Interview with Rodrigo Romero, Professor at SCAD Hong Kong

Rodrigo Romero

"Since I was a kid, I always knew that I wanted to do something related to art and design,” says Rodrigo Buelvas Romero, the Professor of Interior Design at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Hong Kong. We’re sitting down in the school’s library, inside a building rich with Hong Kong history. Formerly the North Kowloon Magistracy, it once housed the magistrate’s court. In 2010, SCAD revitalised the space, keeping much of the building’s integrity and interiors very much intact.

After a tour of the campus, he shares how this Colombian interior designer ended up in Hong Kong (“by aeroplane”, he jokes). Studying in his home country of Colombia, Romero studied industrial design for five years. After leaving university, Romero dabbled in product design before delving into creating spaces. He started working on retail design, temporary stores and pop ups, all the while falling in love with creating spaces.

“I started falling in love with the combination of my background [and how it related] to interior design and I decided to study abroad.” Not long after, Romero found himself with a scholarship to one of the best design universities in the world, Savannah College of Art and Design. Starting a Masters in Interior Design in 2008, and graduating 2010, his leap of faith seemed to have paid off.

After leaving SCAD, Romero found work across the country including stints in New York, Miami and Chicago. For several years, Romero built his network and tried different things, which eventually led him to landing his dream job at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM). “The [project] that I really liked the most - when we partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory - they had and still have the largest 3D printer in the world. We 3D printed an entire micro home unit – the AMIE 1.0. The goal was trying to test the technology… and showcase technology for new types of living.”

Rodrigo Romero

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Moving to Hong Kong and joining SCAD as a professor became the next step in an already successful career. “I always had a really good interaction with the school. Once you go to school here, it’s kind of like a family. I was invited back to give a couple of lectures. In 2015, I became a mentor. I started liking the academia,” added Romero. Starting in January of 2017, Romero is now in his second quarter at the school. Talking about his professional design experience, we discuss how he brings this to his teaching and what it takes for current interior design students to be successful in the Hong Kong market.

SCAD Hong Kong

SCAD Hong Kong

“As you know, Hong Kong is one of the biggest cities for hospitality, retail and residential. Believe it or not, people here have an avant-garde way of how they populate the buildings. For example, I have a class where we analysed micro living units. Hong Kong is one of the pioneers to reduce the amount of square footish to be more efficient. [Students have to] analyse how new generations are coming and growing. And what the new family nucleus is and how it is changing and evolving.

“At the end of the day, we have to develop problem solving skills for the students. It’s not about just the design. It’s the whole methodology and the synthesis, and analysis that they have to get into more than just creating a space,” Talking about the future of 3D printing within design in Hong Kong, and his experience in creating micro living units, such as the AMIE 1.0. “3D printing is the way forward. There’s even metal and concrete printing now. It’s just about accessibility.”

Though it may take some time to catch up in regards to the technology, Romero believes Hong Kong is becoming one of the epicenters of startups and creations of companies – especially on the creative side. “I definitely see SCAD as being one of the major team members in that evolution - how they can appreciate more creative careers.”

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