Architect-designer problem solves her way to creativity

Yang Di
Elena Galli Giallini is the architect-designer, co-founder of Elena Galli Giallini Ltd, a boutique atelier that works with an interdisciplinary approach on projects.
Yang Di
Architect-designer problem solves her way to creativity
Courtesy of Elena Galli Giallini / Ti Gong

Elena Galli Giallini

Who is she? 

Elena Galli Giallini is the architect-designer, co-founder of Elena Galli Giallini Ltd, a boutique atelier that works with an interdisciplinary approach on projects that encompass the disciplines of architecture, interior design and product development. The studio was based in Italy and Japan and is currently located in Hong Kong. 

Tell us some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of? 

Each of my projects is defined by my working philosophy. I felt most gratified with all those project experiences where design value is at the top of client priorities. I feel a sense of accomplishment for the projects of “Villa Arrighi,” “Shin Kobe Residential Tower,” “Sendai TV Corporation,” “Sino Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu,” and my latest, North Building of “Grand Gateway 66” retail complex. Not to mention also some of my projects of industrial design.

Are you currently involved with any project? 

The major project I’m working on, as designer architect, is the renovation of the main building of the “Grand Gateway 66” in Shanghai. The project entails the “transformation” of an extensive mall with a total bespoke design.

My project for second building of GG66 complex was completed just a few months ago.   

What’s your design style. 

I don’t like to be bound to the concept of a certain style. Style is something fixed and pre-conceived so it is the antithesis to the meaning of design. To me design is problem solving.

My work is influenced by the different experiences and environments I lived in during my life (African born Italian, I lived a long time in Japan, and now in China), privileges uniqueness and authenticity, neat yet multifaceted design; I definitely avoid overly decorated, complicated shapes for the sake of originality. My work philosophy focuses on producing high-end, long-lasting environments, with tailor-made quality. 

Where are you most creative? 

I can feel creative with a total “free hand” on my work as well as while working on projects constrained by many conditions. The most important thing to me is feeling in tune with the client and that means that he shares the importance I attribute to design and creativity. Design is fundamentally about adding value and it requires passion, motivation and conviction.

What does your home mean to you?

I have a house in front of a National Park in Tuscany, Italy, and for a long time I thought that was my home. However, I have been living and working in Asia for 25 years now and I have learned that my home is also where I feel good about what I am doing, about my lifestyle and ultimately about myself.

What do you collect?

I have my Urushi collection of beautiful objects which I’ll enjoy again once I’ll return to Italy.

I love Urushi, its art expresses refinement, complexity and simplicity altogether. It requires a great deal of expertise, craftsmanship and creativity.

In Japan I gave my little contribution to this art with a contemporary design furniture collection, “Deinde,” for the Urushi rejuvenation project. Working with those Urushi masters has been a wonderful experience.

Generally speaking, I really don’t collect things, I collect wonderful memories of personal experiences, breathtaking locations and awesome people, throughout the entire course of my quite amazing life time, so far.

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai? 

I like the strong identity of Xintiandi, evocative of some Italian small cities with its brick walls, exquisite stone reliefs and unexpected open spaces opening along labyrinthine lanes.

Xintiandi is a pleasurable mix of old and new, a pause in the bustling megacity. Shanghai is a vibrant city, always moving forward and anything in Shanghai really deserves to be experienced, the Bund, the Yu Garden, the Jade Buddha Temple, Nanjing Road and some other interesting developments.

What will be the next big design trend? 

I hope that, in light of the extreme conditions we are facing, like overpopulation, the degradation of both natural and manmade environments, the depletion of natural resources, the congestion of cities and so on, the future trend for design will be about strategies more than styles and impressive aesthetics. Design should assume a more relevant, responsible role in defining solutions for the improvement of life quality and a more sustainable future for all.

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