In­ter­views

We speak to the de­sign di­rec­tor of Wil­son As­so­ciates Sin­ga­pore’s Blue­plate Stu­dios, Den­nis Tan, who gen­er­ously shares the se­cret be­hind great F&B in­te­rior de­sign that have us drool­ing

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Key in­sights from Den­nis Tan

What is fun­da­men­tal to your de­sign prac­tice – your phi­los­o­phy and your process? Al­ways al­low your­self time to be in­spired, the rest will fol­low as you start peel­ing away lay­ers while in the depths of re­search. Lis­ten­ing to peo­ple when they share their sto­ries, thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences is a good way to gain in­spi­ra­tion. This in­cludes clients, op­er­a­tors and guests. They all have one thing in com­mon: they want your at­ten­tion. You also need to be ob­ser­vant of the sur­round­ings, ar­chi­tec­ture and the ur­ban land­scape of where your de­sign process and fo­cus would be­gin, be it a bar, lounge, a lo­cal spe­cial­ity restau­rant, or a fine din­ing restau­rant; it all re­lates to the peo­ple and the guests’ ex­pe­ri­ence. I think about how I can cre­ate a unique mo­ment that would etch a men­tal post­card, be­cause at the end of the day, the four in­te­gral parts of any suc­cess­ful F&B des­ti­na­tion I de­sign is a com­bi­na­tion of am­bi­ence, com­fort, great food, and peo­ple. Who or what are some of your inuences? Which other de­sign­ers, artists or other cre­atives do you ad­mire? I ad­mire the works of Tadao Ando and Cor­bus­ier for their height­ened sense of space and their sur­round­ings. Carv­ing from the in­side out, both mas­ters cre­ate spa­ces that res­onate and har­ness in­vis­i­ble en­ergy that speaks to the hu­man mind in no other way. Tony Chi and his work has its in­flu­ence on my con­scious­ness in de­sign more di­rectly. I’ve had the priv­i­lege to be part of his stu­dio with Dan Kwan and I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber this quote of his: “It is not what you de­sign, it’s what you don’t!” What are some of your meth­ods to stay­ing mo­ti­vated, fo­cused and ex­pres­sive? Med­i­tate – the mind is only what you can imag­ine out of it. Seek out and ex­pe­ri­ence new palates with an open mind. Both in­no­va­tion and imag­i­na­tion can’t do with­out the other. It’s good to use the op­er­a­tor’s con­cept brief as a guide­line, and not be held back cre­atively.

Wil­son As­so­ciates has de­signed beau­ti­ful restau­rants around the globe. Which ar­eas of the world do you see as the best for new F&B con­cepts? Hav­ing a pres­ence glob­ally through our stu­dios in the Amer­i­cas, Mid­dle East, Europe and Asia has broad­ened our reach. I would like to imag­ine Africa, South Africa or East­ern Europe as the new fron­tiers in broad­en­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the new palates and cul­ture. What chal­lenges are unique to de­sign­ing hos­pi­tal­ity/f&b spa­ces? The lo­ca­tion, sur­round­ing busi­nesses and com­mu­nity spirit. That can in­flu­ence the daily lives of in­di­vid­u­als who use the F&B venues we de­sign, for ex­am­ple a meet­ing place for a busi­ness meal, or a first date, an­niver­sary or pro­mo­tion cel­e­bra­tion. Lo­cal cul­ture and po­si­tion­ing amongst its com­peti­tors/ neigh­bours are im­por­tant levers that could be used to en­gage guests in a whole new ap­proach like mixed used, ca­sual chic, hip­ster with a lo­cal flair, and global ap­peal. Places like Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong, Xin­tiandi in Shanghai, Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur and Hol­land V in Sin­ga­pore have these qual­i­ties to com­bine and har­ness, cre­at­ing an F&B neigh­bour­hood. What is the most crit­i­cal el­e­ment of an ef­fec­tive restau­rant de­sign? Blue­plate, Wil­son’s F&B de­sign stu­dio de­liv­ers rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­cepts for celebrity chefs such as Gor­don Ram­say, Clare Smyth and David My­ers. Ev­ery new project is an ex­cit­ing ad­ven­ture and we pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to four in­te­gral as­pects: am­bi­ence, com­fort, qual­ity of food and guest ex­pe­ri­ence. We aim to be lead­ers in shap­ing to­mor­row’s F&B land­scape, cre­at­ing a de­sign nar­ra­tive broad and lay­ered enough to of­fer guests a di­verse ex­pe­ri­ence. For in­stance, Adrift was in­spired by David My­ers him­self and his culi­nary ad­ven­tures which trans­verse dif­fer­ent cul­tures. The restau­rant’s strik­ing in­te­rior is styled with tim­ber walls and dark cop­per fix­tures to cre­ate a so­phis­ti­cated yet in­ti­mate am­bi­ence. Is there a chal­leng­ing project that you’re es­pe­cially proud of? Pan Pa­cific Sin­ga­pore’s Edge and Hai Tien Lo restau­rants were hugely am­bi­tious ren­o­va­tion projects that were in re­sponse to stiff com­pe­ti­tion from nearby lux­ury ho­tels. Cur­rently, both restau­rants have set the tone and are bench­marks for the F&B com­mu­nity here in Sin­ga­pore. How do you think food and in­te­rior de­sign are linked? In the hu­man mind, both reg­is­ter emo­tions unique to the mo­ment. All senses are ac­ti­vated in a con­scious and sub-con­scious way. If you could have din­ner with any­one, liv­ing or dead, who would it be? Jeff Be­zos, Elon Musk and Isaac Asi­mov. Where would you eat and what would you be hav­ing? I would imag­ine hav­ing a Chi­nese re­union din­ner at my granny’s, hav­ing my favourite Hainanese pork chops.

THIS PAGE Den­nis Tan

OP­PO­SITE FROM TOP Pan Pa­cific Sin­ga­pore; Makan Kitchen at Dou­ble Tree by Hil­ton, KL

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