Bruno Moinard

For most of us, a banister is an afterthought. We hold on to it as we move up or down the staircase and then get on with our day. For Bruno Moinard, the banister rail was his first-ever building project. “It was for clients in Paris. Forty years later, I still meet these people and they still talk about that rail! This, to me, is a magnificent thing in life. That design celebrates human connections,” reminisces Moinard.

The Frenchman grew up surrounded by creativity and the arts. Moinard’s father owned three furniture stores and an upholstery workshop, so home was a constant and colourful tapestry of curtains and tiebacks. During school holidays, a young Moinard would visit his father’s workshops to watch the workmen fashion beautiful products from raw materials. He was enamoured. “I wanted to be an upholsterer and decorator.

I wanted to be a painter in interior design. And I was only nine!” Naturally, at age 15, he enrolled in the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Appliques et des Metiers d’Art in Paris and threw himself into the syllabus. He worked day and night, and, eventually, his hard work and talent were recognised by his teachers, including one Louis Bercut, a recognised costume designer.

Every weekend, Bercut would guide Moinard around Paris to draw while teaching the youngster about volume, materials and light. More importantly, Bercut was responsible for introducing Moinard to the legendary designer Andree Putman.

The two would eventually form a close working relationship, with Moinard becoming Putman’s veritable right hand. This “adventure” lasted 15 years and while there were countless projects, Moinard fondly remembers the British-French airline project.

The year was 1993 and Air France had just invited some of the foremost designers of the day to submit proposals to redesign its fleet of Concorde turbojet-powered supersonic passenger planes. “I remember Philippe Starck announcing that he would win the competition because of his expertise in planes. But Putman and I won instead. I think we won because we had more humble attitudes and were able to comprehend the subject at hand.”

Bruno Moinard
French designer, Bruno Moinard

The duo approached the project the same way they do for all their projects: using design to enhance the warmth of human connections. Once on board, they softened the sharp lines, switched fabrics and carpeting, and added more shapes to an otherwise business-like environment.

Moinard was particularly proud of one design trick: subtly hiding the handle of the travel trunk so it flowed seamlessly with the curved lines of the cabin. The handle also emanated warm and elegant lighting along the aisle when the trunk was closed.

It is this constant pursuit of enhancing human connections through design that compelled Moinard to take on the challenge of creating a luxury medical facility in Shanghai. The brainchild of cousins Terence and Nelson Loh, Novena Bellagraph Aesthetics is a state-ofthe- art medical and aesthetics centre created in partnership with Clinique La Prairie. It’s nestled within the confines of Bulgari Hotel Shanghai and is set to launch at the end of this year.

(Related: Superstar hotel designer Jean-Michel Gathy explains how he keeps churning out hit after hit)

“For me, working with light is the key to everything. I wanted to use high ceilings and column pillars to play with space and the light. Different materials and decor provide the finishing touches,” says Moinard. The designer also painted a kaleidoscope of coloured diamonds with the idea that the stones reflected light in a variety of different ways through angles, forms and symmetries.

Just like that banister and airplane, Moinard also had to consider the human element here, especially as the space had to seamlessly blend and balance the art of design with the sterility of medicine.

“Inspiration for this came from constraints.” For example, the patient suites had to centre on the human element, but still incorporate functional design thinking. Moinard came up with the idea of a cocoon enveloping both the doctor and the patient so they could comfortably engage with one another.

Creativity adds meaning to his life and, despite being in the design field for the better part of half a century, Moinard still derives pleasure from it.

Increasingly, the designer is beginning to realise that his designs can drive meaningful changes in society. What started out as just a simple banister has become a quest to “reach a form of timelessness”. A life well-designed, so to speak.

(Related: Why the end-user sits at the heart of architect Justin Chen’s definition of design)