Design with Local IdentityHong Kong-based Else Design heads into its fifth year of providing architecture, planning and interiors solutions for an increasingly pan-Asian clientele. Square Foot talks with Edgar Chan, director of design and operations, about staying local.

You studied design here overseas. How is that influencing the studio and your work?
My educational background has influenced my work in different aspects. Besides studying in Australia for architecture and environmental design, I received my design diploma from Hong Kong Polytechnic. These backgrounds have cultivated my design ideas for different cultural aspects and concerns.

You do a lot of work in China and other part of Southeast Asia. How difficult or easy is it to work in those spots, and what lessons could Hong Kong take from that?
The design industry is blooming in China and Southeast Asia. Clients in these regions are more open to new design ideas and are more willing to try them. In China, particularly for interiors, peoples are searching for the so-called “Chinese identity,” which they seem to have lost in the last two decades. Most Chinese clients are asking for Contemporary Chinese in their projects nowadays, ranging from private homes to show flats and clubhouses. In Hong Kong, we need a design identity — our “Hong Kong” style.

Past Projects
What was your favourite project to work on in 2012 and why?
We have just finished designing two show flats for a villa project in Guangzhou, and its construction starts after Chinese New Year. We were asked to design the villas in Modern Chinese and Modern Shanghai styles. We started the project with research on the characteristics of the “styles” and the outcomes are fruitful and playful — particularly for the Modern Shanghai style. We merged simplified traditional elements with vivid colours, and the result is both playful and strong with Shanghai-ness. We all like it!

Like food, people are starting to focus on the local ingredients and materials, regional trends and location-specific design. Obviously some clients won’t want that but when possible do you work like that and what have you noticed as an emerging theme lately?
Clients have different tastes and different characters, and we like and have to work with local ingredients, cultures and ways of life, as these will tell the full story of the project — what and where, and who owns it. These ingredients will always play the main role in any design exercise, no matter when and where. It’s just a question of how.

Wish List
What would you like to see Else accomplish this year?
As ever, the company will keep focusing on possibilities and choices on the design spectrum, aiming to provide our clients and our professional minds with satisfactory designs.