American designer Jason Schlabach recently finished work on one of the most cutting-edge hospitality design concepts in Seoul - the Ryse Hotel in the famed Hongdae district.
He helped corral together the global creative team that did not just design a boutique hotel, but also crafted a brand that was an artist incubator, business hub and marketplace of ideas.
The Ryse, which was launched in 2018, is part of the Marriott Group's Autograph Collection of independent hotel concepts.
Today, amid the circuit breaker period in his home office in the Newton area in Singapore, Schlabach, 39, is parlaying all that creative energy into more challenging endeavours - he is already experimenting with augmented reality for post-pandemic projects.
"I feel that the first thing everyone should question, especially designers, is how to come back to a better way of doing business," says Schlabach, who trained as an architect at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, in the United States.
"Covid-19 and the responses by countries have given us an unusual perspective on our routines and what 'normality' is supposed to be. Let's not waste that painful lesson."
Schlabach says social distancing and isolation do not affect his work as he often seeks out quietude and seclusion so he can flesh out his frequent flashes of inspiration. "I work from home and in co-working spaces, coffee shops, airport lounges and, occasionally, a proper office - any place with fast Wi-Fi."
He stresses that designers need to continue to improve the sophistication of tools to work remotely in teams.
"Technology has made it possible for many of us to work from home without missing a step," says Schlabach, who has worked in the creative departments of several big firms, such as the Otto Design Group in Philadelphia, where he serviced the Nike account.
He moved to Hong Kong in 2010 and worked at Marc & Chantal, a leading Asian branding agency, where he specialised in brand strategy.
"I think augmented reality is one of the new thresholds we are stepping through, not just for 3D modelling specialists, but also for designers like myself, taking advantage of improved hardware such as the triple cameras of the new iPhone 11 Pro," he says.
"The Covid-19 shutdown also gave me a chance to go through old sketches and restart a personal furniture design project."
Schlabach is able to now virtually "place" furniture in his apartment with the SketchUp Viewer app and make changes to the design with the iPad Pro's Lidar scanner and multiple cameras.
"It's the closest I can get to the real thing until circuit breaker measures are lifted and I can work on a physical prototype."