Technology fused sustainability is the future evolution of design

Andrei Zerebecky is the principal of Atelier Zerebecky, an award-winning studio of architecture, interior and product design. Zerebecky is also the creator of Urban Fabric.
Ti Gong

Andrei Zerebecky

Who is he ?

Andrei Zerebecky — Principal of Atelier Zerebecky, an award-winning studio of architecture, interior and product design. Zerebecky is also the creator of Urban Fabric, a series of area rugs based on street grids of cities you love. He hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada) and has lived and worked in Toronto, Shanghai, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City and Dubai.

Please share with us some of your works.

Some of our recent works include the Art Labor Gallery and VIP Loft in Shanghai, a small commercial storefront and office project called White Noise — also in Jing’an District of Shanghai. In Beijing’s Lido Park, there is a triage of food and beverage outlets (Café 27, Kun Whiskey Bar and Florentina Italian Restaurant) for which our team did the architecture, interior design, landscape design and branding. Last year our studio won two international design competitions in Spain — one for an enormous masterplan in the seaside community of Marbella, the other for re-inventing the hotel room design for Eurostars Hotels in Barcelona. We are currently working on a large office project called The Arcade (on Yanping Road). 

This last project is perhaps the largest of the projects listed, but we are particularly excited about this because it is not just an interior renovation, but also includes a whole new facade that will make a dramatic impact on the street as well as give this old building a new life. We have chipped away at the building to remove unsightly additions as well as some floor plates to make a grand triple-height entrance lobby. Inside the lobby, the lighting feature will be something we have not done before — a sculptural cascade of wooden lightboxes will spill out over the new lobby staircase. The lighting is an interactive element which — when activated by a motion sensor camera — will follow visitors as they move throughout the space.

Are you currently involved with any project?

We are completing The Arcade, as well as a luxury residence on Chongming Island in the next couple of months. I was recently commissioned to design some large China-themed Urban Fabric rugs for projects in Shenzhen. Meanwhile we are in the preliminary stages of a number of F+B interior projects in Shanghai while also preparing preliminary planning for an island resort in Cambodia.

What’s your design style?

Generally speaking, I don’t think our work can be reduced to a single style nor do we aspire to design in a particular category of style. Our work begins with understanding the project, its context, budget and use, as well as understanding what clients are trying to achieve. We are problem solvers first and we allow that to lead the design process. The stylistic part is a synthesis of the factors involved in the project and when it comes to commercial projects particularly, our clients usually have an identity they want to portray. We have completed projects that are very rich and opulent and others that are more calm and minimalist. We aim to make each project unique to the parameters we have before us and create something specifically tailored to our clients.

Where are you most creative?

Creativity comes in the strangest of places. My studio is a very fruitful and productive space where my team and I do a lot of brainstorming and research. But inspiration can strike me anywhere — on a train, in a restaurant and on vacation. So I try to carry a small sketchbook with me wherever I go. 

What does your home mean to you?

My home is my favorite place in Shanghai. It’s where I can relax and where I like to invite friends for a nice dinner and a bottle of wine (yes, I can cook). It’s where I have pictures of my family and other things that remind me of where I come from and how I got here. 

What do you collect?

I collect random artefacts from my travels which have little monetary value but significant personal value to me. I’ve also been lucky enough to collect a couple of nice pieces of art that I display in my home. 

What will be the next big design trend?

I think there are two major trends which have — and will continue to — impact our world: technology and sustainability. Technology has become such an integral part of our lives. It has changed the way we shop, socialize ... and has introduced us to new tools and possibilities; from the design process to construction methods. 

But architecture and construction still accounts for over 1/3 of the world’s carbon footprint and has been this way for decades. Profits and aesthetics are considered before social responsibility is factored in. I strongly believe that as designers of our built environment, we have the ability to steer things toward a more responsible and environmentally sustainable future. 

I am excited about how the technology at our disposal today will help us achieve that goal. Rapid prototyping and robotics have already progressed at a tremendous speed. Drones and 3D printing have been utilized to build entire homes and when these construction methods employ locally-sourced or recycled materials like sea plastics as a building material, it is a fascinating synthesis of tech and social responsibility. I believe this combination of the low-tech principles of sustainability with high-tech fabrication methods is sure to be an evolving trend in the design world impacting how we design our products, furniture, buildings and cities.

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