Designing based on time rather than on space.
Interior designer and architect Gary Chang is often referred to as a domestic transformer. He is a leading expert on compact living and how to maximise limited living space. His apartment in downtown Hong Kong, where he has been living since he was 14 years old, is the ultimate example of compact living. By using moving walls, Chang now lives in a 32 square meter apartment with 24 different design options.
In 2015 construction of the Tellus Tower will begin at Telefonplan in Stockholm. A modern real estate property consisting of more than 700 studio and one bedroom apartments on 75 floors, built with focus on design, green construction and sustainability.
The apartments will range from 32 to 44 square-meters in size and the target group will be young adults looking to buy their first or second home. To optimise this space, the Tellus Tower apartments will be designed by Gary Chang.
Make it last talked to Mr. Chang on Skype the other day.
How do you incorporate sustainability into your interior design?
– It’s interesting to compare where we are from. If we talk about Sweden in general, and Hong Kong in general. Hong Kong is famous for wasting a lot of energy. We have extremely high pollution, for instance. But if I think more carefully, Hong Kong is a very sustainable city, it’s a very hyper-dense and hyper-intense place. So the idea of efficiency and how we can take a lot of resources within a very confined space, in that respect we are very sustainable.
– When it comes to interior design we are strong in optimising space. Within a confided space you have a lot of choice, and it comes down to how the space is organised. This is not a trend or a hot topic, it’s something we must do, on a big scale and a small one.
How do you see your role as an interior designer, what responsibility do you have?
– I think we are in a better position now because sustainability has become a major agenda. It’s not something that you can choose to do or not. If people still prefer not to talk about it, I think there’s something wrong. Hong Kong has a big problem with garbage disposal, we have issues with how to dump the rubbish. we are extremely behind on that.
Is that a big discussion?
– Yes. Rubbish is actually a really interesting discussion. When you dump something, it’s a whole process, even on an aesthetic level or a superficial level. How do we deal with what remains afterwords? That’s very important.
– In general, in Hong Kong and Asia, my observation is that people are interested in how we can accomplish things in a very confined space, which has given us a lot of global attention. 20 years ago people treated this as something spectacular, but recently I think they feel the need to do the same. I can see there’s a global trend of homes becoming smaller and smaller. Especially if you are in the city center. New York, London, and now even Stockholm. This is mainly because the modern majority is urbanised, the majority lives in the city. Everybody wants to be in the center of everything and that makes time a resource as well, one that people don’t want to lose. People want to live near work as well as where they spend their social life. So I think that’s one reason why the world is shrinking, when it comes to homes.
How do you as an interior designer take advantage of limited space?
– So we have smaller homes now, what should we do? Before I forget: these days, people live in single homes, and I don’t mean young people only. Most people like to live alone, away from their parents and they don’t want to share apartments with their friends. If you’re elderly and your spouse has passed, there are all kinds of reasons why you live alone. So living alone is a very big topic these days and this relates to a question I always ask myself: how small can a home be? That’s a very interesting topic, it could be a book.
– I think the key word is not just how we design but also what is the life pattern? What do you need and what do you do frequently? And the time factor. So it’s not just about space, but also about analysing what you do and how often. Especially if you are a single person. I don’t have the usual home consisting of a living room, a dining room and all that. My idea of a home is a structure that transforms to suit my needs at all times. In my home, I almost don’t move at all, I always use the same space. And the space transforms, almost like a theater stage. So I’m more into designing based on time than on space.
So how do you maintain a high standard in quality while also keeping the cost down?
– I don’t really even talk about interior design anymore, it’s more of a product design. The most sustainable thing is that the home should be more permanent, rather than changing homes all the time. A friendship should be permanent. Every time I visit my friend, who’s an architect here in China, he has moved to a different place. To me, it’s very sad. Before you appreciate a place, or a neighbourhood, you move again. It’s very wasteful. It’s like a relationship, before you know your partner, you separate.
What do you think younger people expect from their first home?
– Usually, for your first home you have very limited resources. So how do you make a nice place with limited resources? I’ve lived in the same place for 40 years, I probably hold the record for never moving.
– My idea is to use existing furniture and to add a little bit more, to organise my home like a jigsaw puzzle. And to make a more interesting space plan based on what already exists. I think limited resources is a basic criteria. Everything new is not positive to me and in terms of design style, I don’t believe in purer style these days. It should be a hybrid, in the sense that you always make your history, your family, what you are thinking about now – different things can co-exist together, instead of everything new. It’s like a married couple, who spend a lot of time making their ideal home and by the time the home is ideal, they’re separated. It’s like a fable.
– My advice is you should not fill up your space right away. You should leave some space untouched. After you’ve spent some time there, you will know what to do with it, how to use it.
Is sustainability attractive to younger people?
– As I mentioned earlier, definitely. And compact living is a must, you can’t avoid it unless you’re super rich. So it’s not a trend, it’s something we cannot avoid. I think it’s a very fun subject, how small a home can be. We’re seeing new records every year. And why people can stand such small homes is, I think, because if you live in the city, the city is your home. Your home is not the whole universe, so I don’t think compact living is negative. You just have to learn how to adjust yourself to smaller homes.
Read more about Tellus Tower in Telefonplan here.
Words by Jon Lax
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