A Work Week With Piya Thamchariyawat of EDG Design
This week we chat to Piya Thamchariyawat of EDG Design - an award-winning global hospitality design and branding studio in Singapore, with head office based in the San Francisco Bay Area and further office in Dallas. Piya has been part of the EDG team since 1999, and has become integral to their international success, having initially worked on projects across the USA and South America, before returning to Singapore in 2007 to help grow the EDG name in this region. Here, we break down what it takes to be top of the design game.
After getting a good cup of coffee to perk me up at the start of the week, I get cracking. Usually I brew my own but when I’m in the mood to treat myself, I head to one in the neighbourhood Merci Marcel at the Palais. Today, we’re meeting one of our clients to discuss the design vision for an upcoming project. One of our past favourite branding project was for Accor. The Swissôtel Jakarta team really liked EDG’s work on this project, and as such, we were connected to discuss how we might be able to use our unique approach for this new project – combining eye-catching design with business-savvy solutions.
We discuss the concept, brand architecture, key messaging and space concerns to figure out what our client wants before we get to work with the design plans. It’s incredibly important for us to flesh out all the nitty gritty details with our client before we get started on our own brainstorming, as it means that we have a clear idea of their vision and what they want out of the project. This is when we engage the team members with a background in hospitality and are therefore able to offer insights into the business issues facing hotel owners and operators, including branding and operations.
We enjoy putting our heads together as a team to talk through our current project and brainstorm ideas on how we can bring this project to life. More than just design, we want to help our client create a signature guest experience. We look at the market research to determine the appropriate direction to take for the project, and look at the kind of stories and identities that we can incorporate to make it creative, competitive and strategic.
For example, for our project with Accor on The Chinese National in the Swissôtel Jakarta, we designed the space to encompass the spirit of PIK, enticing local residents to dine there whilst making a splash on the thriving Jakarta restaurant scene. We worked towards creating an engaging, exciting atmosphere reflective of the neighbourhood for international hotel guests to enjoy.
Once I’ve brainstormed with both the client and my team, it’s time to put pen to paper. I give guidelines to our group of designers so they can draft the best solution for the project. It’s always a great feeling to be able to show our clients what we’ve envisioned for them, we then proceed to make tweaks accordingly and also talk about how we can bring a real human quality to the overall experience.
When we worked on The Chinese National, we wanted to marry vintage industrial vibes with Chinese sensibility, striking a delicate balance between art deco and industrial, between formal and casual. I have a few favourite elements and moments when walking through the space; one of my favorites is the sense of arrival at the restaurant complex, from the main entry, foyer and through the archway corridor connecting all venues together. We took inspiration from an image of an old train station in Jakarta. The hanging pendants derived from the station’s hanging clocks.
After putting together the initial design, I like to go down with the team to the design site to get more inspiration. Site visits are an excellent way to engage the young designers in owning the project; it certainly gives everyone a grip on reality. It’s always better to see the site in person – sometimes you see parts of a space that really bring out its character and can be repurposed in the larger design scheme. Besides the visual and aesthetic inspiration for design, the site visits also help us on a functional level; in addition to exquisite guest experience, it is also vital to ensure that our design makes sense operationally and make for a seamless hospitality experience for the staff working in the space.
On those Fridays that I work from home, I take my bike for a very early and refreshing ride around Botanical gardens.
Once the design sketches have been approved, and we’ve been given the green light to move forward, we then make arrangements to meet with suppliers to decide on materials for the project. The materials we use are essential to bring out what we’ve envisioned for the space. When we worked on The Chinese National in Jakarta, we used things like compass-inspired details, stained glass, a chinoiserie panels and antique mirrors to bring to life each of the unique dining concepts.
At the end of the week, Around 5pm, the whole team would go out for a drink or meet at the office’s lounge area. Nowadays, during covid restrictions, those working at home join the rest by zoom. We always have stories to tell as there’s never a dull day at EDG!
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