In 2009, Danish architect Fong Chan Zeuthen took a chance on a growing Vietnamese demand for design and launched KAZE INTERIOR DESIGN STUDIO. While still retaining the boutique spirit that brought it to life, the firm has grown to collaborate with countless apartments, hotels and resorts across the country, negotiating its European roots with a Vietnamese context at every step. Vietcetera recently visited the KAZE office to get to the core of Fong Chan Zeuthen’s design principles and practice and discuss the future of interior design.
Your firm and your work have spanned across several cities across Asia. What gap did you see in the interior design market here in Vietnam?
I wish we had spanned over more countries in the region. So far, outside of Vietnam, our work has reached Cambodia and Australia. When I first arrived to Vietnam in 2002, I had no idea what I got myself into. I was just a graduate architect with a master’s degree in building architecture and furniture design. In Denmark, we do not have interior design as a major. We perceive architecture as per scale. In addition, there was no interior design in Vietnam back in those days, so there was a huge window to explore.
How would you describe KAZE’s interior design style?
Our style is grounded in a European Modernism of architecture training with Scandinavian simplicity, but spiced up with the understanding of our presence in Asia and our forthcoming to understand the culture and its roots.
What do you feel that KAZE does differently to other Vietnamese interior design companies?
Our design culture is rooted in my upbringing in Denmark. We are very democratic and I believe in the team, not in the individual. It means that not only do the people who are up for it get training in “form follows function,” but also that everyone shares a purpose of unity and responsibility within. I am not the boss. I am the facilitator finding each team member’s strength to develop and help find their path as designers, architects, technical persons; even administration needs to be given a higher purpose than just the daily job’s triviality. I give them enough challenges, and I make it interesting to work with KAZE. Ultimately, it’s not about superstar individuals, it’s about building a superstar team.
Which of the projects has KAZE completed that best define the firm?
Mia Resorts and Liberty Central Citypoint are two projects that define us as a team. They are old projects and not as defined in the details, as I wish they should be. But the projects show two things.
First, by the client trusting us 100%, we were able to push something through within a 12-month design-and-build where we had no time to trial and test. We had to go with our intuition. Speed for details, design, and materials; pick and choose and go fast. It shows KAZE’s ability to adapt and succeed.
Second, the coverage of 80% or more on our hotel and resorts throughout the year is evidence to us that the design created appeals to the sense of what we believe in. We build for humans and we think through every aspect of, ‘is this feeling comfortable to your skin?’ into our scheme of design.
What are clients wanting and expecting more now? What trends in interior design do you see emerging in Vietnam?
A client relationship it is a marriage; you get to know each other. If you don’t manage to do that, to compare and ask questions, there’s no trust. Many of our biggest clients are Vietnamese, and they’re hardworking and trustworthy.
But sometimes, a client demands things that are commercial. It all becomes very conceptual and not necessarily convenient or even nice to live in, but it looks good in a magazine. The world wants to be deceived and we give it to them. We become the tailors in the fairytale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” As we’ve matured as a firm, we realized that we can’t take every project. It’s important to say ‘no’ in a nice way, to turn a project down when necessary.
I want to warn the designer crowd in general: be careful so that we do not “Pinterest” our design. Do not loosen the cohesive and holistic view on our design just because it’s the only thing the client can comprehend. 3D visuals are the devil’s work. It tells you nothing other than an illusion. Do remember that Rome was built without 3D.