Hello, Emily here. I thought seeing this recent sculpture from an outsider’s perspective might be a nice way to present this new piece from Nikolas. So I spoke with HL Lim, a founder of LTW Design Works in Asia about his partnership with Nikolas on the Shangri-La Hotel Midtown in Hangzhou. He and Nikolas go back a ways and it was a delight for me to spend some time with him.
HL is a wonderful, old-school bon vivant. He has a deep, slightly mischievous laugh and a charm and ease that he brings to his work. With his cigar in hand and coffee at the ready, he and I talked early morning in Beijing. Nikolas would have been uncomfortable with the flattery, but I was gratified. I was especially touched when he said, “Nikolas and his team were very joyful and a pleasure to work with. I like people who are putting their heart into doing a good job. That’s not easy to come by.”
Nikolas first worked with HL in 2009 on a large lobby sculpture at the InterContinental Shanghai Puxi. For this latest project the collaboration began back in 2011. The years-long time frame is a testament to the partnership and understanding between these two; their knowledge that it takes time to do something right.
Hangzhou has a long and rich cultural history as an inspirational gathering place for artists, poets, writers, and calligraphers. The landscape and waterways have contributed greatly to this history and the locale was particularly important to the design of the hotel, and Nikolas’s inspiration for the Artwork.
Emily Vassos: What is it about Nikolas’s artworks that leads you to collaborate with him on a project?
HL Lim: We really haven’t done a lot of work with renowned artists like Nikolas and I’d like to thank him because he makes it quite easy for us to present his case to the client. He’s always very cooperative and willing to try new ways to create something unique. So the word collaboration to define our relationship is very true.
EV: What were your considerations for the design of this particular project?
HL: We really needed something like Nikolas’s work because we wanted to do something which is a departure from the usual. The client anticipated that they would do something made by the usual companies that do large lighting fixtures. But we thought that when the guests are sitting and drinking and relaxing in the lobby lounge we want them to be able to look up and enjoy a true Artwork. So it was quite gratifying to have Nikolas’s piece there.
EV: Did Nikolas’s artwork influence you in any way?
HL: Nikolas’s work inspired me to tell the story of Hangzhou. When we first started working on this project I told Nikolas that Hangzhou is really a very special place. Throughout the various dynasties in China it was said that every year the Emperor would make a special trip to visit the south of the Yangtze River where poets, painters, and calligraphers would congregate and be inspired by the beauty and romance of the Westlake where Hangzhou is located.
EV: Yes, I remember the early conversations you and Nikolas had about making pleats and tight folds of glass to loosely resemble the ruffled edge of the native Gingko leaf. At some point he integrated the movement of water and it went from there. Is the finished piece what you thought it would be?
HL: Yes, absolutely. In fact, before the piece was finished we got to go up on the scaffolding. I wish we could have a small lift to take guests up to that level. I was so privileged to have been able to see the sculpture from up there. And Nikolas and his team were very joyful and a pleasure to work with. I like people who are really putting their heart into doing a good job. This is not that easy to come by. You and your team really understand what professionalism is all about.
EV: Okay, blue sky question… If you had a committed, passionate client with very deep pockets, what would your dream project be?
HL: I created a very unique hotel brand for a very dear friend of mine some while back. The idea is that I will work with only one contemporary artist such as Nikolas for an entire hotel project. His art and philosophy will be immersed and instilled with the interior design and truly be part of the interior. The journey will begin at the guest arrival, going through the main lobby, all public spaces, guest rooms, and suites. Can you imagine that? That will be so very pure and unique! You ask me what my dream project is? This is it. No budget constraint and absolutely unique. The value of this hotel will appreciate as does the value of good art! We will assist the client to identify a like-minded architect in order to create such a unique project. The end result would be the immersion of the building, interior and art, ‘form, function and beauty’. I wonder what Nikolas would say to such an opportunity?
EV: I think Nikolas would love the idea. You and he are quite similar in your unrestrained imaginations and passion for dreaming about things that haven’t been done before.
Then I head home to end my day as HL is just getting his underway.
Photo Credits: Michael Weber