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At this year’s excellent British Institute of Interior Design Annual Conference, held at the Royal Geographical Society, GS was given the rare opportunity to interview Karim Rashid, who was paying a fleeting visit to the UK to be honoured with a Fellowship of the BIID. Karim is one of the most prolific designers of his generation. He has over 3000 designs in production, over 300 awards and is working in over 40 countries. His diversity affords him the ability to cross-pollinate ideas, materials, behaviours, aesthetics from one typology to the next, crossing boundaries and broadening consumer horizons.


GS Magazine: Has the hospitality industry joined the Digital Age? Karim Rashid (KR): Technology is inseparable now from our existence. It used to be a desire, it’s now a need. So the hospitality industry should be embracing it. But in some areas the industry is slow to react. For example, back in 1998, I was working in Japan and I went into a beautiful old traditional Japanese restaurant where the cuisine is supposed to be over six hundred years old, passed down through the generations. And the waitress who took my order, who was dressed in traditional Japanese clothing, was tapping the items onto a small screen attached to her wrist, like a watch. In 1998! I loved working in Japan because they were so advanced, the technology was amazing. But now, nearly twenty years on, what’s truly amazing is that so many restaurants are still taking orders with pens and notepads. So today we have this interesting situation where technology is here for everyone, we’re looking at screens seven and a half hours a day and


connecting with the whole world. And yet there are parts of society that are almost afraid of embracing the digital age at all I think the restaurant industry is behind in this area. GS: What’s holding them back? KR: I’ve come up against this quite a lot when I’ve designed restaurants. Head chefs in particular seem very reluctant to change. Of course they know a lot about food, great ingredients and creating wonderful dishes. But to them it’s all about the food and they don’t actually want the ambience to compete with the food. Tey have a great sense of tradition, everything is traditional, so I think a lot of it is a fear of the changes that bringing technology into their world will have. GS: Are hotels any better? KR: Tere are so many banal conventions in hotels. I cannot stay in old hotels or antiquated simulations. Tey give me nightmares. Tere is too much furniture or awkward pieces in rooms. Why do I need a big armchair in a room if it is going to obstruct my view? I find I am


always rearranging all the furniture. I always have trouble finding plugs, I have issues with the internet - isn’t it time we became wireless everywhere, including planes! - and I have issues with really poor gym facilities. Tey just repeat trends and poor details. For example I dislike bowls that are sitting on counters as sinks since water splashes everywhere; this is an old Shaker design that is strictly style and does not work. I dislike curtains, a cheap trick. I also do not understand hard corners and dangerous edges. GS: What’s wrong with style? KR: Te mistake from the business end of hospitality is that it’s driven by style but not by design. Style is when you decorate, when you borrow ideas from the past. Tat’s what the fashion industry does a lot - it takes original design and simply re-styles it even though the original function of the design is no longer relevant. Big lapels on jackets were originally designed so you could stand them up against the cold: buttons on jacket sleeves were


GS Magazine 33


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