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JJ Acuna on hospitality design in Asia-Pac

Hong Kong-based designer and consummate cosmopolitan, JJ Acuna of Bespoke Studio, muses on the changing face of hospitality and design across Asia Pacific.

JJ Acuna on hospitality design in Asia-Pac

JJ Acuna, courtesy of Bespoke Studio.

In our recent issue of Indesign magazine, #84, we caught up with the Hong Kong-based designer JJ Acuna of Bespoke Studio. Writer Sandra Tan asked him four simple – yet loaded – questions about the changing face of hospitality and design across the Asia Pacific. Here is what he had to say.

What are the origins of Bespoke Studio?

JJ Acuna: I was a director at a Hong Kong architecture firm, and after a decade of corporate projects in mainland China, took a year’s sabbatical. In that time, I designed three restaurants for friends and found it a very soulful experience. It was so cathartic to see people enjoying smaller, more personal spaces I’d made – and each made it into international magazines! So then I began my studio in 2015.

The Elephant Grounds, Manila, photography by Aldwin Aspillera. JJ Acuna Bespoke Studio
The Elephant Grounds, Manila, photography by Aldwin Aspillera.

What keeps you busy these days?

JJ Acuna: Aside from some great new restaurants opening in Tokyo, Macau and Manila, we’re seeing a boom in residential work. Since no one’s travelling, people are reassessing their space. I think those who enjoy our restaurants become curious about how that lifestyle perspective might translate at home. It’s a real fusion of design programming for this generation of clientele.

The Elephant Grounds, Manila, photography by Aldwin Aspillera. JJ Acuna Bespoke Studio
The Elephant Grounds, Manila.

How has COVID-19 impacted local design and hospitality?

JJ Acuna: The food scene is still going strong. In Hong Kong, no matter how dangerous COVID-19 is, or protests are, people will forever be sociable. We can’t invite friends home to our tiny flats, so bars and restaurants are here to stay. Design-wise, we’re moving away from fixed features like booths, providing loose seating options instead so venues can observe proper social distancing.

Hansik Goo, designed by Bespoke Studio, photography by XU Liang Leon.
Hansik Goo, Hong Kong, photography by XU Liang Leon.

How have you navigated the pandemic pause of 2020 and 2021?

JJ Acuna: Well we’ve just finished a hotel for Four Seasons Macau entirely through conference calls! I used to fly once a month for work whereas now I question, is this travel necessary? Working remotely is kinder to the environment, but there’s no substitute for experiencing context in person. Designers rely on serendipity to create.

Hansik Goo, designed by Bespoke Studio, photography by XU Liang Leon.
Hansik Goo, Hong Kong.
Hansik Goo, designed by Bespoke Studio, photography by XU Liang Leon.
Hansik Goo, Hong Kong.
Hansik Goo, designed by Bespoke Studio, photography by XU Liang Leon.
Hansik Goo, Hong Kong.
Schmatz Beer Stand at Tokyo World Gate, Tokyo, photography by Daisuke Shima.
Schmatz Beer Stand at Tokyo World Gate, Tokyo, photography by Daisuke Shima.
Schmatz Beer Stand at Tokyo World Gate, Tokyo, photography by Daisuke Shima.
Schmatz Beer Stand, Tokyo.
Schmatz Beer Stand at Tokyo World Gate, Tokyo, photography by Daisuke Shima.
Schmatz Beer Stand, Tokyo.

JJ Acuna / Bespoke Studio
jjabespoke.com

This interview was published in July 2021, in Indesign #84. Purchase your copy of the issue in print, or download the digital issue.

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