Interview: Jean-Pierre Biasol of Biasol

  • Jean-Pierre Biasol could be described as a natural to the language of design. Founding multi-award winning Biasol Design Studio in 2012, Jean-Pierre’s work spans across interiors, buildings, products and branded environments. To his credit, he has built a small team that works without divisions, in a holistic and integrated mission for form and function.

    With a driving creative interest across a diverse range of projects, the Biasol Design Studio has a firm grounding in the experience they bring to space. It would be no coincidence if the signature Biasol touch has caught your eye in hospitality and commercial projects alike, both in Melbourne and internationally.

    We had the privilege of having a chat with Jean-Pierre about his design influences from across the globe and his passion for Australian design. In the company of a Melburnian, we couldn’t help but ask his local know-how on where to grab a bite to eat, or an inner-city drink.

    PHOTOGRAPHY Ari Hatzis, Tom Blachford and Daniel Aulsebrook

    Tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to design. 

    From an early age I was sort of in and around design. My brother and sisters were a lot older than me and studied graphic design. I was fascinated by what my brother could do with graphic elements and my father also tinkered with woodwork at home. So from a young age I was influenced and inspired, eventually developing a curiousity and appreciation for design.

    I studied industrial design here in Melbourne – I’ve always had a love for products. You are somewhat naturally connected, physically, through touch, sight and sound. Having a European background (my parents are from Italy), I thought I would gain a better understanding of design if I went to Europe. I was inspired by many designers and architects in Europe, especially the ones in Italy, so decided to return and continue my studies in interior architecture and product design, which was a fantastic experience. With that in mind, the intention was to bring a lot of that experience back to Australia, and vice versa. Australia is obviously such an amazing and beautiful country, we are spoilt for choice in terms of food and the diversity of cultures. I wanted to make sure that we could work here and work overseas from here.

    What were the type of elements or influences that you found studying overseas that you feel like you’ve brought back to your practice here?

    There is really a strong flair for passion and form, especially in Europe. I think in Australia we’ve got a lot of know-how in getting something done, from a practicality point of view and looking at it aesthetically. When we design our intentions are to tie these two elements together, it’s something that’s stemmed from Italy – they do it so well. There is of course a little bit of tinkering in the background with perfecting form and function. But once we get it right, we get it right.

    There are a lot of different projects in your portfolio. How did this evolve? Was it from the influence from overseas or from a passion for doing different types of projects?

    Yes, I think the experience of living and studying overseas probably did have an influence because when you look at Europe, a lot of architects are working within the existing fabrics of a heritage building. In Australia, I think we’ve got a lot more scope to push the boundaries of design. So naturally the mindset of our designers and architects merge and eventually become one, with design  at the heart of it all.

    When we look at what we do as a studio, we never wanted to be just working in interiors or buildings or branding or products. As a whole we like to think we’re working to deliver a product encompassing interiors, buildings, product and branding. An end product that is the result of extensive research and development because fundamentally we create experiences. Yes, the word ‘holistic’ and ‘integrated’ gets thrown around a lot, it’s the way we work collaboratively.

    It’s not a new way of working, but it’s the way we work best to deliver greater value. As the years have progressed, people have really found the benefit in how we work and the diversity in design we produce across our projects. We don’t see them as individual divisions or services, fundamentally our integrated working method is how we explore the best possibilities in each area to produce the best outcomes as an end product.

    In terms of your hospitality projects, do you find the approach of looking for the experience and designing for the experience is why you have been able to take on a lot of them?

    Hospitality has led us to the awareness of what we do and the experience that we bring. Again, we are looking at branding and introducing interior elements from the very beginning. We may integrate a certain tile pattern or interior detail back into the brand itself, to in turn connect an experience. With hospitality we are mindful that we are designing a business. We are proud of what we do and we know that the people that we work with are passionate about what they do as far as hospitality goes. We want to see their businesses succeed. That’s truly important to us as well. We are mindful of budgets and opertations and will only put the best design forward for purpose. We want to embrace challenges, draw on our experience to cleverly bring in detail and still align budgets and time constraints with a design that works. So there is a lot to consider especially with hospitality, which is expertise we can then adapt into some of our other disciplines.

