborating with the people I work with, art exhibitions, novels, magazines, sometimes just walking down the street – you never know where your next inspiration for aspects within a project will come from, and sometimes it is quite random and surprising.

Being open and always on the lookout for ideas and inspiration helps – it’s a way of life. Architecture and design isn’t really what you’d call a 9 to 5 job. Ideas don’t always come conveniently when I’m in the studio, so I find I’m constantly thinking over design problems, taking photos, searching the internet or just jotting sketch ideas down.

Which has been your favourite project to date, and why?
My favourite projects at Hassell are those where the concept narrative is strong and collaboration in the studio has been the focus. Chasing Kitsune was a very small project in our Melbourne studio, where the team collaborated for a competition project to create a pop-up food truck to reinvigorate unused fringe areas of Melbourne. This little truck also won us a WAN award for Best Restaurant & Bar.

“Architecture and design isn’t really what you’d call a 9 to 5 job . . . You never know where your next inspiration will come from, and sometimes it is quite random and surprising”

The company uncovered

How do Hassell’s design philosophies reflect your own?
Hassell projects encompass a classic, timeless approach to interior design. There is a willingness to innovate, think through and explore how different sectors of design from hospitality, residential, workplace, education or even healthcare projects can all influence each other.

It’s all about creating desirable destinations. There is so much in common with different sectors if you define it this way. If you can create places where people choose and want to be, you know you will have some measure of success in doing your job well. This can apply to whatever sector of design you are working in.

What does Hassell bring to the UK’s design sector?
At Hassell we have a multidisciplinary approach to design and designing. Our architects, interior designers and landscape architects work together in collaborative teams, bringing a number of different perspectives to a project. We find this provides rich design ideas and solutions for our clients, as well as being a hugely enjoyable process.

Would you say that Hassell has a signature style?
Yes, in that the design ideas have a strong conceptual thread and resonance, and are articulated by well thought through, high-quality, crafted detailing.

No, in that we respond to our clients’ individual ethos, business drivers and location, always creating a unique design response.

How does Hassell ensure that its projects are environmentally sound?
We pride ourselves on being leaders in technical expertise and our knowledge of products, technology and construction. We have a dedicated research team which drives innovation and shares knowledge across our 14 studios via our intranet platform. This is an amazing resource which keeps staff up to date and makes sure Hassell is at the forefront of sustainable initiatives and industry knowledge.

What hospitality projects does Hassell have in the pipeline?
We have a real mix of projects in both urban and remote areas around the world which are combining the expertise of all our disciplines including master planning, architecture, interior design and landscape architecture.

Our five studios in China have a very exciting range of hospitality projects on the go. We have been working with the Shangri-La in Beijing and the Radisson and Hilton Hotel groups in Shanghai. Our Shanghai studio has also been working on smaller-scale projects, such as a boutique private clubhouse in Shanghai.

The really enjoyable element is the range and scale of our hospitality work. For example, we’ve very recently completed the Park Royal hotel in the Darling Harbour area of Sydney. At the other end of the spectrum is the urban coffee farm we recently designed for the Melbourne Food and Wine festival, where 125 coffee trees transformed the Red Stairs, a popular public amphitheatre on the banks of Melbourne’s River Yarra, into a terraced coffee farm. It was a huge success during the festival and gave the team a chance to be really creative. 

What are the plans for the company as a whole?
It’s very important to be deliberate in our project selections. We want to take on exciting projects that are interesting and different, and to be known for our creative, interpretive and expressive design work.

“It’s all about creating desirable destinations . . . If you can create places where people choose to be, you know have done your job well”

Designing for hospitality

How does designing hospitality properties compare with those in other sectors?
Hospitality design recognises the importance interior environments have in creating experiences. Providing opportunities to be inspired delighted and engaged, to relax, to immerse in the pleasures of a place, to be quiet or active, to be alone or with others. All of these concepts cross over to other sectors. Every hotel, restaurant, cafe and bar is defined by the experience of its guests and visitors.

How important are awards in establishing a reputation in the hospitality design world?
There is no doubt it’s great to win awards. They’re a source of pride and encouragement for our designers and an affirmation that we are succeeding in creating better places for people. As so many awards are judged by our peers and other leaders in their design disciplines, these accolades really are significant.

Why should hospitality venues invest in sustainable design?
In terms of hospitality design, I think people are travelling for unique experiences and are more conscious of their footprint and impact on the world than ever, so some are actively seeking more authentic, sustainable travel choices. Sustainable hospitality design can directly add to this experience by providing a more environmentally-sound choice for the discerning traveller. I am confident this will create greater demand for more sustainable design in the hospitality industry.

How important is it to reflect the local culture in the design?
Local culture and context is incredibly important. Increasingly, people are travelling to gain authentic experiences from the places they visit. Being able to wake up and know instinctively where you are is a key factor in hospitality and hotel design.

Notions of ‘international somewhere land’ and anonymous branded design have been a symptom of international hotel design in the past, where locality can be overlooked. When designing hospitality projects we look to create a resonance with the place – to heighten the sensory experience and memory of a place by connecting the design with the local environment.

“People travel to gain authentic experiences from the places they visit. Being able to wake up and know instinctively where you are is a key factor in hospitality and hotel design”