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Chung says that slowly, through the progressive architecture of its new retail, hospitality, and municipal spaces, the city is becoming more and more receptive to modern design.
“Boston is booming and much of the new construction in public places like airports, stores, and restaurants is very modern. I think the city is making strides,” says Chung. “Some of the best modern architecture is on college campuses like MIT or Wellesley and I don’t think the students at those schools will have the same style issues that this generation has, because they’ve been surrounded by contemporary, cutting-edge designs.”
Chung is quite familiar with Wellesley’s architecture he was there a few months ago to shoot a pilot for a television program he’s hosting, co-producing, and co-writing. Called It’s A Cool World, the pilot highlights the innovative design of the college’s new campus center among other progressively styled locations in the Boston area.
An on-camera expert for HGTV programs ranging from Small Space, Big Style to Bed and Bath Design, Chung is no stranger to television, but says “it was never an interest of mine to be on TV.”
Teaching, however, has always been a passion for Chung, who’s been an architecture instructor at Cornell, Yale, and the Rhode Island School of Design among others schools. With this new show as his vehicle, he hopes to educate an audience of non-architects about the marvels of modern, public-space architecture.
“I’ve been practicing for a long time, and I’ve met so many really bright people along the way that don’t know much about architecture I think they find it intimidating,” he says. “As an educator I feel we’re doing a real injustice to our architecture students by educating them in the classroom and then sending them out into a world that doesn’t understand what they do. In many cases, the conditions are not set up for them to succeed.”
Trying to think of ways to make architecture accessible to a wider audience, Chung turned to television.
“A long time ago, cooking was perceived as this very unapproachable discipline practiced only by standoffish chefs in their pristine kitchens. Then one day someone like Rachael Ray came along and said ‘hey, you could do this too you just mix it up like this, it’s not so hard,’ and people’s anxiety toward the subject melted. Now there are cooking shows on every station. Most people can even name 10 chefs. I say how come no one knows an architect?”
Chung hopes his new show will do for architecture what celebrity chefs were able to do for cooking. It’s A Cool World will take viewers to a different city every episode shoots in New York, Austin, Montreal, Miami, and Chicago are already being planned where Chung will take viewers on a tour of five or six public locations that showcase the city’s new architecture.
“In one day we want to give viewers a sense of each city’s style. Maybe in the morning we’ll start at a cool hotel, and then visit a contemporary museum, followed by lunch at a chic café. Later we might visit a couple retail stores, go to a funky restaurant for dinner, and end the show looking at the design of a fabulous new club or lounge,” he says, describing the format of the show.
The real strength of the program, Chung says, is that all of the places he’ll showcase are public, so viewers can actually go visit them and experience them for themselves. “It’s very different than the home shows on television, because those are private houses I want viewers to say ‘I could go to that restaurant, I could visit that museum.’ That’s the major point of this project.”
After a few episodes Chung hopes viewers will start to get a feel for the different styles of each city, and eventually be able to distinguish how the architecture of one place is different from the next. Above all, he wants the shows to be entertaining and understandable.
“It’s not a show about me standing in front of a gorgeous building talking about its design in architectural jargon that people don’t get. It’s me taking you inside fabulous spaces and saying ‘hey, this place is pretty cool you should come see this building and participate with this architecture.’”Chung hopes viewers find the show light and enjoyable as well as educational. “A show like this could really turn people’s perceptions about architecture around,” he says. “Because right now, this idea that people have of the arrogant, intellectual architect is not helping us.”
Although he may soon be a star of the small screen, Chung will always first refer to himself as an architect, something he knew he wanted to be from the time he was very young.
“Being an architect makes me who I am, and impacts the way I see the world around me,” says Chung. “Sometimes I’ll watch my 3-year-old son use a bed sheet to make a little tent on the floor, and because I’m an architect by training, I’ll think to myself, ‘Why does he like this place? Is it because it’s small and protected? Or that the material is soft and pliant?’”
Chung finds the same impetus drives his work. “On a very basic level there’s something really fulfilling about shaping your environment, or finding that special place that tent that you like to go,” he says. “I am privileged to have the opportunity to create those spaces for people every day.”
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