In the last issue of Impression, Biasol was hailed as one of our ‘most admired’ in the world of hospitality design. Chris Gwyther, Managing Director of Phoenix Wharf, praised Biasol, the award-winning Melbourne interior design studio, for ‘drawing inspiration from international cultures, being playful with the spaces they design and the materials they use and adding little details that make their designs their own’. Here we talk to Jean-Pierre Biasol about what it takes to deliver compelling interiors, buildings, products and branded environments.
Since founding Biasol in 2012, you’ve come a long way. Where did it all start?
From an early age, I was always driven and inspired by design. The studio concept came about when I continued my studies in Italy, where I was exposed to a high-level of design thinking and quality craftsmanship. Over there, the commonality was that designers weren’t just architects or interior or product designers – their work expanded and merged across different disciplines and industries, which was something that truly resonated with my understanding of design and background in product design. Even then, I knew the challenge for me was to bring that concept of integration to Australia, our team and our approach to design across all our projects worldwide.
Who are your greatest design muses and how did you learn about them?
My personal influences are Philippe Starck (probably up there as number one). I think he has captured interiors, architecture, product and branding well throughout his entire design career. There are a lot of others as well – Patricia Urquiola, Carlos Scarpa, Massimo Vignelli (who is more branding orientated) and Louis Kahn. Collectively, they capture different disciplines and influences from across the globe, which we often like to reflect on for inspiration.
You’re a small team creating a big impact – what’s your secret?
We can’t share that!
Honestly, our greatest asset is our team: the way we work together, the way we integrate our passions and love for design. We all love what we do, and there’s never any segregation. We are vertically integrated across interiors, building, product and branding. It’s when these disciplines come together that some of our best designs are realised. Everyone wants to do great work and the results definitely shine through in our projects.
What are the key considerations when designing ‘beyond expectation’?
Strong foundations and clear intentions. It starts with establishing great relationships with our wonderful clients and being clear and transparent on our design intentions. Our ability to understand and interpret briefs, as well as people, also helps in the process. It’s important for us that we’re constantly evolving as a team and in the way we work together, getting better as we go. We are also attentive to providing the right kind of environment and motivation to deliver greater outcomes for the client, the project and our studio.
You’ve completed your first project in China, the Budapest Café, tell us more about this and how it has been received.
Yes, that’s right. The Budapest Café is our first project in China. We couldn’t be more grateful for all the support and recognition we’ve received as a studio and for the client who we’ve developed a great relationship with. She’s young and has an impressive sense of determination. She’s travelled the world and visited over 1,000 cafés to refine her brief and find an Australian design studio to make it happen.
For us, it was refreshing and humbling to see someone with an appreciation for authentic design and a passion to bring international appeal to her hometown of Chengdu. Originality and authenticity in China can be difficult to find so, for us, as designers who support other designers, it was definitely a great first experience, with more to come this year – stay tuned!
Your Grind projects are some of the most recognisable coffee shops in London. How do you come up with these distinct concepts for such a specific brand?
We’ve been really fortunate to be able to work with such great clients as Grind and go on this journey together as their business and our business grow. We’ve developed a great working relationship with the Grind team, and since their first site in 2011 we’ve now completed over 10 Grind venues (with an additional six this year) so understanding their ‘coffee, cocktail and good vibes’ ethos evolved quite effortlessly as the brand matured and their business goals have been achieved. It also related back to understanding the local demographic and environment of each site. The design intention was always brand-related however, tailored to integrate seamlessly to the local neighbourhood. For example, Royal Exchange Grind is in the business district of central London, so the design naturally evolved to deliver a modern, elegant experience around coffee, cocktails and good vibes. In contrast, our first Grind in Shoreditch embraced the locality and characteristics of the area with a more casual, laid back experience, yet still designed all around coffee, cocktails and good vibes.
How important is it to have an integrated approach to your work?
It’s the foundation of our studio, so it’s extremely important to how we design as a studio and how we deliver to meet our client’s expectations. We often discover new perspectives on design and detailing by working in a vertically integrated way. It’s about understanding the brief from a unique perspective and applying what we know and learn from one discipline to another. There’s an evolving cycle with the intention of extracting the very best outcomes across all of our projects — it’s also an approach that has facilitated the design diversity across our portfolio. And from a client’s perspective, it streamlines the process and ensures everyone across those disciplines is working towards the same project expectations since we work without divisions.
Your Little Hugh project features impressive tessellated panels. Is new design technology playing a bigger role in your design process?
We are always trying to embrace new technology, new materials and new methodologies in our designs. Specific to Little Hugh, it was a great exploration opportunity to integrate technology, particularly given the site is in an industrial area, so we thought it was very fitting. It really depends on the project and relativity of integrating new technology, if the right opportunities are present, we’d definitely consider more of it.
You’re known for delivering beautiful colour palettes in every project. What are some of your favourite colour combinations and styles?
We love a marriage of great materials and colour. It’s important for us that we achieve balance, harmony and timelessness across our selections, regardless of the project type or size. Our style is quite diverse, but I guess united in the way we detail materials and colour, the relationship of these and how they merge or integrate with and relate to the brand.
How important is ‘context’ to creating enduring design, and can you give an example?
It’s extremely important, stemming from a strong brief — it allows us to understand and interpret the project objectives, so we are clear on our design intentions and direction from the very beginning. An example of this is in The Budapest Café. The client was extremely clear on what she wanted to achieve by drawing inspiration from filmmaker Wes Anderson and The Grand Budapest Hotel movie. We like to think our approach was an abstract interpretation fusing modern materiality and style with the eccentric film set and peculiar details captured in specific frames of the movie. There’s a playful interpretation of the arches and step details from the film re-imagined through form, function and branding throughout The Budapest Café.
You received the IDEA Emerging Designer award last year, what do you hope to achieve in the future?
We’re still so thankful for the recognition, and grateful to be part of an industry with such a high calibre of talent. For Biasol, there are always big plans happening in the background. This year, in particular, we are focusing more on collaborations with our clients and suppliers, and something we’re passionate about is also finding ways we can give back to the industry through the way we work as a team and our network. We are also developing new products and hope to expand into other industries whilst applying the same integrated working method. There’s a lot more to come!