Hong Kong is awash with architects and designers, so it’s no small feat that an architectural studio established by two young practitioners in 2013 has already made its mark on the city, despite having no experience in the region. The founders, Lorène Faure and Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui, met in Paris and worked together in London, before launching themselves in Asia with an alluringly fresh new contemporary look for a compact home office.
Clients immediately sat up and took notice of the clean, understated details, generous storage and shapely collection of own-design furniture. Bean Buro has continued to push its work in creative new directions, transforming a nondescript building in an industrial district into a cutting-edge creative space for the Leo Burnett agency and producing sculptural interiors for a traditional noodle restaurant, Tasty Congee & Wantun Noodle Shop in Chengdu, China. Wallpaper* met the duo to discuss continental working practices and Bean Buro’s idiosyncratic design approaches.
We caught up with duo in Hong Kong to find out more...
Wallpaper*: Hong Kong has an established design scene. What do you bring that is new?
Lorène Faure: We bring very fresh European ideas to the table but because Kenny is part Japanese and Chinese, and I am French, our main ethos is about cultural exchange. We are very concept driven and spend time getting to know the client. That is quite unusual.
How does working in Hong Kong differ to Europe?
Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui: Everything has to be done so fast. We understand that but still work in a very illustrative way that ensures we ask the right questions about the functional brief but other questions too – like how a space will age.
Illustrative in what way?
LF: We are very hands-on; drawing and building models that are presented like art works is part of our design process. Clients say it is refreshing because they then fully understand aspects like depth and volume.
You also design furniture?
KK: We love the process of making. For our Tasty Chengdu project we custom-designed an Italian grey-black marbletop table to seat 18 guests. We call our curvy tables ‘Bean Tables’ and are currently working on our first collection.
Hong Kong designers often ‘throw’ excessive ornamentation at a project. How do you resist this?
KK: We create a hierarchy through focusing energy and budget on one sculptural piece, like our noodle-inspired installation feature in Chengdu, while the rest of the space is kept minimal. Not every detail has to be special. The space needs good simple aesthetics with a focus. For Leo Burnett, we drew on the location’s ship construction heritage to create entrance and meeting rooms defined by sculptural boat shapes.
Has the notorious copying culture in Asia proved a problem?
LF: Our curved display wall from our very first studio project has already been replicated in Hong Kong but it was not especially well done, as the niches have to be done perfectly – otherwise it just looks wrong.