Shanghai based architects, Neri & Hu ( Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu) are the product two major influences: an international architectural education and a deeply felt attachment to Chinese culture. Both worked at the offices of American post modern architect Michael Graves for some years and bring a deep understanding surface and space to their work. While designing large scale buildings including a boutique hotel and numerous restaurants in Shanghai remain their main focus, the duo have always also been interested in designing smaller objects. These furniture pieces and accessories often start life specifically for a particular architectural project but thankfully for the world at large many of these have become available either through their own brand, Neri & Hu or through international furniture companies such as Portuguese brand De La Espada. More recently BD Barcelona Design, Stellar Works, Moooi and ClassiCon have commissioned new items from the designers and the pair are balancing their busy global architectural schedule with the additional demands of furniture and product design. So far the Neri & Hu offering includes several chair and table designs, mirrors and stools, a sofa, and a number of accessory items.
In 2010, the studio was one of a select few approached to be involved in the SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS at Work project that offered the chosen designers the opportunity to work on some non-commercial concepts involving the use of Swarovski crystals. 'Narcissist' was the result. Initially prototyped by BD Barcelona Design the dressing table concept was thought to be so successfully resolved that it was launched at the MIlan Furniture Fair in 2011. The beautiful table, stool and accessories illustrate Neri & Hu's ability to combine contemporary and traditional asian aesthetics with craft and industrial processes.
Neri & Hu have also worked for the Dutch brand Moooi, designing the 'Emperor' range of bamboo rattan lights in 2010 based around the form of traditional Asian birdcages. In 2013 they launched a new family of six stools for the brand called 'Common Comrades' with each stool referencing a form that has historically evolved to fulfil the needs of a particular occupation. Ranging from Farmer to Tailor, Seamstress, Merchant and Scholar, the most extravagant form is of course, Emperor. Each dark red lacquered stool features a small contrasting area of exposed natural timber.
Many of the furniture items developed for their restaurant, hotel and domestic projects are now available through Portuguese furniture brand De La Espada. These include the 'Solo' and 'Duet' chairs that have been featured many times over the decade since the practice was formed in Shanghai in 2004. Neri & Hu use a minimal materials palette that often includes blackened steel, recycled timber and simple bricks. In the Waterhouse Hotel project they maintained the rough concrete walls of the former Japanese army building but added a spectacular Corten roof and created a contrasting smooth walled internal courtyard.
Neri & Hu have also been commissioned to design furniture for several other companies including Italian brand Lema, Shanghai based Stellar Works and most recently the German brand ClassiCon - most famous for it's classic Eileen Gray pieces and contemporary pieces by German designers such as Konstantin Grcic and Sebastian Herkner. The 'Sedan' chair shares a common aesthetic with the 'Solo' chair but with a stronger European style. Developed through research into the 'Sedan' chair - a form of transport found in Asia at one time and used by the wealthy. Carried by servants, these chairs were often elaborately decorated but in the hands of Neri & Hu the concept is transformed into something with a classic Scandinavian appearance - quiet, solid and refined.
In addition to their furniture and lighting design, Neri & Hu have produced a number of accessory pieces for their own Neri & Hu brand including objects in stoneware, lacquer and porcelain. The 'Zisha' tea set comes in a range of muted matt colours and is made in Zisha clay - highly regarded for it's superior tea making qualities.
In Australia the 'Zisha' objects and other accessories from the Neri & Hu brand are available through Seeho-Su. The furniture pieces manufactured by De la Espada and BD Barcelona are available through Ke-Zu and the Moooi items through Space Furniture. For a look at the restaurant interior work of Neri & Hu check out the February edition of Belle magazine.