'We all have to be fortune tellers': Ed Ng on the changing nature of hospitality design
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'We all have to be fortune tellers': Ed Ng on the changing nature of hospitality design

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We always need to design for the future because people are always changing the way they live, work and relax
Ed Ng

hospitality designer Ed Ng has said the increasing length of time between the design and completion of large-scale projects poses a growing challenge to the industry, because “all designers have to be fortune tellers.”

In an interview with CLADglobal’s quarterly magazine CLADmag to mark the opening of Mei Ume restaurant in London – designed with his AB Concept co-founder Terence Ngan – Ng argued that “we always need to design for the future because people are always changing the way they live, work and relax.”

“However,” he added, “if it takes years for a project to materialise, and if the finished space must be relevant for years after that, it becomes very hard.”

Citing an example, Ng said: “We’ve been working on a project for the Conrad Hotel in Hang Cho, China for close to eight years. One of my staff literally started the project when she was single, has since been married and now has a son preparing for primary school, and still the project is ongoing. Eight years is a long, long time in design. Even the specification of some of the fabrics we wanted no longer exist! And of course, your aesthetic changes. If I were to ever feel that I’d change nothing about my work from eight years ago, there’d be something wrong with me.”

Mei Ume, which is AB Concept’s first project in London and took three years to complete, is a luxurious Asian restaurant located within the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square – formerly the headquarters of the Port of London Authority.

Ng said his aim was to create a comfortable and tactile space that stimulates appetite and curiosity.

“A restaurant is not meant to be a museum,” he said. “Guests should feel free to touch the walls, feel the materials, explore the space. It’s a sensory experience. I think of all hospitality design, Terence and I feel F&B is the most fun. You can really be creative, and it’s where you get all the limelight!”

Speaking about his collaboration with Ngan, Ng said “I think it’s a very interesting partnership because, while Terence is trained as an architect, he looks at things like materials and tactility in very close detail. Likewise, I’m an interior designer, but I also look at things in a very bold architectural way, including the form and the space. Terence and I have pretty big overlapping interests and that’s why we work so well together.

“At the same time, I think one of the most valuable things for a partnership is being able to be really blunt and brutal when there is something you don’t feel is right.

“Without needing to be diplomatic, you can say something is rubbish, and you’re listened to. You can be very to the point in a way you’d never be with a client or with your employees. This kind of candid challenge can be very useful.”

AB Concept have created hotels, spas and restaurants for the likes of Rosewood Hotels, Mandarin Oriental and W Hotels. Forthcoming projects include the W Algrave hotel in Portugal, the Paper Moon Giardino seafood restaurant in Milan and renovation of the F&B spaces at the Beijing Hotel: a monumental 100-year-old building next to the Forbidden City.

The full interview with Ed Ng can be read in the latest issue of CLADmag, which is available online and on digital turning pages.

The magazine also features interviews with architects Alison Brooks, Steven Holl and Odile Decq, landscape specialist Adriaan Geuze and designer Alice Lund, among many others.

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Hospitality designer Ed Ng has said the increasing length of time between the design and completion of large-scale projects poses a growing challenge to the industry, because “all designers have to be fortune tellers.”
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JP Lennard
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