I am convinced that prefab homes are a myth. The success stories have been shown to be mostly fictional and braggadocio. More relevant than ever, we need well-designed, good value housing. But relevance doesn’t mean reality. According to all those glossy marketing campaigns, prefab houses were supposed to not only change the housing market, but change the world.
Not long after Manhattan’s ochre and sepia autumn, gentle blowing breezes become fiercely gusting winds. Winter’s gale wants so perversely to whip the flesh off our bones. It seems as if the city might blow away. Merciless, it was my first New York December. Circa 1986, hell-freezing-over.
Snow appears shortly, a freeze paralyzing a monumental city. Sharp icy spirits bite my body. My skin, a brittle armor, feels weak and fragile—like the first thin layer of ice over a vast lake. As wind chills my stone dry face, snow starts to gather along my eyelids. The gust of a snowstorm. This frigid onslaught.
For Michelin-rated restaurant, Din Tai Fung, Poon Design Inc. designed two locations, fit for what the The New York Times has called, “one of the Top Ten Restaurants in the World.” Our architecture showcases the essence of Chinese craft with thoroughly modern and seductively detailed spaces.
Though the Taiwanese clients possessed an appreciation for Asian design, this husband-wife team did not seek the predictably themed Chinese restaurant. Meaning, no golden dragons, no cartoonish calligraphy and no red silk curtains.
The cuisine at Din Tai Fung inspired Poon Design. Over 50,000 dumplings are painstakingly made each day per location. By hand.
Recently, I was asked by an interviewer, “What is your style?”
This question is often asked, and not just of architects, but creatives of all sorts: fashion, graphics, advertising, cuisine, etc. The media typically aims to capture one’s design philosophy in a sound bite digestible by mainstream readers.
Many interior decorators have a packaged response. I hear words like “eclectic,” “warm and welcoming,” “contemporary, but timeless.” I am not sure what kind of design results from this mash up of clichés.
Architects have a hard time speaking of their style.
I don’t mean ugly or gross. The Grotesque, an art movement, originated in 16th century Italy, and by the 18th century, the philosophy traveled to France, Germany and England. The Grotesque exists today in many forms of painting, sculpture, music, literature, architecture, and other arts.
Originally, the decorative style combined and distorted human, animal, and plant parts. Whether in its basic historical form or in contemporary explorations, adjectives for the Grotesque include the following: bizarre, uncomfortable, disgusting, weird, comical, twisted, and deformed.
In designing a house for myself, the process became a diary of sorts. This design journey documented the chapters of my life.
In being my own client and in never actually implementing any construction, each proposed design captured my evolution over the years—from single, young couple, adulthood, married life, baby, to two children. All six design studies below (there are dozens more) addressed domesticity, views of the city, designing for a steep hill, adaptability, and new aesthetic ground.