Came for the curiosity, stayed

Wendy Saunders is a Belgian architect, living and working in Shanghai for the past 12 years. She runs interior and architecture design studio AIM Architecture. 
Ti Gong

Wendy Saunders

Who is she?

Wendy Saunders is a Belgian architect, living and working in Shanghai for the past 12 years. She runs interior and architecture design studio AIM Architecture. She came to Shanghai out of curiosity and wanting a change of scene, thinking of being here six months to one year.

What works are you proudest of?

It’s difficult to name one. Projects are not just about the result but about the whole process. So many factors have to come together and align to get a project done. Sometimes I need some time. It’s about taking distance to be able to see the whole picture again.

My first project in Shanghai would have to be mentioned here. In 2005 I worked on a gallery and it was very much a reflection of what was going on in Shanghai at the time. A lot of the buildings were over-glammed and over-designed, which felt very uncomfortable for me then.

I wanted to do the opposite. Working with careful chosen input and using what the space had and not trying to hide it was amazing at the time. Now you see this everywhere but then it was quite new for Shanghai.

Of course I have embraced Shanghai and its glamorous inside worlds and have learnt to be inspired by it. Some recently completed projects reflect that. I always try to think how can I reinvent this or that.

Are you currently involved with any project?

Yes, at the moment I am working on several projects. Quite diverse. From small-sized retail to big co-living projects.

This diversity is what makes it exciting and forces you to leave your comfort zone often.

What's your design style?

I feel I don’t really have a “style” in the traditional sense of the word. If you look at my work, I think it’s overall quite eclectic at first glance. It is conceptual and contextual. Clients and their dreams are usually the inspiration. I like working within their context but hope that they give me the freedom to transform it into something more powerful. I usually work with simple and bold elements or materials. These things make them “my style.”

What does your home mean to you?

My home is a place where I get away from the day to day dealings of work. It is a place where I can think and reflect on things and spend time with my family and friends. The longer I am in Shanghai, the more important I find it needs to be a peaceful place. Work in combination with this city can be pretty intense. My house is quite simple but comfortable. I enjoy cooking and having people over so it needs to feel inviting and friendly.

What do you collect?

I am not a collector in the physical sense. I have always tried to keep my life and belongings simple. When I was younger I always felt the need that I should be able to pack up my bag and leave when I wanted to and not be tied down with material things I have grown to love. Maybe this feeling has been enhanced when I moved to China because for a long time I have felt like I am living in an in-between space. Always on the border of not really belonging.

Where would you like to go most in shanghai 

Shanghai has always been full of inspiring places. Which places I would go to have changed over the years though.

Apart from spending a lot of time in the office and at home, I seek places that give me energy or let me relax. My work does make me go to parts or places in Shanghai or outside of it that I would otherwise probably not go to. This is always refreshing.

What will be the next big trend?

Software. It is already here of course but has not really caught on yet. We will be using our phones to set up the lighting moods and music. The fridge will be letting you know that you have run low on milk.

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