NERI&HU

Founding partners of acclaimed Shanghai architecture and design practice Neri&Hu, husband and wife Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu are also creative directors of Chinese furniture label Stellar Works and have crafted elegant modern products for a host of top global brands.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
At Neri&Hu we believe in architecture and design as a powerful cultural force. We prefer the subtext over the obvious, and the poetic over the utilitarian. We always start with a concept and research it in depth, looking for traces and signs that inspire us. We are still too young to have a distinct language, so we flow in many directions depending on the specific project, but we always explore layering, transparency, texture, framing and materiality. Questions of culture and aesthetic philosophy concern us deeply and we also want to relate what we do to everyday life.

What do you each bring to the party?
Lyndon is more of a creator and Rossana a critic, which is a good combination.

ABOVE: At The Waterhouse at South Bund, Neri&Hu transformed a Thirties army headquarters in Shanghai into a rough-luxe boutique hotel

How do you balance heritage and modern to create a new Chinese aesthetic?
For us, the redevelopment – or historic renovation – projects are extremely interesting. They allow us to try different ways of interpreting culture and history, something that relates to our identity as individuals and as a collective, and to explore the contrasts between old and new. They’re also a perfect way of preserving memory, as well as creating a sustainable environment to promote healthy reuse, rather than simply demolishing and rebuilding for commercial gain.

Which recent projects are you proud of?
We’ve just designed Kuala Lumpur's Sentul Contemporary Art Museum in Malaysia, which is about monumentality and preserving urban memory, and a creative agency's headquarters for Meiré und Meiré in Cologne, Germany, which merges architectural and institutional identity.

ABOVE: Industrial-chic interiors for Kensington Street Social restaurant at The Old Clare Hotel in Sydney team raw concrete and sleek wood with brass and glass louvres

Tell us about Sydney restaurant Kensington Street Social at The Old Clare Hotel.
We were inspired by Kensington Street Social’s setting within the former Carlton & United Breweries building. We reinterpreted the brewing equipment once used there by inserting two machine-like volumes into the space. The two machine boxes rest atop a continuous concrete landscape defining the footprints of the restaurant’s tapas bar and cocktail bar. The design also takes its cues from the ‘social’ motif of chef Jason Atherton’s restaurants and architecturally treats the interior as an extension of the lively Kensington streetscape, blurring the boundaries between inside and out. 

ABOVE: Neri&Hu's graphic 'Remnant 1' (red) and 'Remnant 2' (blue) rugs for Dutch brand Moooi Carpets reflect Chinese streetscapes; 'A Cabinet of Curiosity' cabinet and 'Utility' sofa for Stellar Works; 'Jie' rugs in celadon and blue for Spain's Nanimarquina, riffing on street tile patterns

What inspires you?
We are inspired by the mundane and the ordinary. The fabric of Shanghai and the everyday activities in and around the city are a huge inspiration. The Western architectural tradition forms the basis of our education, but culturally we are very much Chinese, and that influences our work especially in China. We also like to examine local culture wherever our projects are located.

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
Paring down to the essence of things – not simply minimalism, but keeping only the necessary while still creating an enriching spatial experience. Also exploring new materials.

ABOVE: 'Ayi' coat rack/umbrella stands for Swedish firm Offecct; the red ash 'Ming' chair for Stellar Works reinterprets trad wooden Chinese seats; Conceived as 'little butlers', 2016's 'Ren' occasional furniture collection for Italy's Poltrona Frau was inspired by the Chinese character 'ren' meaning 'people'; Co-joined 'Together' chairs for Denmark's Fritz Hansen

Who are your design heroes?
There are many contemporary giants whose work we admire. Le Corbusier is still very relevant for studying form and spaces. Carlo Scarpa continues to inspire us with his details and composition, and Adolf Loos with his clarity and rigour. Of the architects practising today, we admire the work of SANAA, Alvaro Siza, David Chipperfield and Peter Zumthor. In terms of mentors, Lyndon's thesis adviser at Harvard Graduate School of Design was Rafael Moneo and he’s definitely played a big part in moulding his take on architecture. Both of us worked at Michael Graves, which taught us a multidisciplinary design approach.

Where’s on your travel wish list? 
Malawi, Istanbul and Prague [Rossana]. Argentina and Berlin [Lyndon].

TOP: A continuous clothes rail runs around flagship fashion store Comme Moi in Shanghai, which also sports cage-like custom-made cabinets; 'Dowry' cabinets and other signature pieces for Stellar Works; 'Jian' hooded sofa for Spain's Gandiablasco against the Pudong skyline
ABOVE: The 'Bai' pendant light family for Spanish brand Parachilna encases a Chinese lantern in a modern glass bulb; A lattice of brass rods creates see-through interiors at skincare brand Sulwhasoo's Seoul store

What’s the Shanghai design scene like?
It is being infiltrated with global energy and design influences on a daily basis, and the absorption rate is extremely high. The problem that comes with this phenomenon is that people are not that critical about what they see and use, so regardless of whether things are good/bad, appropriate/inappropriate, they are all being taken on here.

