Promoting architecture of Laos
Who is he?
Francois Greck is an architect and interior designer who has lived and worked in Laos since 1989. He created his architectural firm in 1993 and spent his first four years studying traditional Lao architecture and culture. Beginning with humble research projects on Lao architectural heritage, Greck has contributed to raising the cultural importance and preservation of Laos’ needs and promoted it in Laos and abroad.
Please share with us some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of.
One of the projects I’m most proud of is Belmond La Residence Phou Vao. The aim of the Phou Vao project was to recreate a Lao residence of colonial influence, like most of Luang Prabang’s houses built in the 1920s by the local aristocracy. They developed new architecture combining the French colonial style with Lao architecture and with local traditional ornamentation details.
The concept of the Lao residence consists of several buildings organized around a tropical garden structure, with a succession of pools of water with plants, such as water lilies, papyrus and other aquatic flowers.
The project is located on the hill of Kites’ exceptional site, overlooking the ancient royal city of Luang Prabang, and was completed in 2000. The restaurant and the infinity pool face the Luang Prabang Valley, with a view of the Golden Stupa on the top of Mount Phousi.
There was no shortage of materials at the time. They were available in Laos, and all the furniture, lamps and door handles were realized locally and created exclusively for La Residence Pou Vao.
The challenge was in promoting the levels of craftsmanship and local know-how needed, and to sublimate materials such as rosewood, sandstone, wild silk, raw cottonades, bronze brass and decoration with gold leaf. The Spa, finished in 2006, revisits the traditional wood and torchis walls present in Lao architecture, organizing five buildings around an infinity pool in black slate that pours into a natural pond.
The interior decoration combines the raw materials of the traditional wood architecture and thatched roofs, with the delicacy of walls in wild silk. Special work has been done on brass door handles, inspired by ethnic Lao jewelry.
Are you currently involved with any project?
We are currently working on two new projects: A four-star colonial-style resort with 120 rooms, to be developed on a 7.5-hectare property and a private wooden traditional Lao-style luxury residence, with a built area of 2,500 square meters, on 3 hectares of land.
What’s your design style?
Our design is rooted in the idea that the old informs the present, even if it does not define it, and that nature, water and plants are pleasing and calming, not to be rejected but instead welcomed in.
This, we believe, results in projects that are well rooted (responding well to the surrounding environment), and that are open to the outside, allowing in plenty of natural light. And, most importantly, it guarantees that no two projects end up the same.
You can likely find traces of more formal design trends in our work, like the traditional ethnic, French colonial or contemporary but we feel none of these fully encompasses our design style.
Where are you most creative?
In associating past and present, merging the old with the new. Projects which call for the understanding of local artistic expressions and cultural values automatically become a place of maximum creative energy output.
What do you collect?
I am passionate about history and antiques. My trips around Asia span over 30 years and has allowed me to discover an unlimited variety of artistic expressions and crafts from India to China, via Nepal, Bhutan, Laos, Myanmar, and all other Southeast Asian countries.
I have collected a lot of old objects which are a source of inspiration when designing interior atmospheres that attest to this cultural richness.
What will be the next big design trend?
We would like the respect and value of a country and region’s cultural heritage to be that next big design trend. And, we like to believe that with every new project we take, we make a small contribution to that effect.