This Q & A was originally posted in 2012
How important do you think your working and home environment are to you? ... for example is the work you make reflected in your personal space?
I guess they are very important, though I take that for granted most of the time unfortunately. My wife and I have made several of the furniture pieces in our house, typically out of simple affordable materials, and the pieces that we buy tend to look like we might have made them. When we have visitors they start to assume we just made everything in our apartment. We both have a strong desire to fully create the world around us and I believe its why we both studied architecture and are so enamored with buildings. Both our home and work environments are kind of overly utilitarian to the point of being a little quirky, but we find a lot of beauty and satisfaction in that. We have decor, trinkets, and artwork but they are things made by us or our friends, or items that inspire us. My friends have told me that my living spaces and my work go hand in hand, that they are very “Doug”, but I have trouble seeing them objectively like that.
Form, function or fantasy?
All of the above!!! I think you summarized it quite nicely - just change the “or” to “and”.
What do you think has informed your personal aesthetic?
I realized I wanted to be a designer or maker at a very young age. Actually, I thought I wanted to be an architect, though now I understand that it was really a desire to create the world around me and that desire extends beyond architecture. It took studying and working in architecture for almost 15 years to come to terms with that, and in the process the ideas of architecture, especially modern architecture, really resonated with me. I grew up through the era of grunge music and that led me into the punk music scene, which also really influenced how I see the world. There are parallels between punk ideals and Modernism that might not be obvious but they have been written about. I tend to embrace imperfection, or even what some people would call sloppiness, as beautiful. I like raw materials, and I like to see how they were put together. I like to see that they were made by a person and that perhaps anyone could make something similar. Playing music has also influenced how I think of form, space, and composition. I like simple systems that can produce complex or lively results.
Do you have a project that was a turning point in finding your creative path?
In some way or another they all have a transformative effect, and that’s what keeps things interesting and fresh. The Nest project, however was a big turning point for myself and Yu-chih Hsiao, my collaborator for the Nests. We had decided to join forces for our last semester of graduate school even though our work had been quite different. The project really captured everything that both he and I had been trying to explore together in a single idea. Its simplicity, accessibility, and potential was really addictive and heavily influenced our future projects.
Do you have a dream project or client?
I have always wanted to be a part of a group of artists living somewhat communally in an environment and culture of our own making. Almost like our own little country. We would make everything! I spent several years studying historic American utopian communes as precedents and basically learned that the conditions kind of have to be perfect, and even then its a very difficult undertaking that remains in the realm of utopia.
How important is collaboration to you?
I really love to collaborate and I hope to do a lot more as my practice evolves. Perhaps some of the love for collaboration comes from playing music in bands, especially as a drummer where you rely heavily on what others are doing to inform your own contributions, and vice versa. I would say the happiest and most meaningful moments in my life were when collaborative efforts reached their culminations. Being able to share that beautiful moment with mutual understanding and joy is really addictive!
What is your opinion on taste and style?
I firmly believe these are subjective and largely personal. That’s not to say that cultural phenomena are just coincidental, but rather that we might identify with existing aesthetics that surround us. I do not really believe in some sort of universal idea of beauty, but in the world of architecture and design there are ideas that are elevated to dogma and my resistance to acknowledge them as such has at times lead me to be considered distasteful, unsophisticated, or a bad designer. In response I try to delve deeper into my own explorations of taste and style.
Are you interested in trends in your field?
Generally I do try to stay informed of the latest happenings and likewise, try to find my own possible interests within them. I tend to be a really curious person though, so its not hard to find interest in just about anything.
Where is your favourite place to be?
Recently I have been daydreaming heavily about camping. My wife and I love to camp but don’t get out very often. We hope to find ourselves awaking in the woods a few times this summer!