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George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, describe Yabu Pushelberg and what you do.
We are an interior design practice specializing in two areas: retail shops and hotels.
We have offices in Toronto and New York. We’re looking to work with clients that are
at the top of their game. We are not interested in the middle or the mass market,
but if there is a client thats looking to achieve something as a vision, we work with
them to achieve that vision.
We are always striving to become better at what we do. We have meetings with all
of our team design leaders to decide what our goals are: How do we become better
designers? How do we train our junior designers better? How do we find better cli-
ents? These are all aspirational goalsnot to become bigger, but to become better.
That is more important to us. We are also interested and curious always to try new
things, to work in new areas of the world, to hone what we do but not have a singular
style. Our process is about experimentation and moving our ideas around.
Your work ranges from furniture to hospitality to corporate interior spaces. Is there an
underlying methodology that you bring to every project?
You look for your inspiration or your starting point. That could be meeting a new cli-
ent, going to a new place, understanding a new program, understanding the context
of where you are working or the vision of your client or the architecture that you are
working within.
These are the points where you start your research and begin to develop a concep-
tual program. For instance, we are working on the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel in
Mumbai. We’re obviously inspired by the depth and breadth of Indian cultures, we’re
inspired by the notion of the craft and art of India. We’re also motivated by the vi-
sion of a young entrepreneur who wants to become the best hotelier in Mumbai and
wants to attract both the Bollywood crowd—that established wealthy Indian crowd
and an international clientele. Within that, what does it mean to take an old luxury
company like Mandarin Oriental and move it forward into something thats new but
still appropriate?
We sift through all that information, distill it, and start to develop a visual language
that is new and appropriate for a particular project. Its not a singular straight-
forward methodology, but one based on gathering mental and visual information,
distilling it, and then twisting it so that it’s new again. It is important that the work
doesn’t become stylistic, which is a really easy trap that designs can fall into. We
aren’t interested in that. We’re not interested in being followers.
This section of the book focuses on aspects of interior design that appear at first to be second-
ary to the making of space, but actually are integral to understanding and experiencing design.
How do you approach these issues in your practice?
We think that aspects of sound, light, and movement are extremely interesting. In the Amore-
Pacific spa we did in Soho, we used behavioral software together with projected imagery that
is keyed by movement. We project a scene of cherry blossoms falling in the wind, and as you
come closer the cherry blossoms follow you, or images appear on the screen as you get closer
to it. So using one’s senses and using technology in soft ways, done effectively, creates a
more emotionally dynamic interior.
In designing restaurants, bars, or hotels, for us, the success of the interior comes not from
one bombastic idea, but from a collection of parts that creates an emotional response: how
you use light in a more painterly way; how you use technology in a soft way; what you hear
in a space, the acoustics of a space, all of these things reinforce this notion. Sound is a bit
trickier, but in some cases, it can also be used effectively.
How has this idea of soft technology changed the way you practice interior design, from when
you started till now?
Right now we’re using art in many of our installations because it automatically gives us a start-
ing point in our interiors. We’re commissioning art pieces, such as kinetic and video art, that
use technology to customize a response to the person who is occupying the space. The actual
viewing of art in interiors is the first stage, the next stage is experiencing the art.
We’re also really starting to use technology as a tool for designing. We’ve recently used more
graphic-oriented processes to create more complex patterns, not only for things like carpets,
but also for building façades. We’re doing a project for a grand hotelyou think of a traditional
grand lobby with a big, high ceiling space, but with computers you can conceive of more inter-
esting volumes that are less expected.
Its a double-edged sword. There are times when you need to use technology to create things,
there’s a quality to it that is very modern and works well in some situations. But in other situ-
ations, we are against this process. We have a project where we wanted solid stone tubs,
so we found stone carvers in India to handmake the tubs—there’s a quality that comes from
cutting the stone by hand. Whether we are doing a jewelry store for David Yurman, which is
kind like of walking into a big sculpture, or a green hotel in Seattle, our work is moving toward
creating a space that is more artistic and more sculptural in nature, and a little less rational,
but that still solves the pragmatic issues. So, with technology, it really is a back-and-forth
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Job:02-30056 Title: RP-Interior Design Reference and Specification
#175 Dtp:216 Page:230
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