The plaintive vocals of Chet Baker waft through the design space that overlooks a terrace garden in Hong Kong’s Central district. The contemporary office is simply named AFSO — short for André Fu Studio. The contemplative space is in the midst of — and yet insulated from —the city’s discordant cacophony.
“I was listening to ‘Time After Time’ by Chet Baker. The song evokes a sense of quiet sophistication, or in many ways, a world of cinematic charm,” says Fu of the ear-worm, when he laid the initial sketches for Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, the luxury brand’s first hotel in Southeast Asia.
“With its reputation for world class design and cuisine, Bangkok today is one of the most exciting cities in Asia, and fitting for the launch of the Waldorf Astoria in South East Asia. The city aligns seamlessly with Waldorf Astoria’s offering of inspirational environments, authentic moments and culinary excellence,” says Daniel Welk, Vice President, Luxury Operations Asia Pacific, Hilton.
The hotel is located on the Ratchaprasong intersection and overlooks the exclusive Royal Bangkok Sports Club known for horse races attended by the high-society. The property opens its doors in the third quarter of this year.
“To me, ideas come in a very instinctive manner and I rarely have to force myself into it. Through conversations with my collaborators, and being able to immerse myself in a specific neighbourhood, there is always something that triggers a moment of inspiration,” adds Fu, who was named Designer of the Year at the 2016 Maison et Objet.
“It is the most direct way to express my thoughts – I enjoy hand-sketching as it shows my personal expression of a spatial concept.
André Fu on the charm of creating designs with pen and pencils
Dreaming up designs puts the architect in the mood for music. Fu, who has designed The Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore, Andaz Singapore and the Pavilion Suites in London, plugs into theme songs for specific projects.
“I bombard my team with music and play it all the time. Whatever I’m listening to, everyone is listening to. Every time we do a project, we tend to have a song that goes with it… It’s about the mood of the song.”
“I will usually play it during the presentation. It’s about engaging people to a vision that you are trying to create,” Fu has said previously.
He was talking about the song ‘Cherish the Day’ by English soulstress Sade while designing The Upper House, the chic Hong Kong hotel which made the design world sit up and take notice.
The 42-year-old wunderkind’s choice of working tool is surprising— as old-school as his choice of classic tunes. He still hand-draws sketches, even if technology allows architects to design buildings without lifting a pencil.
“To me, it is the most direct way to express my thoughts – I enjoy hand-sketching as it shows my personal expression of a spatial concept. I also use an ink pen and colour pencils to highlight my sketches,” says Fu, who was born in Hong Kong and educated in England from the age of 14.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Cambridge University and went on to a Masters in Architecture from the University of Cambridge.
The detailed sketches of Waldorf Astoria Bangkok were unveiled earlier in May, as The Hilton Group hotel gears up for the grand launch of the 171-room hotel in the third quarter of 2018.
Fu wanted to blend art deco motifs unique to the original Waldorf Astoria in New York, with artisanal aspects of Thai culture.
A personal highlight of Fu’s is the Front Room, a restaurant serving Nordic-Thai cuisine. He says: “The restaurant was designed to re-interpret the spirit of a traditional Thai shophouse. At the centre of the double-height dining room is a vast light installation of floating glass lanterns – a reference to Thailand’s famous lantern festival.”
The white-hot designer’s pipeline of works includes a launch of a destination spa at Villa La Coste in Franc’s Aix-en-Provence. That will be followed by Shanghai’s outpost of Galerie Perrotin, a contemporary art gallery whose Hong Kong and Tokyo spaces were also helmed by Fu.
The debonair designer has lent his touch to everything from carpets to chairs, lights to luxe suites. He is really keen to get his hands dirty though.
“I would be inspired to work with pottery as I see a strong interaction between the artisan and the mud itself. I find that level of physical connection to a crafted form very intriguing.”