Business of Design Week this year (my 8th year in a row now…) kicked off for me with an old favorite, Ilse Crawford.
I had the chance to have a quick chat with Crawford before her presentation, and as this was my first “real” interview, I was a tad nervous. My nerves were quickly assuaged however, as she comes across as being very down to earth, humble, and interesting. Very interesting.
Crawford is fascinated by human behaviour, and how we are affected by our surroundings. So much so, that she made “emotive design” the mantra of her studio, and has travelled the world championing this ethos. She believes (as do I) that successful interiors allow us to live, thrive, engage and be energised.
Crawford’s presentation is entitled “Why Interiors Matter” and she talks to the audience for 30mins about how a good interior can, and should, change how we behave and feel. Interiors are a microcosm of society, a frame, a world unto themselves and have a profound effect on our mental outlook, health and behaviour, but are often overlooked, or the left to the end when there is insufficient budget.
At the end, a question from the audience sparked an almost rhetorical response from Crawford. Everyone these days thinks they’re an interior designer. (Personally, if I have one more person tell me they think they have a calling just because they like to rearrange their furniture, or because they’ve helped a friend buy cushions, I’m going to quit, or give them a job!) Crawford’s insight: everyone thinks they’re an expert in interiors. But do we tell the chef in a restaurant to change things more to our liking? Do we tell a lawyer we didn’t like their closing statement? Better yet, do we argue with a doctors verdict? Disagree with a structural engineer? (Or try and negotiate with any of these other service providers on their fees?). It’s a good point.
The success of Studio Ilse’s latest project in Hong Kong, a low rise residential development – 226 Hollywood Rd (which I posted about here) – in my opinion, is a victory for all Hong Kongers. In a city where most residential developments are quite homogenous, hyper dense and high rise, 226 is a shining beacon. The developers – Blake’s – took a risk. They are the new kids on the property development block, and apparently several other old-school developers who are mentors told them it would never work. All of the apartments sold within weeks. Admittedly there were only half a dozen or so, but I think it still proves a point. That there is room for differentiation in a city like Hong Kong.
Crawford reiterated that a designer can only be as good as their client allows, and hopefully the courage and tenacity of this developer will be an example to other property developers around the world. To take risks, to do something out of the norm, and to help play their part in making our cities more livable and more attractive, for us and future generations. Buildings last a long time.