Holistic Vision: A Conversation with Studio YUDA

08 / 03 / 2019
For more information, visit Studio YUDA website.
This article is only available in English.  
Guo Yuchen and Alexandros Darsinos are the names behind YUDA studio, a multidisciplinary practice that explores the freedom of honest and useful architecture, by questioning every theory or possibility. Spaces that are not only “quiet, vivid, and airy” but also “establish a refreshing yet emotional experience”, they admit. The seductive and inspiring Lane B project offers a perfect example of this. We talked with them in order to get a better understanding of the motivation and vision they share, which goes hand-in-hand with their different background and sensitive perspective.

With such different origins and influences, how did you and Yuchen end up creating studio YUDA and why?
Guo Yuchen: Our education at Columbia University emphasized critical thinking on the concept of architecture and challenging its definition. After that training we both felt strongly about moving beyond conceptual architecture to its authentic application on the built environment.

Alexandros Darsinos: We wanted to create a tangible application of architecture while exhibiting our personal connection to the concepts explored during our education. We wanted to reveal and challenge these concepts by constructing them into a material form. Yuchen and I were unified in the desire for creation rather than limiting conversation. We combined the first two letters of our last names to show the unity and cohesive thought we have as a team; thus, the name of our firm ‘YUDA’.

Who does what? How well do you complement each other?
DA: We complement through criticism, by questioning how we can improve and thinking about every angle. We hold each other accountable for a deep level of thought where concept, functionality, and execution merge.

YU: Initially, I stayed in Nashville for a few months where we spent all day filtering through ideas on architecture, space, and life in general. I found this process of creating very different because we didn’t have office hours or clients. It was more like creating a story or a film. I think in a way we stimulate and bring out each others’ critical sides and best design sensibilites. Currently I am in China, and Alex is in Nashville. We frequently visit and use that time to conceptualize.

 
 
I’ve seen on your website that both of you came to Portugal - where we are based :) - to discuss the idea of a collaboration. Were you inspired by the country?
YU: We always wanted to work on a project together during school, but the most productive project we worked on was the grant application for Portugal. It’s probably the shared interest in concepts of Portuguese design that really brought us together to form our partnership. But no preparation could imitate the impact the works of Alvaro Siza, Aires Mateus and Eduardo Souto de Moura had on us when we saw them in person.

DA: We were charmed by the energy of life in Portugal, calm yet passionate, with the attention to design that is both grounded in history and landscape. During our trip, we stayed in a unique Airbnb. Coming home to a beautiful architecturally conceived space created an environment that helped inspire us to focalize our ideas we had collected during the day. I’ll never forget how I felt entering the Serralves Foundation Porto for the first time. The long procession with the balance of the architectural movements of space and the garden could not be adequately recreated by the images I had previously studied. I felt completely protected within this moment while also alight and connected to nature. Experiencing this moment helped lay the foundation for many of the concepts actualized in our projects in Nashville. We hope one day to return to Portugal and contribute to the design culture that first inspired our firm.

 
 
Who are your main clients and what are they looking for in a team like yours?
DA: This is where we broke away from the current methodology of the traditional architecture firm. Our work crosses over into other disciplines as we have become developers and contractors, as well as designers. We love having the freedom of developing our own designs from start to finish, but it is a challenge to design something that is flexible to all styles of living while improving on the status quo.

YU: Nashville’s population has been growing in recent years. The city is attracting people from different parts of America to come and build their life here. While we were designing, we decided that the house should not only serve the traditional lifestyle, but also should accommodate a new look for Nashville, something more metropolitan. Alex and I come from very different backgrounds and both of us contribute a cross cultural upbringing. We hoped the house could exemplify different influences and offer a little bit more depth than just a developer’s house. If anything we want these houses to start a conversation among the residents of Nashville to challenge their currently held concepts on what architecture can contribute to their culture and society.

What do you consider essential in a great house and why?
DA: There is no correct formula. I personally am obsessed with light and how it can transform a space. I believe that architecture can be quiet so that light and the occupant commune together. Architecture’s role is merely to provide the space to foster these conversations.

YU: A house needs to breathe and evolves, almost like a living object. Essentially, our intention is to create a house with the ability to accommodate the flexibility of everyday life. It’s a place where life can unfold in the open or be tucked away so that people can enjoy intimate moments. We accomplished this through a specifically controlled means of light, space, and sequencing.
 
In Lane B, the connection with the exterior and the power of light define the beauty of the project. How did your creative process work and which ambiance did you want to create?
DA: We worked closely with physical models during the early stages of the design, to understand light and connections; to visualize them and feel them, not just draw them.

YU: In the case of Lane B, Alex drafted a concept during his time in Japan that we both liked very much. The design is very clear and simple. It’s essentially creating a ring of gardens around the house that buffers the inside from the outside. The simplicity of the plan is able to curate very dynamic experiences between the inside and outside. You can always step into a protected outdoor space before becoming completely exposed to the outside. We intensify it by using the idea of framing to create a unique scenography of space for each room. The design draws the occupants to the outside while bringing more light, air, and nature to the inside. This creates an ambiance of blurred lines between what is inside and what is outside.

What sensations do you seek to promote in the environments you create?
YU: We design spaces that are quiet, vivid, and airy that establish a refreshing yet emotional experience.

 
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
DA: For this specific project our materiality of choice was light. To make the best use of light we decided to strip the architecture of materialisim in order to deepen the play of space. As light filters through in various strengths throughout the day it performs a moving dynamic almost like a naturalistic mural on the blank canvas of a wall.

What are the qualities required to be an architect?

DA: I would say a rigorous attention to detail but only after a philosophical contemplation of the concept. Also, the foresight of the technicalities of execution, so that the concept is not lost during it’s materialization.

YU: I think an architect needs to capture poetic moments in every day life; edit, intensify, and recreate these moments.