Principal of AFSO
Notable projects: The Fullerton Bay Singapore, The Upper House Hong Kong, Waldorf Astoria Bangkok
André Fu, founder of Hong Kong-based architecture firm AFSO, earned his Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Architecture degrees from Cambridge University and made his debut with the Upper House hotel in Hong Kong. He is known for his luxurious hotel projects — from the initial concept stage through to the final detailed designs — as well as his custom-made furniture, lighting and other interior product design. Having completed commissions for several leading hospitality brands, he is recognised as one of the most sought-after design talents in Asia Pacific.
Each hospitality group and brand have their own signatures. How do you translate these into your design?
My work revolves around the ethos of ‘relaxed luxury’ where the high-end market is looking to offer experiences that are more genuine in spirit. I believe the way people live and work is very different from the past – to me, the notion of creating hospitality is to create a backdrop for people to be in. The sense of comfort is key. After all, when people are at ease, they are more inclined to engage with each other.
I am also a firm believer in approaching designs in a holistic manner – it is the layering of multiple elements that are combined to conjure a sense of experience.
How do you incorporate local culture into your design?
The inspiration for each project is borne out of my personal reflection of my own experience of the city. I enjoy exploring each destination personally and I see my work as an expression of the multi-sensory experiences and emotions that are provoked during my travels. During the design process, I am also eager to engage with local artisans and collaborators to truly celebrate the sense of place.
What are the current trends in hotel/resort design?
Lately, I’ve been inspired by what I would describe as ‘modern reflections’ – we live in the social media age and whilst the world is always keen to learn about the next best thing, it is even more critical to learn from the past as we will then be equipped to foster new possibilities with an informed and clear mind.
After all, most hotel projects take years to realise. Whilst it is impossible to predict trends, my personal interest is to focus on the guest experience – the notion of comfort – which I think is a quality that will stand the test of time. Material wise, I enjoy using anything that is authentic – much of my work is characterised by the use of timber, honed stone and bronze.
And what are the current issues in hospitality design?
We are in a very exciting time in the world of hospitality design as social media is making the art of travel much more approachable and the consumer market has instant access to everything that is offered in the market. This is going to prompt clients, hotel operators and designers to pursue more curated products in order to differentiate from one another.
The Fullerton Bay Singapore has gained so many compliments. What was your design process and what inspired you in designing this hotel?
My vision was to tailor ‘a new heritage’ for all the public areas at the Fullerton Bay Hotel. With its unique Clifford Pier backdrop and frontage to Singapore’s thriving Boat Quay area, the hotel was designed to create the feel of a highly individualised stately residence. As well as paying tribute to a bygone era, I purposely instilled a sense of refinement throughout the design and ambience of the hotel. It’s clear to see that the result is a re-interpretation of colonial heritage in a deeply rooted, yet distinctly sensual and lush setting.