Photos: Luis Alvelais/Internet
We are sitting probably in the quietest Wanchai cafe-library. It’s so quiet that you can talk in a whisper. The scattered light of the bookshelves and the shining eyes of my interlocutor work as the illumination, empty tables on the background stay awaiting and silent. He is wearing a black T-shirt and white sneakers. And I, glancing at my Moleskin, periodically catch myself with the thought that one day this guy will become famous. He talks about his projects as a father of a huge family of beloved babies with so much passion. Welcome to meet Luis Alvelais! An architect from Mexico with a heart belonging to London and maybe a little bit to Milano.
M8H: How did you become an architect? What were the prerequisites?
Luis: As a child I used to be very creative. I liked to change a layout in my room. I did the things normal kid wouldn’t do. But that time I was obsessed with computers and didn’t picture myself as an architect. And I studied computer engineer in Mexico. Actually before I became an engineer all my family kept saying like ‘Oh Luis, you should be an architect, you have skills for architecture’.
M8H: But somehow the passion profession found you!
Luis: Yeah, I never worked as a computer engineer. After my studies and short teaching work in Mexico I moved to London just for 6 months with a purpose to practice English. I fell in love with the city and Europe itself. Traveling around, seeing countries, meeting new people. After that I’ve never returned back home. A year later I gave up everything in London and moved to Milan. I applied for university and.. I don’t know why but miracles happen (!) I passed the exam and entered Polytechnic University. I was very lucky I guess.
M8H: So totally you have spent 9 years in Europe before you moved to Hong Kong, right? What brought you here in Hong Kong?
Luis: Yeah, besides that I got chance to live in Thailand for a while. And I had some thoughts about moving to Asia. That time, in London I have met a girlfriend. She got a job offer in Hong Kong and we decided to move in Hong Kong together. It was so fast! We have met in November, started living together in December and in April we already moved to Hong Kong.
M8H: How did you find your job in Hong Kong?
Luis: And a few months after I moved to Hong Kong I’ve met my boss, he offered me a job, I fell in love with him, his family, with this job, with the office and the city. Though the job was not as before, it’s more on interior design in Food&Beverage sector.
M8H: *Smiling* Oh, you are so inspired by him! And this is the second time you use ‘fall in love’ expression. So passionate!
Let’s talk about interior design. Whats the difference between the projects you had in HK and in London?
Luis: The key is the speed of work. Once the owner got the site, he starts losing money everyday before they open. Sometimes you have some comments and suggestions about the details, but you arrive the site next day and the things you proposed are already there and no way to change them. So once the decision is done, nothing is supposed to be changed.
In HK we manage to finish 6 projects a year! In Europe it could be only 2-3 projects. Everything is so slow. Regardless the property price in London, it takes longer there to get the required approvals. In HK is much faster.
In London you project can live decades without any changes, but in HK in 3-5 years time the same client/owner may ask you to redecorate! Imagine! To kill your baby! Everything is changing a way too fast here.
M8H: Which project are you most of all proud of?
Luis: Come on! Its like to tell whats your favorite child! I love them all! There is the one, very challenging – La Piola. It was a difficult one with lots of mistakes done, it’s even not finished yet but the clients are crazy happy.
Also the Mexican place – Mama Sita Cantina. I loved the project itself and because the food is like real Mexican, like my granny’s. Proper traditional food. Oh, I’m getting hungry…It’s the stereotype that Mexican food is only about burritos and fajitas. Anyway, so far the management has changed, the name and the decoration have been changed (the new name is ‘Texmex’ – M8H). Just a few details are left. *Sigh* Though the food is still not bad.
M8H: Oh I was just about to ask you about Mexican food in Hong Kong. Thanks for recommendation.
What’s the place you would bring your date?
Luis: Hmm, you mean a romantic date? Umanota! Actually, this is my latest baby!
It’s a nice and easy, not pretentious, not elegant. It’s down to earth. You can go there and even eat with hands. Here is easy and comfortable atmosphere, you can show who you are rather than pretend. The music is amazing. They have a small terrace, it’s very special place for me. I like that it’s relaxing, the food and drinks are incredibly good too!
M8H: I love the way you talk about your creatures.
Luis: Yeah, they have one father but different mothers *laughing*
M8H: What’s your favorite building in Hong Kong?
Luis: The one I really like is HSBC. I studied this one in Milano and I love it.
M8H: I thought you would mention something related to bureaux of Zaha Hadid.
Luis: I know, but you see, I did analyzed this building back in Milano in details. And It was absolutely special for me when I got to see it in reality.
M8H: If you had to leave Hong Kong, how would you spend your last day here?
Luis: With nothing related to architecture. I do love nature. I’m an enthusiastic trail runner. I would go to the Peak. Maybe to Say Kung or Lantau Island. There is one secret place I love. It’s a shop in Wan Chai Market selling the ingredients for Thai food. They have a kitchen upstairs and usually they don’t let random people go there. But one day after many jokes, Thai words and smiles from my side I convinced them to let me in. You won’t find Phad Thai or Papaya Salad there. Only authentic food. Well, when it comes to the food it comes to the experience. I love it!