In architecture, functionalism is the foundation of any design where the main focus is in applying purpose to a given space. A successful architectural design incorporates meaning into the element of function to help convey and deliver a message. Reda Amalou, the French architect and the founder of AW2, has successfully applied this concept to his design philosophy. He is the mastermind behind some of Vietnam’s best luxury hotel projects such as the Nam Hai in Hoi An or Six Senses Con Dao.

Reda is also the designer for the upcoming Wink Hotels that’s scheduled to open next year in Ho Chi Minh city. We had a chance to sit down with him recently for a quick talk when he visited Vietnam for a couple of days. Check below for the full interview on his design process for any new projects!

How’s the process of designing Wink Hotels going so far?

It’s going very well and it’s also very exciting because for us it’s a very different proposition. Basically, we’ve worked in high-end most of our projects and this is what we’re known for but it’s really interesting and challenging to be working in a form of luxury that is different. So, it’s important to learn how to rethink what ‘luxury’ is about and what urban city life should be about within the hospitality industry.

Were there any challenges you had to face along the way just because of how different it is from all the previous projects you’ve worked on?

Yea! What’s interesting is that usually we work with brands that are established but in this case, we’re working with a brand which is being created from scratch. So, the challenge for us is to both understand what the concept is about and how to create content around it. It’s interesting to be at the starting point of the idea and the concept itself, rather than applying an already in place concept.

Are there any hotel brands that you guys follow and use as references to help guide you through the design process for Wink Hotels?

Well, we look at the hospitality industry and we’d like to look at anything which sort of stands out in term of how designers and architects have looked at a project and how they’ve interpreted the code or ideas of tradition hotel industry. We tend to look at a lot of things but mainly, what we were trying to create here is something which would at the same time be different and at the same time be very contemporary. We want to lead and be the leader instead of following what others have done.

You mentioned a few big projects you had worked on here in Vietnam but are there any other projects outside of Asia? Did you find any differences and similarities in the design process vary according to the different locations around the world?  

Oh yea, we’re currently working in many different countries. We’re working in Vietnam, China, India, Switzerland, Italy, Morocco and Costa Rica. We go from East to West! There are always new experiences when working in a new country or a new region of the world. It’s crazy how architecture and design can be the same across the globe but at the same time not the same at all! We’re doing the same thing, designing to build a building, a place and interior but the process in each country has a life of its own.

How do you prepare yourself for a new project in a brand-new country?

We’ve worked in over 35 different countries from the start of AW2, when I created the firm 31 years ago, so I think we know what question to ask, how to approach things so it’s not about knowing everything but it’s about knowing how to understand what’s going to happen next. For us, the different ways of doing things is just our normal process of understanding architecture since we’ve been doing it for so long, in different places and different countries and different conditions. People come to us when they want different answers to their architectural design questions.

With Wink Hotels, how did you prepare for the new concept of ‘affordable luxury’?

To work on the design of a room with smaller measurements, it means that every inch is different and has an importance.

Take us through the design process, how do you decide on a design to show your client?

I don’t normally disclose how many sketches I come up with before deciding on which one to show the client but it’s between 15 – 20 different layouts. The way to get it right is first, we do research on what has been done and then we try to understand what the space and functions which we’re working with. Once you have those three ingredients, then you start to work on the idea to try and bring out the essence of the idea while understanding the technicality of an architect and difficulty of being a designer. Architects have functions, artists don’t. Once we do that, we start exploring different ways of looking at the room. We begin asking questions to help us bring out the essence of the core idea.  We keep our options as open as possible and then we narrow down to what we think has the strongest answer.

The plan that works best has all the functions but also the one that expresses the idea in the strongest possible way. If you just focus on this then you will usually get the right answer since you’re taking out the things which are just functional, the things which only answer the technical side of the project, and then you must come up with something which has meaning.

Thank you so much for your time!