Back in 2005, an early André Fu residential project was featured in one of Hong Kong’s Sunday papers. His modern, organic design, and the “calm comfort” of his approach to decor, caught the eye of Keith Kerr, the then chairman of development company Swire Properties. One phone call from Kerr and an interview later Fu was entrusted with the opportunity to create what is now The Upper House hotel.
Born in Hong Kong, Fu studied architecture at the University of Cambridge in England, but says he’s “always been fascinated with the world of design” and recalls creating hand-drawn mazes at school, which his classmates then attempted to work their way out of. It was his childhood spent in Asia, and travels in Europe in later years, that he says fostered an interest in architecture.
The environment I create for a hotel serves as a backdrop, it’s the way it is operated that brings life and soul to it
Today, he describes his design process as “highly organic.” A commission, be it a residential interior (actress Michelle Yeoh was an early client) or a hotel, begins with a series of in-depth discussions with the client to “understand the genuine vision behind the project. I will also allow myself the time to understand the context of the site, its neighborhood, and its character.” When a “mental collage” then starts to take shape he will begin sketching.
Of his hotel designs, which include Bangkok’s Waldorf Astoria, Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto in Japan, and Villa La Coste in Aix-en-Provence, France, Hong Kong-based Fu says, “the environment that I create serves as a backdrop… it is the way the hotel is operated that brings life and soul to it,” and that he enjoys designing for hospitality as it allows him to “express a more layered, holistic approach.”
The underlying value in my work is about crafting compelling settings that embrace and reflect harmony, beauty, and warmth
So how does he see the future of hotel design? “Luxury hotels will revolve around expressing a unique persona—a destination that embraces culture, heritage, and a candid sense of place,” he says. “Celebrating a ‘sense of place’ is an understatement in modern hospitality, but I think there’s nothing more rewarding than creating a hotel with its own organic narrative, and with decor that evokes a genuine retelling of a city’s cultural context.”
When it comes to his influences, Fu cites everything from “a whimsical moment that I might observe at a vintage cafee, to mid-century architecture that I admire. I’m also heavily inspired by the poetic quality of Mark Rothko’s paintings, the power of Brancusi’s sculptures, and the work of architects Jean-Michel Frank and Gio Ponti for their holistic approach to design.”
His oeuvre is just as wide-ranging and was recently documented in coffee-table book Crossing Cultures with Design, “an in-depth exploration of how my design career has evolved in the past 10 years.” The book, created with writer Catherine Shaw, explains how Fu’s hotel projects develop, and how the underlying value in his work is to embrace a sense of “relaxed luxury.” His art, he believes, “is about crafting compelling settings that embrace and reflect harmony, beauty, and warmth, and which are imbued with refined, understated sophistication.”
Banner image: The Fu-designed 53W53 private residence in New York. Stephen Johnson