Meet Justin Fong, an Architect, Principal & Director of Design of GDP Design Build. Justin's design Ethos mirror George & Willy's, where considered design has the ability to improve the quality of lives. We picked his brain about his work, which consists of eateries with clean and unassuming palettes, and restaurants designed to champion a sense of community and encourage connecting, interaction and conversation. He balances functionality at the heart of his work without compromising beautiful design.
What is your background?
My Father, George Fong, started the company on his own in 1987 after working for a local firm for a few years. He expanded his licensing to include contracting as well as architecture to be able to design and build his projects. At the time, George worked out of the den of my childhood home where I was primed with an appreciation for art and design from an early start.
I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, where GDP was founded and currently practices. I attended the University of Florida for my undergraduate and graduate education and received my Master's degree in Architecture in 2014.
George attended Columbia University for his graduate and undergraduate education and was awarded his Master's of architecture in 1982.
What is your design ethos?
We truly believe that well-considered design is transformative and that it has the ability to improve our surroundings and the quality of our lives. In every endeavour, we place great importance on ensuring that the functional necessities of a client's program are met with innovative and detail-conscious design solutions. With every project we take on, we set out to create engaging environments that people will remember and enjoy.
What are your biggest design challenges?
In a time where styles and fashions change so rapidly and so often, one particular challenge is to achieve a sense of timelessness while designing for the present. We are constantly looking forward (and backward)-- taking cues from both to push the boundaries of our craft. While we practice design in the present, it can oftentimes imply some level of prescience. Designers are often asked to look ahead to predict how people will use a space or how the spaces might change over time. I think this exercise helps ensure that whatever we are designing maintains its relevance.
Who/what/where are your biggest design influencers?
There are so many designers doing wonderful things that inspire the work we do. We have a great appreciation for an intensely focused perspective and narrative. Currently, we are excited about the modern minimalist work of Bernard Dubois and, of course, the timeless and materially rich works of Carlo Scarpa.
Frosty fox bubble tea featuring the Baker Menu.
What is your favourite project to date?
I, personally, really enjoy projects that allow us to indulge in the details. I have many interests that arguably all have roots in design-- gardening, graphic design, painting, sculpture, cooking. We recently completed a pub project named Tori Tori. In addition to the architecture and interior design, We were also afforded the opportunity to lend our studio's skills in the design of the logo, landscaping, florals, and some bespoke furnishings. All these details and concerted efforts, I believe, add to the layered richness and success of a space.
Domu Chibi featuring the Wooden Letterboard.
What do you think is the key to good design?
I think good design is a design that has the power to convey emotions or a narrative while functionally addressing a set of real-world problems: poetry and function. Good design should leave an impact on people.
What do you like about George & Willy?
George and Willy manage to develop goods that are functional and accessible while maintaining a level of simple refinement. In many cases, we believe that less can definitely reveal more -- that simple solutions can lead to surprisingly complex results. Many of the products George and Willy offers have a timeless appearance that works seamlessly with our designs. Just as the old adage goes: "The parts are just as important as the whole"-- The pieces that are curated for the space are arguably as important as the space itself.
What is your favorite George & Willy product and why?
I am particularly fond of the Atelier Menu Board, which has lovely architectural lines and a rich bronze finish. We've always had a genuine interest in materials since they contribute so much to how we perceive and experience our built environments.
What’s your top tip to staying creative?
It is so important to look outside of your own frame of reference. As a designer, its necessary to grow and evolve while maintaining focus and vision. It's a big beautiful world with so much to see and so many perspectives to see it from -take some time to truly look at it.