Ten minutes with…Greg Pearce
Architect and furniture designer Greg Pearce co-founded One Space, the designers behind much-hyped BRUNEBLONDE – a hip hair salon in Hong Kong’s Grand Hyatt Hotel.
What made you become an architect?
I have wanted to be an architect almost as long as I can remember. As a child, I felt I had a strong creative streak, but wasn’t particularly talented in painting. I did, however, have a well-developed conception of space, volumes and forms. I also found I was intensely analytical. At the age of 11, I entered architectural drafting courses at school and subsequently studied architecture every year until the age of 27.
Who were you biggest influences as a student – and now?
Unquestionably, the Estonian-born American architect Louis Kahn has been the single greatest influence on my design philosophy. I attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia specifically because Kahn was a Professor there from 1957 until his death in 1974; which meant that in the 1980’s, I studied under Kahn’s ‘disciples’, one of whom became my mentor. Kahn was a poet and a guru who mesmerised those around him. Kahn’s respect for authenticity of material expression, for the craftsmanship of architecture, continues to inform my work to this day.
Tell us about One Space.
One Space is composed of people with differing skill sets, backgrounds and disciplines to create tailor-made designs for our clients. This diversity of viewpoints is something my business partner, James Oliver, and I intensely advocate as a necessary foundation for creativity. We believe that the best idea can come from any member of the team, and that the most effective way to innovate is to question unreservedly the status quo. By rejecting preconceptions, we discover opportunities that other designers might miss, offering fresh ideas and unforeseen solutions.
Tell us about BRUNEBLONDE and how you put your stamp on it.
At BRUNEBLONDE, the founders were able to share with us the benefit of their 50 years combined experience in the salon industry and their very clear vision of the brand’s core message. The idea of creating a 1940s-era Parisian apartment, for example, arose from the client’s Parisian roots and their wish to create a cordial, relaxed, private-home atmosphere. This inherently differentiates BRUNEBLONDE from its competitors, and provided our designers an exciting avenue of exploration, theme-development and material detailing. The other factor, of course, was that this salon is inside the Grand Hyatt hotel, so we worked closely with the hotel’s senior management to ensure the finished salon resonated with the hotel environment.
Current design trend you can’t get enough of?
My own belief is that excellent design is true to itself, rather than following the fads of the moment. By that, I mean design must have authenticity – it is what it needs to be, uncorrupted by fashionable ideas or trends. Having said that, there are innumerable ways of expressing the same set of requirements, and no one way is correct. This is where the craft of the architect comes into play. Materiality – which naturally evolves through time as new materials and technological innovations become available – continuously gives rise to wholly new expressions of architecture. We treat materiality as our ‘paints and canvas’, the creative tools with which we create authentic, honestly expressed buildings and interiors. This is a traditional-modernist notion that has stayed with me since I was a student.
Favourite building/space in HK that you didn’t design?
It may or may not surprise you, given my remarks about authenticity, that my favourite building in Hong Kong was designed and built during the height of modernist thinking: Hong Kong City Hall, designed in the late 1950s. This elegantly composed set of buildings, arranged around a tranquil courtyard enclosed on two sides by unostentatious covered walkways, has been thoughtfully designed to be enjoyed at a wide range of scales and distances.