Since 2008, Hong Kong-based Else Design has been providing master planning, architectural and interior design services across Southeast Asia, and prides itself on its distinct results — on both quality and design creativity fronts. The young company works from a collaborative studio on commercial and residential architecture and interiors. Square Foot chats with Else’s design director, Edgar Chan.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and Else Design?
I did my interior design study at Polytechnic University and Bachelor of Architecture and Environmental Design in UWA, Australia. After working in Australia, I returned to Hong Kong in 2002 and joined the DCM office [here], where my main duties were in design and project management on both architecture and interior projects. I designed and managed residential, commercial and retail projects; you may be familiar with the Louis Vuitton stores in China and Hong Kong. I’ve done almost a dozen LV stores.
Else was founded as an “interactive cluster” with a group of new generation designers, which aims to cultivate innovative designs for our clients. We start projects by brainstorming over the client’s brief which generates a formula: possibilities + choices + creativeness.
Else does architecture and interiors. Why? Do they work best when they’re planned together?
That’s partially related to my training background, and the Skeleton-Skin relationship of architecture and interiors. It is always beneficial to have architecture and interiors designed by one designer. Imagine, when we design the building spaces, we have all the interior elements in mind. We look at the project inside and out, resulting in thoroughly designed spaces, which cater aspects of spatial quality, style and ambiance in both. As a real example we designed a villa and planned a family breakfast area on the east side of the building with a garden and reflective pond and leafy trees. This cultivates an interior breakfast space with natural morning sun, breeze and sounds of nature.
Do you have anyone you consider an influence on your work?
There are lots of works by different architects and interior designers I like. They all influence my design output, [but it] depends on the project nature. I like to expose myself to different design styles and languages. This cultivates creativity.
Have you had to work on any particularly challenging or interesting projects? What were they and what made them stand out?
There is a private villa project we did recently in China both for architecture and interiors that was 45,000 square feet. The brief was to merge the functions of private villa, art gallery, guest entertainment area and private offices into a 3-storey lakeside complex. The owner is an enthusiastic Chinese painting collector. Instinctively we started the architectural design with a linear axial art gallery as the spine with different functional boxes attached.
The architecturally framed lakeside surroundings coexisting with the art creates shifting scenery, both live and still. Inside and out, the spatial experiences are sequential, pictorial and rhythmical, with solid and void architectural elements interacting with the axial gallery to different extents.
With the careful manipulation of forms and spaces with the surroundings, the final outcome casts a unifying yet constantly changing spatial experience with architecture and interiors as a whole.
What do you see as emerging trends in architecture and interiors?
Personally, I don’t see a vivid trend emerging in the field nowadays. However, as designers, we have to anchor our design ideas to the particular culture, site characteristics and the client’s needs on different projects. This will generate designs with distinctive character, and from my perspective that should be the main methodology that designers pursue.
What’s on your list of things you want to design in the future? Where do you see Else in 5 years?
We would like to continue to design projects with innovations and forward-looking perspectives, both for interiors and architecture. In five years’ time I greatly hope that we can have much more interesting projects in our portfolio, which further demonstrate our design values and beliefs.