January 11, 2018

Wilson Associates—a Cutting-Edge Firm Designing Luxury Hotels Worldwide

Joanne Yong and Dan Kwan, Senior VP & Principal and CCO and Regional Managing Director respectively, give us a behind the scenes look at Wilson Associates upcoming and current projects.

by New York Spaces

Fairmont Istanbul by Wilson Associates
Fairmont, Istanbul; ; Photograph by Jesus Alonso Otero.
Wilson associates, dan Kwan and Joanne
Dan Kwan and Joanne Yong of Wilson Associates.

NYS: Tell us about Wilson Associates! What is the company known for?

Dan Kwan, Chief Creative Officer and Regional Managing Director: Wilson Associates is more than an international architectural interior design firm. It's a collective of diverse collaborative designers who are passionate about creating distinctive and luxurious environments. With more than 1,000 projects completed to date and offices in 10 major cities around the globe, we are constantly evolving to meet the needs of our clients.

Joanne Yong, Senior Vice President and Principal: Wilson Associates has created iconic and avant-garde spaces, including Signiel Seoul at Lotte World Tower, Korea's tallest building, the fifth tallest in the world; Hilton Jinan South Hotel, located in China; Fairmont Quasar Istanbul, the first hotel for Fairmont in Turkey; and Le Lapin—a modern and quirky French eatery, located at the top of I.M. Pei's Macau Science Center.

Dan: Within the past year, the firm has gone through some exciting changes. We have established a strategic

Fairmont, Istanbul by Wilson Associates
Fairmont, Istanbul; ; Photograph by Jesus Alonso Otero.

alliance with Zaha Hadid Architects and Arcplus, offering clients wholly integrated project delivery at the forefront of architecture, design, and engineering technology. Wilson Associates also opened three new offices locations in London, Tokyo and Bangkok and relocated the Dubai office to the Dubai Design District last month.

NYS: We love that you lead it and run the New York office together! How does being married and running a company together work for you both?

Fairmont Istanbul
Fairmont, Istanbul.

Joanne: It works well. This business takes so much of your time, and there's so much traveling involved. If my spouse wasn't working in the same office, then he'd probably question where I was going all of the time.

Dan: It also helps that we're in different disciplines in the industry. I design F&B spaces and I could not design a guest room or public space to save my life, like Joanne can.

Joanne: We complement each other very well.

NYS: How did you meet and end up working together?

Joanne: We worked collaboratively on the Hilton Kuala Lumpur. At the time, Dan was with his own outfit and I was with Wilson Associates. We were awarded the design of the F&B outlets, and Wilson Associates was awarded the rooms.

The Hague
Movenpick Hotel The Hague.

Dan: She eventually lured me to Wilson.

NYS: Tell us about what you are working on now? How does Wilson Associate manage designing over 1,000 projects worldwide since December 2017?

Dan: We fly by the seat of our pants. It's a marathon, never a sprint. You put one foot in front of the other. Like with any good collaboration, I bounce ideas off of her but not sure if she bounces any ideas off of me.

Joanne: I always come to you with ideas! We've worked on all of these projects together. We're currently working on the Movenpick Hotel The Hague, which will take on quintessentially Dutch motifs. This 72-room hotel will open in 2019.

Fairmont, Istanbul by Wilson Associates
Fairmont, Istanbul; Photograph by Jesus Alonso Otero.

NYS: What are some of your most interesting projects and why?

Joanne: We do really love all of our international projects, especially if it's somewhere we've never worked before! We like to bring new and fresh ideas to each project. When developing a concept, we explore and research the project's local culture and social identity. It can be the smallest project in the world and still be very interesting. Discovering foreign cultures and new people keeps me going.

Dan: I agree. I love every project that I've worked on, in its own way, but if I had to pick, I'd say Fairmont Quasar Istanbul is closest to my heart. And Le Lapin, the owner gave me total creative control which is every designer's dream!

NYS: When you collaborate on 5-star luxury hospitality designs, what is the process like for both of you?

Dan: We are totally collaborative in our approach. Our design process is freeform, and we welcome sparks of

Le Lapin, wilson associates
Le Lapin.

creativity in all forms, from a song to street poetry. We do not follow a linear approach. Instead, we believe in a 'gut-level' approach and always trust our instincts.

Joanne: We approach design holistically and not stylistically. We also believe in storyboarding as part of the process, and all design is interdependent. From the brand identity to the advertising campaign, they are all linked and all part of the design process. There is no separation.

NYS: Tell us about the Fairmont Quasar Istanbul—your most recent joint venture!

Fairmont, Istanbul
Fairmont, Istanbul.

Joanne: Fairmont Quasar Istanbul is our pride and joy. Dan oversaw the design of the F&B spaces and I led the design initiative for the guestrooms and public spaces. The design concept encapsulates the city's storied history with locally connected design details. The property is set on the grounds of the 1930's Robert Mallet Stevens' Art Deco liquor factory in Mecidiyeköy. The historic liquor factory served as the driving force of the interior design of the hotel, bringing together Art Deco elements to the overall design such as the whiskey bar, which has decanter-inspired light fixtures over the bar.

Dan: The crown jewel of the F&B spaces is the specialty restaurant Aila, which features four distinct areas that takes diners on a journey through Istanbul, capturing the passage of time and shifting tempo—from day to night. The Spice Library, for example, features warm wood tones and a spectrum of spices on display that reflect the colors of a new dawn in the city.

Fairmont, Istanbul
Joanne and Dan.

NYS: We are over the moon about your alliance with Zaha Hadid Architects and Arcplus! How did this alliance come about?

Dan: We worked with Zaha Hadid Architects on several projects in the past, and we developed a friendly relationship with the firm. Talks of an alliance started in December 2016. In the end, two legacy firms came together to redefine themselves for the future and we're excited to walk down this creative path together.

NYS: What does the alliance entail for Wilson Associates?

Dan: We each have our strengths, and together, we will collaborate on future proposals and provide advanced and practical solutions for international clients.

NYS: Can you give us a hint as to what your first joint project will be?

Dan: Well, it's already underway.

Joanne: It's going to be an incredible hotel in New York City! We can't say more at this stage, but it will be complete in early 2019.

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