GLOBAL DESIGN WITH GEORGE FOUSSIAS: AUDIO INTERVIEW

I am Alys Bryan, editor of Design Insider. Today, I’m joined by my colleague, Phoebe Train, and we are thrilled to welcome you to this audio interview. This month, George Foussias joined the team at Canadian global design and consulting firm, B+H (who were recently ranked in the Top 50 of Interior Design’s Top 100 Giants of 2022) as Director of Interior Design .

George has joined us today to discuss the firm’s commitment to global strategic investment in bold and inspiring projects, as well as what the future holds for businesses striving for success in the global commercial sector.

Listen to our conversation by clicking below or scroll down to read more.

Welcome, George.  Perhaps you could begin by explaining B+H’s work and your role within the team.

I’m very excited to be part of the B+H team. One of the things that inspired me to join this large global interdisciplinary practice, was the importance of interior design as a standalone discipline.

Previously Interior Design was a side service for B+H, however it has now grown to 30% of their global revenue and as such is acknowledged as a valuable discipline.  We’ve developed robust global relationships with key clients like Microsoft, Amazon in Asia, locally with Google, and regionally with LCBO, SickKids Hospital, First National, and many others in Toronto.

I lead the Toronto team to create the design excellence that we’re striving for, but at the same time strategize with our other regional Interior Design studios to develop, and implement, a global design vision.  Alongside B+H’s other Interior Design Thought I’m excited to envision a way of working that spearheads our discipline regionally as well as globally.

I believe that there’s a version of our industry where we collaborate under the truly interdisciplinary umbrella, a true creative assembly, where the common language is a capital “D” for design, with a smaller “a” for architecture, “i” for interior, “l” for landscape, all the creatives work within a very porous cross-pollinating incubator.

We love intelligent clients. We love thought leadership clients. We also really love engaged clients. So having them come in to the process, not only more, but also earlier has allowed us to develop a way to collaborate that brings our clients into the team. So it’s not B+H and the client, it’s B+H, the clients, and the entire team together. And we use technologies like AR and VR as a toolkit to be able to translate a vision from the beginning, carry through the project, and execute it.

I’ve already learned that our studio is a socially-driven incubator centred around a very strong creative hub. We get together, we work together, we laugh together, we imagine together, we manifest together, which is so, so cool. It’s such a beautiful environment!

The last few years have brought much disruption to the commercial, mixed-use, hospitality, residential and retail sectors. What does the future hold for businesses in these sectors?

I believe that the sectors that we’re talking about are starting to become more homogenized. The future, I believe, is a creative, intellectual amalgamation of all these sectors. We see cross-pollination of hospitality and residential, residential and retail, retail and workplace and back and forth into a new form of a really true mixed-use environment, really an anthropocentric environment where the various elements of our daily lives are integrated rather than separated, a cohesive blend to the sense of place-making. Imagine you live in an environment where your daily activities blend, you’re still as creative but the idea that you separate everything through compartmentalizing your times of the day has changed. You can go to work, connect socially with people, work creatively with people, shop your way and be able to have the food and beverages, hospitality and everything together. It’s a complete experience.   We’re looking at workplaces being designed from the eye of hospitality. We’re looking at food and beverage from the eye of retail. We’re looking at residential from the eye of workplace and so on.

So that’s the idea, you jump up like 30,000 feet of the air to look at the whole project, feel what the emotional value of the experience, then come back down in your specialties and execute all of the various points. There’s a lot of big avenues that we can explore that we didn’t before.

What is your opinion on the current state, and the future, of global design?

Oh, I’m loving it! I’m in the right place at the right time and it’s amazing!

I see a very strong movement shaping up where we’re seeing intelligent design plus regional understanding of where the project is, where the client is, equalling a global responsibility.  We live in a world where we’re very sensitive, as we should be, and responsible about our footprint, our natural environment and everything else that we do.

We are smart enough, strong enough and have enough resources, to be able to be responsible on every part of the process. We are so much better at moving electrons rather than moving our bodies into different places to sit down and have a conversation.  We can be immersed in the emotional value of being in front of someone but not be physically in front of someone, this allows us to not only work further but also work more cohesively and more globally.

What I’m saying is that we’re going through a design renaissance. Design, I believe, in its broader capacity, is a thought process and method of taking our client’s inspirations, dreams, visions, and manifesting them in the built environment. That’s really cool!

What really attracted me to B+H is that, specifically to our practice, our talent pool is global. Our thinking is global, which allows us a beautiful sense of being able to acquire and bring in and assemble teams based on appropriate, rather than available, talent.  In the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve talked to beautiful minds from all over the globe and it’s fantastic.

Our readers would love to get to know you a little bit more. Do you have a design hero, a brand you have an affinity with, or a building which has stolen your heart?

Yes, yes, and yes.

One of my favorite people is Philippe Starck. And I’ll tell you why. Besides the design, which is fantastic and I love a lot of his work, more than anything, I appreciate his fearlessness to explore, suggest, implement, and spearhead original design thinking. I saw daring design coming out of his studio when I was a junior tha I would have dared to do and that allowed me to also be a little more fearless. We don’t need to be locked into a framework of thinking. Go for it. Don’t be afraid of it!

My other favorite person (that I met once) is Bruce Mau. The value in his contribution to the democratization of the design process is all about not only doing creative work, but doing all work creatively. This is an incredible thing because the moment you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

This goes back to the conversation about connecting all the different sectors. If we think about the sectors differently, we act differently, we design differently and something new comes up. That’s the hub of creativity.

There’s tons of people that I look up to, tons of people that inspire me all the time, but these two, I think, have a special spot of my heart.

Thank you so much for sharing all of your expertise with Phoebe and I here today. I very much hope that we have the opportunity to share many B+H projects on Design Insider in the near future.  Thank you so much.

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About Alys Bryan

Alys' experience as a furniture designer, along with her in-depth marketing knowledge, makes her uniquely placed to work with the BCFA as the Editor of Design Insider and run her marketing business, Method Communications.
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