Federico Toresi heads up Aedas’ new interiors branch in London with great plans for the small department.
Words by Emily Martin
Aedas Interiors London, until recently, was the quieter co-worker of renowned international architecture practice Aedas. Now employing some 20 people, Aedas Interiors London is finding its voice with high-profile hospitality projects including Montreaux Jazz Café and the Mamounia Lounge, in London.
I meet Aedas Interiors London's director Federico Toresi, the man with more than 18 years of commercial design experience brought in by Aedas to grow the UK interior's office. He tells me about the company's rapid growth and refining his own design skills to suit some fast-moving and turbulant times.
Born in Rome and moving to the UK with his family when he was 14, he gained his RIBA Parts 1 and 2 and architecture qualification at Kingston University, afterwards working with a small practice on office fit-outs for Morgan Grenfell in London, which during this period was in the process of being acquired by Deutsche Bank. 'Essentially I've been inside every single building in the City as I have space-planned pretty much all of them,' he says of his time spent assisting with the merger.
Wanting to create environments and 'not just moving people from seats' was something Toresi craved, which was satisfied after going to work at multidisciplinary practice Gensler; he stayed for four years working on a number of financial and legal offices. And practicing architecture meant that Toresi was able to complete his RIBA Part 3. 'Finishing my studies was very important to me, but [working at Gensler] also gave me a much better understanding of how the interface of consultants is managed and organised,' he says.
Le Montreux Palace Bar & Grill, Montreux (2015)
After leaving Gensler to joing RHWL (Renton Howard Wood Levin Architects), which coincidentally was later bought out by Aedas, Toresi completed Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS) Scottish headquarters, which quickly took him on to work at Aukett Fitzroy Robinson (now Aukett Swanke) to continue working on a number of RBS projects. He says this time presented a key turning point for him as opportunities to work in hospitality design then came along after finishing on the RBS projects.
'The hospitality department was super-busy and after a couple of years of just doing banks, there was an opportunity for me to jump across to a different department,' he explains. 'I took all the knowledge I had to build these corporate environments and refined them to build hotels and bars. I haven't looked back since.'
In 2005, Toresi started to work with the Hilton chain on a number of its London hotels.
Once again things moved quickly for Toresi and he soon found himself changing practices again, but this time to help set up the interior design department at The Manser Practice in 2007. But when the financial crisis struck the following year, Toresi was told that he and his fellow colleagues were being made redundant. 'I had to reel myself back a little bit,' he recalls, leaving him uncertain and disappointed. 'I went from being an associate director to a project runner.'
Reeling in however soon brought in work for Toresi, who picked up various short to medium-term project work of different sizes - including finishing off the Syon Park Hilton hotel project in London. He says, 'I redesigned all the junior suites and public installation spaces; and from then on I really knew I had enough experience in hotel design to plan a scheme from scratch.'
Life, like the economy, was looking up for Toresi (who had also met the woman who would become his wife, while working on a hotel commission in Russia) and it was not long before he caught the attention of Aedas, which was looking to grow its European interiors division.
'Aedas came looking for me because they knew that I could deliver and manage projects in a high-pressure environment,' Toresi explains.
'They said: "The London interiors' office is there for you to grow; come and have a look and if you're interested then we'll give you the platform".' Toresi set about his new job at Aedas in 2013 with a team of four. Two years later, Aedas Interiors London is now five times that.
The lobby of luxury apartments in Shenzhen, China, due for completion next year
'The team here is the best I've ever worked with, not just because of the talent, but because we are a small office in a big organisation,' he says, insisting its success is down to the team, as opposed to an individual.
Compared to its sizable Asian counterparts, Aedas' London interiors division still remains a small office. Aedas Interiors Hong Kong employs some 120 people and is renowned for large-scale projects, including Hong Kong's Airport Authority headquarters. With this in mind, Toresi has his sights set high for Aedas Interiors London and is working to create a 'similar impact' within the European market, with Aedas' 'best kept secret'.
'Because of the pedigree of the company and the talent of the designers in the office, it was fairly easy to make the [needed] momentum,' says Toresi of the company's early days. 'As soon as we finished the [first] project, it was quite obvious we could do good jobs, and part of the remit was to grow the business and to get noticed. Just the fact that we are now doing key projects in very visible locations, including Switzerland and Russia, speaks volumes; we are now getting repeat business from clients.'