For the next in our series of Meet the Winners, we head to downtown New York to talk to Italian designer, Alessandro Munge, who founded Studio Munge back in 1997. With over 20 years’ experience in imagining and realising extraordinary interiors, his multidisciplinary studio brings spaces to life for some of the world’s most iconic luxury brands and top-tier global developers.
One such project is Westlight, a 22nd-floor roof-top bar in NYC’s fashionable Williamsburg district. Our judges were so impressed, they awarded it the top slot in the WIN Awards 2017 Bars category. Sadly, Alessandro and his team couldn’t be with us for the Awards Ceremony in London, but they were following closely on social media from their studio in New York that night, when news broke of their win. We asked Alessandro all about it…
What was the vibe like in the studio, and what was the team’s reaction when you were announced winners?
Winning in any category is thrilling, especially among impressive international competition. When awards are announced, you can feel a buzzing and invigorating energy in the studio. Everyone gets pumped up to do even better!
You’ve said of Westlight that it ‘challenges stereotypes’. What do you consider those stereotypes to be, and how have you gone about avoiding them?
Over the last few years, hospitality in Williamsburg has grown so much with hotels and restaurants opening at every corner. We noticed that within this growth there seemed to be a very specific aesthetic derived from the area’s industrial past that only perpetuated the historic vibe of Brooklyn.
When developing Westlight, at the top of a contemporary hotel, we challenged this dishevelled look and envisioned the future of Brooklyn. I saw Westlight as a beacon of what is to come. We evolved the expected exposed brick and dark materiality that had become so common place and introduced lush velvets, coloured glass, and black iron accents that modernised Williamsburg, while maintaining its eclectic and vibrant personality.
"I’ve always wanted to challenge the norm, the status quo."
- Alessandro Munge
You obviously move in high circles and have built strong connections with luxury hospitality and hotel brands, world-famous chefs and restaurateurs, and top-end developers over the past 20 years or more. Briefly, what was the path that originally led you into this world?
From a very young age I was introduced to interiors through my mother’s drapery business; sketching my own designs, collaborating with her came naturally to me. Before I knew it, I was connecting emotional experiences with design and I’ve been creating ever since. I’ve always been passionate about hospitality and residential design, and am so honoured to share my passion with the world.
You describe yourself as ‘naturally inquisitive’…can you give us an example of this?
I’ve always wanted to challenge the norm, the status quo. I’m constantly questioning the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ to see what I can do as a designer to improve and evolve the world we live in.
This is one of the motivations behind our in-house industrial design team. We layer each project with an extensive custom FF&E program that fulfils our curiosities of the human experience, while pushing boundaries to improve that experience.
What’s the future direction of travel for Studio Munge?
Studio Munge is driving forward. With work all over the world from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, we’re expanding our portfolio and developing signature luxury projects as well as venturing into product design. The possibilities are limitless!
Going back to awards, we’ve got you quoted as saying that you couldn’t wait to submit and share your latest projects through the WIN Awards 2018. True to your word, Studio Munge has entered four fantastic projects this year. What would you say are the benefits of entering (and winning) the WIN Awards?
In my perspective, entering awards is about three different elements. It’s about showing our work to the esteemed judges and our design community, inspiring creative competition, and having our vision of hospitality and hard work recognised by peers.
We pride ourselves in the experiences we’ve created and sharing our projects with World Interiors News in the UK is an invigorating feeling. It gives us a chance to exhibit who we are and inspire the entire sector to push the boundaries of design.
Alessandro Munge interviewed by World Architecture News’ Gail Taylor