Latest developments in luxury interior design – Vincent Liew, Wilson Associates & Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid Architects

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Vincent Liew, Executive Board Member at Wilson Associates and Patrik Schumacher, Principal at Zaha Hadid Architects

How does lifestyle relate to interior design? What makes an interior design project luxurious?

The word lifestyle has been gaining the popularity associating to interior design during the last few years. Lifestyle is a very generic term- to describe behavioral patterns- but doesn’t necessarily define a genre of design. Everyone may interpret their own definition of lifestyle differently; as interior designer we try to provide the design that has a common denominator/playground that the person can relate to. Humans tend to relate to their historic moments that they were used to, in which they can be easily adapted. And there are some, who’d also like to explore and experience other new “adventures.” Therefore the lifestyle interior design  is to create that tangible moment for them to relate and experience.

Luxury is a state of mind, and means different things to different people. What makes a project luxurious is whether we are able to alter that state of mind. such as great comfort or extravagant design.

What are the key ingredients of your DNA as a successful interior design practice?

Wilson Associates is a pioneer and trendsetter in the design industry during the last 45 years, creating luxurious experiences all over the world. We believe that passion and talent is critical to a successful practice.  We are passionate about building a team with diverse creative backgrounds and we believe our design talents and individuals define the DNA of our company.

When speaking of interior design, are there specific trends you follow

We don’t follow trends but like to think we are setting them. We bring to the surface each designer’s diversity and uniqueness and apply into our design approach.

How important is nowadays branding and marketing for an interior design firm?

Wilson Associates believes that design is interdependent, from the brand identity, to the advertising campaign, to the tableware, to the wall materials and kitchen equipment. They are all interwoven and need to be looked at together as part of the design process.

We build small curated teams around our talent to support the varying projects to include branding.

In such a competitive environment with a constant pressure of the actual value of the investment, has the process of selection an interior design changed, if in any way? What are your competitive advantages?

My primary role is to nurture an environment that allows our designers to flourish creatively and it varies from designer to designer, there is no set formula. I set the scene to unleash designer’s creativity while balancing the financial performance. I would say that our competitive edge, is foremost, our talent. There are many ways to enable the design team; allowing autonomy, encourage collaboration with other offices, mixing different personality types, and recruiting talent from around the world with different skill sets.

The second is, really understanding our clients, and the markets in which we operate. We are fortunate to have a global team of experts working across many disciplines, understanding the nuances between east and western business culture can be tricky, but I like to think that this is something we don’t shy away from. We recently announced a strategic alliance with Zaha Hadid Architects and Arcplus. We’re also expanding our geographic footprint, we are opening an office in London this year, with Bangkok, and Tokyo to open in early 2018!

To what extent nowadays design still leads instead of following?

Design can lead nowadays more than ever before. We work in a global culture with instant global dissemination of ideas. This means that we are likely to find early adopters even for radically new propositions that disrupt current expectations and taste regimes. We are market makers, like all innovative entrepreneurs. We cannot follow the advice of market research. That’s for market followers. All true innovations deliver surprises. The shock of the new will delight and attract some, and repulse others. In architecture, where buildings appear in the public realm, the unusual is often vociferously rejected at first. That’s when we need a thick skin and stand our ground, if we are convinced of the new qualities our work will offer to the public. Our experience is that initial rejection transforms into enthusiasm. Avant-garde becomes mainstream. That’s its destiny and criterion of success. However, as our works become mainstream we move ahead with the next round of innovations, fuelled by our unending quest and enthusiasm to utilize the ever evolving technological opportunities to enhance our ever evolving lifestyles. – Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid Architects 

It is commonly agreed that design is a matter of taste. What is your approach, for instance, when designing the interiors of a hotel that have a diverse client base? Is there a compromise aspect to please?

Yes,  but we enjoy collaborating with our clients throughout the process, it’s very much not only a creative journey but also a very communicative one. At times, there are factors that are beyond our control,  it pushes us to adapt, I like to think that it’s serendipitous; the outcome to be better than the original.  We take into consideration the overall context such as the neighborhood, we don’t impose any specific look but rather follow the natural context.  It’s essential to trust the designers to know the right approach to adapt to.

To what extent, in the case of living spaces such as residential projects or hotels, design is also about functionality?

As soon as we broaden our concept of functionality beyond the immediately obvious, pragmatic aspects of technical and physical functioning, and consider social functionality, we realise that the distinction between performance and appearance sets up a false dichotomy that has puzzed and disoriented our discipline for too long. I have been lecturing and writing about the “instrumentality of appearances” and I consider communication to be one of the primary functions or performances of design objects and spaces. The language of design speaks to us about the social situation we are entering. This is of particular importance in the hospitality field. We are invited into particular ambiences which set the scene for specific types of social interactions with particular kinds of people. With our residences we express our identity and personality as much as with our range of outfits. The more we, as designers, can observe and reflect the built environment as a text or matrix of interdependent communications, the more we are empowering us and our clients to effectively intervene and succeed with our very own spatial communications. Good performance here means successful communication. - Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid Architects 

Whether it is a residential project, retail store or hotel, aesthetics is also about quality (materials, finishes etc). Tell us more about your approach.

We follow a nonlinear approach. Your first instinct is the best one. We approach design holistically and not stylistically. Art is a reflection of life.  When it comes to materials we also try to contextualize it. We believe in developing a local narrative and neighborhood story as part of the process.

What are the types of projects your firm is most reputed for? Can you highlight projects that  you are most proud of? Is there any criteria that would make you turn down a certain project?

  1. Le Lapin, Fairmont Quasar Istanbul, Saint Cloud, Skye Niseko
  2. No, there is no specific criteria as to why we’d turn down a project but it’s happened before, and we evaluate our decision on a case by case basis.