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A+Winner Q+A: Soohyun Chang on the Importance of Trust in Architecture

Atelier Chang Ltd. won the 2015 A+Awards, Jury Choice, for the Hospitality: Hotels & Resorts Category with Knot House. This series of five guest houses is located on a cliff on the southern coast of Geoje Island, South Korea.

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With 90+ categories and 300+ jurors, the Architizer A+Awards is the world’s definitive architectural awards program. In anticipation of the Awards Gala and Phaidon book launch on May 14, we are pleased to share the stories behind the winners of the 2015 Awards program — see all of them here.

Atelier Chang Ltd. won the 2015 A+Awards, Jury Choice, for the Hospitality: Hotels & Resorts Category with Knot House. This series of five guest houses is located on a cliff on the southern coast of Geoje Island, South Korea.

Your name: Soohyun Chang
Firm name: Atelier Chang Ltd
Location: London, United Kingdom
Education: Harvard Graduate School of Design (M.Arch 2007), MIT (B.SAD 2003)

First architecture/design job:

An internship in Oakland for an architecture office, YHLA

Design hero and/or favorite building (and why):

Peter Zumthor – Bruder Klaus Church. I realize how hard it is to achieve truly refined simplicity in architecture given all the client/political/financial variables. He also has achieved most elegant way to also incorporate the aspect “phenomenon” into architecture more so than the form itself. Also I admire and fear his personality to guide clients through a long (possibly painful) process to achieve what he initially designed.

What do you find exciting about architecture and design right now?

After the 2008 financial crisis, the whole perspective in architecture has shifted from form-focus to content-focus. I am excited about the projects that introduce unprecedented phenomenon via users and their behavior, the environmental phenomenon, etc. In that sense, a lot of children-focused projects are quite inspiring, like Tezuka’s kindergarten, which guided the children’s behavior with most open and considerate content.

Which A+Awards jurors do you find most compelling and why?

  • Charles Adler has created such an amazing platform of creativity through Kickstarter.
  • Vishan Chakrabarti’s (shoP architects) have revolutionized the way architecture practice is run.
  • Vikram Chatwal and Mickey Conlon have unique but creative angles on how the hospitality industry works.
  • Minsuk Cho leads the most rigorous design practice
  • Joseph Coughlin from MIT promotes socially critical contents in his research groups.

Among your fellow A+Award winners, what is/are your favorite(s)?

Maggie’s Merseyside at Clatterbridge by Carmody Groarke, Community Church Knarvik by Reiulf Ramstad Architects, and High Line at the Rail Yards by James Corner Field Operations.

Who would be your dream client, and why?

Through our Knot House project, we have undergone quite a drama of client-architect-developer’s triangular relationship. At one point, the client wanted to build it cheaper with his own local contractor, so he disappeared with our drawings for a few months. In the end, everything went well and we now have our project built and standing to most of our satisfaction.

An ideal client is not someone with an infinite budget. The best clients will provide his/her clear demands as framework and let the designer roam freely inside of it. In other words, someone who trusts us (even though we are young office) with fully open communication to ride along the whole process of the project is not just ideal, but a necessary element of client. Luckily, we met a developer called “House of Mind,” who rode along with us and fully supported our design even through the construction finishes. The trust gave us the creative power, and even time, to cost-engineer to fit the client’s budget.

We hope to find another daring client with full ambition, but also hope that he/she would inherit that energy to us once the design part comes in with a full trust.

See all of the 2015 A+Award Winners here and all of the Winner Q+A’s here.