    Respectively, we are about a 60:40 split between residential and hospitality projects at the moment which is great. We’ve got quite an extensive range of residential coming through. A lot of it has resulted from being able to experience our hospitality projects. It’s all about the experience and how the spaces makes you feel. So if you get that special feeling from a restaurant and you feel like going back there, there is almost a natural connection being established. It starts with remembering an experience and from there you are sort of beginning to design your home.

    People experience a hospitality concept as an influx for their own residential design. In particular we recently had some clients also think, “It’s lovely you are doing the hospitality space. We want that same feeling in our home”. Moving through a digital age where there is a lot of information coming at us in different ways, when you can visualise everything in a space to inspire your own project, your brief or intentions will be clearer and the end result, even better.

    Are you seeing that this kind of rise of hospitality design in Melbourne or in Australia more widely? Are you seeing this elsewhere in the work that you are doing?

    Definitely from some of my travels around the world and working on hospitality projects in the UK;  we’ve now completed 12 hospitality venues over in London. In each of these projects, we wanted to bring some of Melbourne’s culture love of coffee and design to London, as well as have a point of difference. I think Australia is great at operating hospitality venues. I think as Melbournians we are on the forefront of coffee and cafe culture. Our produce in Australia is amazing, which is a blessing for us. Melbourne has really had a rise in the last five to ten years in how we are perceived as one of the world leaders in hospitality design; we are becoming more understanding and considerate to design elements with that profile. We want great food, we want great coffee, we want great service, we want great design, we want the entire experience – it’s the expectation.

    Have you found that through your work, you are finding that these different projects are continuing to influence each other — the residential projects influence the hospitality?

    There is a lot of intertwining with design elements, more so because when you are working on someone’s home it’s quite personal. They have to wake up, and come home to this space every single day. So they want things that are timeless, and they are obviously investing a lot of money and time into a project for their family. They want it to be the best and something that they love and enjoy every single day. Compared to working on some of the hospitality projects, there is a lot more drive in the creativity aspects. It’s where we can test processes to give people that point of difference, and that point of difference is important because it can help with the awareness and success of the business.

    What are some of your own personal design and creative influences?

    In Australia in general we’ve got a lot of great creative studios. I think it’s a great time to be in design in Australia, there is a lot of work out there at the moment for everyone. In terms of my personal influences, Philippe Starck is probably up there as number one. I think he has captured interiors, architecture, product and branding well throughout  his designs.. 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. What is next for Biasol? In particular,  what projects are you really excited about?

    We’ve got a lot coming up both locally and overseas. Currently we are working on a boutique hotel in Phuket, Thailand, a hospitality project in China and residential in the UK. The boutique hotel in Thailand is targeted towards the locals rather than tourists. But also we’ve got some collaborations coming up with people that we’ve worked with in the past for new products. We’ve got new ranges of our own furniture and lighting coming through hopefully towards the end of this year, but definitely early next. We’re very excited! In July we are five years, and we’re looking forward to the next five. We’ve got an amazing team, they are so supportive and I couldn’t speak any more highly of everyone there.

    And now, a couple of Melbourne questions;

    Where do you live and what do you love about where you live?

    I live just off Chapel Street in Prahran, and I’m lucky to have had Windsor and Prahran come up with so many bars, restaurants and hospitality – it’s becoming a hospitality district in itself.  You can walk down the street and again be spoilt for choice on cuisines.

    Favourite place to eat: Mr. Miyagi and Cutler & Co is definitely up there.

    Favourite place to drink: Hihou located on the corner of Spring Street and Flinders Lane is probably one of my all-time favourites. I think it captures Melbourne in all of its glory – its metropolitan city location and it’s a well designed space.

    Favourite places to shop: The City is great when it comes to fashion, in particular Emporium. I also love the Melbourne laneways, it’s easy to walk through and stop for a great coffee on the way.

    Weekly local rituals: I’m up fairly early at 4:30am during the week, it’s my time to explore and to be inspired online, I also do a lot of reading, meditating and yoga. The weekends are mainly to recoup and for social, (and sometimes) business meetings.

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