Andre Fu credits his idiosyncratic design style – a quietly thoughtful, carefully considered yet analytical approach marked by a highly refined aesthetic – to his peripatetic cultural upbringing.
Fu became known overnight when he first redefined notions of hospitality with his design of the world-renowned Upper House hotel in Hong Kong.
His creations include major hotels and restaurants around the world for leading brands including Villa La Coste in Provence, The Berkeley London and The St Regis, as well as Waldorf Astoria Bangkok.
Wladorf Astoria Bangkok
What three words would you use to describe AFSO?
A personal design studio that embraces cross-cultural nuances, modernity and relaxed luxury.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does AFSO stand out from the rest?
I believe my work is hugely diverse and there is an underlying sense of ‘relaxed luxury’ to it that defines my own aesthetic. It is about crafting compelling settings that embrace and reflect harmony, beauty and warmth, and which are imbued with refined, understated sophistication.
Being based in Hong Kong which hotels are you currently working on, and are you working in Europe or the Middle East?
We are currently working on a vast number of cities, from Monaco, London, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and Osaka. One of the upcoming openings is Hotel The Mitsui - a brand new property nestled in the heart of Kyoto with a vision to ‘celebrate Japanese beauty’.
St Regis Hong Kong
It’s a difficult time for the hospitality industry. What do you think will be the hospitality sectors biggest challenge post COVID?
It is definitely a year of challenges and in many ways the situation has allowed me to contemplate and reflect on the way I want my studio to evolve in the future.
Wellness in design is a key aspect that I am focusing on – I strongly believe that spatial design shall once again return to the essence of the experience. It is about creating spaces that celebrate mindfulness, that are pure and balanced.
What services can you offer to guests without little interaction at these times now?
Over 90% of my projects are still processing and we have also signed on new ventures. Meanwhile, thanks to social media platforms, I have been involved in quite a number of live discussions with key collaborators and media partners.
I am extremely excited to launch my new book, named Crossing Cultures with Design. Together with writer Catherine Shaw, our joint vision has been to tap into a more in-depth exploration of how my design career has evolved over the past 10 years, particularly in the realm of hospitality, as the book looks at several projects such as the St Regis Hong Kong, the Upper House and Villa La Coste.
Louise Hong Kong
What do you think will be the biggest change in how you do your job post-COVID-19?
In terms of working methodology, I see myself travelling less. I personally enjoy the interaction with clients and to experience the cities that I work in first-hand, yet equally I value this period where I am spending a lot more time at my studio – I feel a lot more productive and focused on the fundamental creative process itself.
What should those in the hospitality industry be doing now to help them prepare for the coming months?
I guess it is about being highly sensitive about the notion of social distancing – to be mindful of the appropriate level of care for visiting guests.
What particular trends have you noticed in hotel interior design?
Sustainability will certainly continue to be a key aspect of design’s future and as a studio, we have always been diligent in opting for renewable sources of materials, as well as lighting systems that are energy efficient in all circumstances. I guess there are simple solutions to the subject that will achieve the desired visual language with a good cause.
Crescent Pavillion Suite at The Berkley
What makes a good designer or architect?
A designer that focuses on the essence of experiences – I always believe an environment ought to be genuine and specific for its consumer, and not about creating mere spectacles.
What does design mean to you?
Design is highly personal to me – it is about finding an organic response through a rigorous and holistic process of cultural immersion, research and analytical thinking.
Do you believe simple design has become luxurious?
I have always believed in experiences that are simple and pragmatic.
St Regis Hong Kong
With social media, especially Instagram, becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for hotels. What are your thoughts on this, and do you take this into account when designing spaces?
It is inevitable that social media is an integral part of our lives. I guess it is all about balancing the level of comfort with visually enticing spaces.
How important are public spaces in hotels, and are there ways in which you’ve used innovative design in these areas to facilitate innovative usage?
Public spaces are likely to become less critical as clients in the luxury sectors are more eager to opt for experiences that are intimate and personal. Co-living and co-working environments have been a hot topic, yet I see with technology, their influence may be on the wane as we replace meetings and workplaces with a digital equivalent.
How do you think the influence of new technology affects the luxury traveller now and in the future?
I appreciate the fact that social media has educated the public about travel tremendously and the clients in the niche sector are much more aware of the market offering and have the ability to navigate the type of travel experiences that are more akin to their personal taste. To that end, hospitality design should be all about creating bespoke experiences that are experiential and the notion of wellness shall undoubtedly be a key topic.