Past Frame Awards jury member Ken Hu – president and partner of Cheng Chung Design (CCD) – discusses why the firm constantly updates its style, how hospitality will need to adjust to the post-COVID reality and the importance of weaving a sense of home into hotel experiences.

How does Chinese heritage and culture influence your designs?

KEN HU: Western design has a complete system and occupies a leading position in the design field. But Eastern design also has Eastern wisdom. As a Chinese designer, I like to use local materials to create project details and present its oriental artistic conception. 

CCD changes its design style every three years. Why?

Creative ability and design level are both important in design; interior design should follow the pace of the times. It should be based on current living habits and integrated into the cultural characteristics of the city. Designers must have a forward-looking vision for the future. We never repeat our own works. CCD usually overturns its previous designs every few years to keep innovating.

How does your recent project DongFengYun Hotel Mi'Le -MGallery reflect these changes? 

The architecture of this project is very distinctive, built with local red bricks and without using a single nail. It is like a huge sculpture, exuding original vitality. The interior design continues the characteristics of the building itself. By utilizing local red clay bricks and drawing on the form of grape trellis, the walls create infinite possibilities in diverse ways. Meanwhile, characteristic local pottery is used as adornments to strengthen the sense of history in the space.

The naming and design of all guestrooms pay tribute to local art such as painting, pottery, dyeing, composition as well as specialties and treasures, fully embodying the aesthetic concept ‘art dialogues with everything, inspiration portrays life’.

DongFengYun Hotel Mi'Le -MGallery is located in Mile City, China. Its relaxing interiors offer guests an escape from their busy lives. 

Do you think the last year has changed what travellers prioritize in their accommodation?

With the increase of short trips, people use weekends to go out, and hotels become destinations for people to relax. People prefer to rest in hotels rather than play in crowded scenic spots. Reassured, safe and healthy concepts for accommodation consumption will be welcomed by consumers.

How do you believe hospitality interiors should respond to these changes? 

When hotels become destinations for people to relax, they not only provide accommodation and catering, but also play a role in enhancing a certain artistic aesthetic. Therefore, in hotel design, we pay attention to the use of buildings, gardens, landscape to create an overall leisure atmosphere. The design details and artworks are used together to give peoples a richer and more comfortable experience.

The Mile City destination follows the aesthetic concept 'art dialogues with everything, inspiration portrays life'.

Frame 140 explores how hotels are answering the call of travellers looking for antidotes to their busy work and home lives by turning inwards. Do you see a similar development within the Asian hospitality industry?

Asian hotels also use people's desire to relax their minds to attract more customers. Therefore, we usually use green plants, landscape and other elements to integrate the hotel with nature. People can get closer to nature and relax in the hotel. The natural scenery provides the hotel with a sense of being detached from reality and reflected in one's dreams, making the accommodation experience more interesting. 

The DongFengYun Hotel Mi'Le offers peaceful secluded retreat. In what way do the interior spaces provide a place of rest and self-reflection? 

The entrance space is bowl-shaped, with an opening carved out on the top. It's infused with freely moving daylight and pleasing eco effects. The curved enclosure wall subtly reflects the scenes, appearing like rippled water surface and evoking infinite imagination. An engaging shallow pool is set at the middle of the atrium courtyard and the water surface reflects the architecture and plants, creating a natural, relaxing and dynamic atmosphere.

'Asian hotels use people's desire to relax their minds to attract more customers,' says Hu.

Does the work-from-anywhere revolution impact your hospitality designs? If so, in what way?

The hotel space of the future is trans-boundary, diverse and multifunctional. In addition to providing accommodation, hotels should also allow people to work, live and relax simultaneously.

How do you believe the hospitality industry will evolve going forward? To what consumer needs will it have to answer in the future?

In the future, the hotel will lose the inherent ‘hotelization’ label and become a diversified experience space. A single space will evolve into a complex space, where lifestyle and social experience blend together. When we design hotels, we will need to create a sense of home. And, when designing a residence, the function and concept of the hotel will be put in. The connection between them has become blurred.

When we created the lobbies of the Hangzhou and Chengdu Canopy hotels, for instance, we reimagined traditional hotel lobbies and reception desks by turning them into multi-element spaces that integrate restaurants, outdoor restaurants, VIP rooms, lobby bars and lobbies. The lobby is like an open social place, giving people a closer and more comfortable experience. The hotel lobby is no longer just a place to receive customers for settling in, but also a multi-dimensional space for people to communicate and relax.