What’s your social media of choice?
Instagram, I like images over words when expressing myself [Lyndon].
Weibo if at all, but trying to boycott it right now! And Instagram [Rossana].
www.neriandhu.com

Portrait: Andrew Rowat Other images: Poltrona Frau and Sulwhasoo, Pedro Pegenaute; Gandiablasco, Dirk Weiblen

For more on Neri&Hu, see our earlier post on Stellar Works

DEBORAH SPENCER designjunction

Deborah Spencer, designjunction Event Director and reigning queen of the London design scene

Deborah Spencer, designjunction Event Director and reigning queen of the London design scene

Since their 2011 satellite show in Milan, designjunction has grown to be one of the most highly anticipated design shows on the calendar. DesignFizz jumps the queue to ask Deborah Spencer how she did it...

BY DEE IVA

What inspired you to launch designjunction?
We were frustrated by trawling around soulless traditional exhibitions and saw a gap in the market. Central London was missing a commercial show with creative energy. The big international brands had been absent from the UK for years, and we wanted to provide a platform for a curated selection of design labels to showcase in a more expressive environment. 

Your CV's not too shabby – how did you get to this point?
I started working on the London Art Fair and New Designers exhibitions – which I’m still passionate about. I then launched the HOME department with Greenwich Village at Selfridges department store, establishing relationships with global brands such as Tom Dixon, Moooi and Edra. It was a great period in my life, working at the cutting-edge of design. It was through that connection that I went on to work for Tom Dixon. When I launched West London group show The Dock for Tom in 2009, I handpicked the brands and got them excited about taking part. I went on to organise London shows Superdesign and the Tramshed which were the start of something even bigger.

Designjunction's inaugural show in Milan 2011 featured British brands including Benchmark, Channels and Innermost

Designjunction's inaugural show in Milan 2011 featured British brands including Benchmark, Channels and Innermost

How do you make designjunction fresh and fun to visit?
By adding new features, such as flash factories, exciting eateries and fresh global brands, and tapping into trends. Another important aspect is collaborating with teams from the design scene. Our creative director, designer Michael Sodeau, refers to the show as a mini city within the Sorting Office. The ground floor is like Shoreditch or Camden with lots going on. The first floor is more refined like Covent Garden. The second floor has avenues and bigger stands, like Bond Street. Each area has a particular feel and energy. 

ABOVE: London calling:
2012 saw designjunction arrive at the Sorting Office in Bloomsbury

BELOW: It's showtime!
Last September's fun-filled line-up had the great and the good vying to get in 

 

 

What’s in store at EDIT by designjunction in Milan?
We are excited to have secured Palazzo Morando as our venue this April, a spectacular 18th-century costume museum in the fashion district. We have an international line-up of from British design brands Innermost and Modus to Parisian contemporary furniture label Adentro, Hong Kong-based EOQ and New Zealanders Resident. There’ll be lighting installations and commissions from Italian experts Baroncelli, and exquisite bone china tea sets from British ceramics brand Flux. Florence coffee connoisseurs La Marzocco will host a bespoke café in the courtyard and SodaStream and Yves Behar will curate the bar.

Which collections will wow us?
AfghanMade is presenting impressive rugs from designers including Christopher Farr, Matt Camron and Michaelian & Kohlberg. Sir Kenneth Grange has created a brand new sofa collection with Smith Matthias for Modus, which will be shown alongside a new chair by Michael Sodeau. Adentro’s launches star a new armchair by Carlo Contin and the ‘Cosimo' desk by Marco Zanuso Jr. Michael Young is presenting a fresh lighting collection for EOQ, as well as his 'Yi' chair. Resident is also debuting nine products at the show.

Which trends are exciting you in design, style or music?
The emergence of digital technology in design – augmented and virtual reality – which means customers can engage with products anywhere in the world. For instance, Dezeen is bringing its augmented reality watch store to our Milan show. Customers can try on virtual watches by wrapping a paper ‘marker’ around their wrist and looking at a screen. They’ll then see the watches modelled on their wrists in real time. Brands such as Alessi, Vitra and Serralunga have already experimented with the Sayduck app, a virtual showroom platform that brings products to life, allowing you to experience them in 3D with all the size, material and colour options so you can envisage them in your home.

Where's on your travel wish list?
On the work front, we're looking at New York, and emerging markets in Mumbai, Shenzhen and even Turkey. Personally, I'd love to go back to South Africa for its fascinating culture, wineries and wilderness.

If you hadn’t been involved in design, what might you have done?
At university I learnt how to DJ. I lived with a group of guys and we used to organise club nights in Manchester. At the time the club scene was thriving and there weren’t that many girl DJs around!
thedesignjunction.co.uk