Question: Restaurant design is about entertainment. Tell us how you continue to design new and exciting spaces?
Ian: Design is a learning process. We assess some of our greatest ideas, some of our most successful concepts, and, yes, some of our past mistakes, and build upon these elements to create something new. On many (maybe most) occasions, the client provides us with very narrow parameters and says, "you have this amount of space, you have this many tables, and we want this color scheme and this aesthetic - now design around that!"
When we are handed this scenario, we see it as a challenge. We ask ourselves: how can we take these tight design confines, couple it with everything that we have learned from previous projects, and do something that will surprise, shock, or titillate the patron?
Question: What makes a restaurant space different than a lounge space, or have the lines blurred?
Ian: When we design any restaurant or lounge, we have to endeavor to make sure that these spaces allow, inspire, or even provoke people to interact with one another. If we accomplish this task, then we have done a good job regardless if the area is designated for food and drink or just libations.
Question: Tell us how you select products for restaurants?
Ian: When we come up with a concept for a restaurant, we like to create an intricate, deeply detailed story around that concept. Every project is a story we tell. And we ensure there's drama, adventure, romance and suspense in every inch. When it comes to the time where we select items to go within the restaurant, we have to make sure that each particular object that we intend on placing fits perfectly within the fabric of our story. If it doesn't work or requires a story tweak to include it, we toss it. If it moves the story forward or even enhances it, the item remains.
Question: Describe a progressive or unusual project that you've recently completed.
Ian: We just finished up a top to bottom renovation of the famous Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Within this property are various dining experiences, all of which noteworthy because their elegance and beauty. One of the key spots, however, is the Cathay Room, which, formerly in the 1930s and 40s, was the legendary hotspot for the Shanghai elite. Cognizant of the historical importance of this space, we had to both play up to the notion that this was the epicenter of Shanghai glamour and also add a more modern spin to the surroundings -- not an easy task but I think we succeeded.
Question: What is the future of restaurant design?
Ian: Comfort without pretention.
Question: Diffusion is a new entity. Can you describe it for us?
Ian: Diffusion redefines the world's expectations of hospitality F&B studios. Combining the evocative, layered and ingenious style of AvroKO with the visionary talent and global reach of HBA, Diffusion distills the best traits of both houses. The firm is supported by offices in Southeast Asia and the USA, and strives to make trend-setting, concept-driven design accessible in traditional and emerging luxury markets.
Question: Tell us something unusual about yourself.
Ian: Despite my perceived outgoing demeanor, I prefer spending quiet time with friends and family.