Design maven Ilse Crawford talks to Perspective about the challenge of designing Hong Kong’s latest restaurant and art gallery space, Duddell’s, and how making things look easy is actually very hard work
Two months ago, thousands of art lovers from all over the world thronged to Hong Kong for the inauguration of Art Basel there. The territory responded with a host of art gallery openings, exhibitions and installations of its own – and among them as Duddell’s, a two-storey space founded by restaurateurs Alan Lo, Yenn Wong and Paulo Pong, and designed by Ilse Crawford.
Crawford had already collaborated with Lo on the 226 luxury boutique apartments in the upcoming district of Sheung Wan in Hong Kong, where she designed opulent interiors for each of the residences.
“I was approached by Alan about Duddell’s last November, and we began to design in December – it the fastest project we’ve ever been engaged to do,” Crawford says. “But although it was fast, the experience of having working with Alan on 226 on Hollywood Road helped us to immediately and easily understand Duddell’s context.”
Crawford agreed to take on the gallery project with Lo because she enjoys creating spaces that are a frame for life – and Duddell’s, she says, ticked all the necessary boxes.
“I like spaces that frame certain types of people to enhance what they do, like an instrument or a stage for them. We’ve done the same sort of thing in the past, like at the Wellcome Trust Club Room in London, designed for a group of pharmaceutical people. It is always interesting to make a habitat to make people feel good, to talk and make connections – and Duddell’s does this for art lovers,” she explains.
Opened in May this year, Duddell’s – so named because of its location on Duddell Street in Hong Kong’s CBD – occupies the third and fourth floors of Shanghai Tang Mansion, and is envisioned as a cultural and social destination for people who have an active appreciation for the arts.
The 8,000 sq-ft space is designed with the art collector in mind. Downstairs, a restaurant houses paintings from the MK Lau Collection. Linked by an elaborate stairway, the upper level is where the sitting room and the bar dwell, with artworks focusing on a series of portraiture works. But it is the 2,000 sq-ft, greenery-filled terrace – or, as Crawford like to call it, “the backyard” – which holds a special place in her heart.
“I like to call it the backyard because it’s a place to relax,” she explains. “People don’t relax if you make spaces which are too perfect and prescriptive.”