A few months before my April visit to China I was interviewed by Ms. Chen the publisher of ESTATE ELITE Magazine in Hangzhou; My friend George Lu facilitated as intermediary and translator. While in China the magazine came out and I received a copy. You can check out the entire (~4~ page) article in Chinese under Celebrity List “The INCLINDESIGN : Exclusive Design”.
However for those who don’t read Chinese, here are Ms. Chen’s questions and my responses in English.
Ms. Chen: In some of your designs, we have noticed Facial Make-ups are present on your walls. Does this have anything to do with the facial make-ups in Chinese opera?
Inclinedesign: Yes, there is an important connection and I am pleased that you noticed the similarity between the Facial Make-ups (opera masks) in Chinese opera and the fine contemporary Masks in our personal collection. I recently read a book by Gavin Menzies titled “1421: The year China Discovered America”, and my hypothesis of many years about such a connection was confirmed. Carbon dating evidence showed that a Chinese Junk discovered buried in the Sacramento Delta in California was in fact from 1423 (likely from the famous expedition lead by Zhou Man). Later in the same area there was documentation of an early Chinese settlement, and documentation of intermarriage with the Native Americans; and so it goes on. This confirmed what I had always suspected; a connection based on the similarities of the North American Mask designs with those in China. However, the book was not well received, as it questioned the very back bone of American History: that the European Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492; not the Chinese Zhou Man 70 years earlier….
The Culture of Native Americans (USA) and First Peoples (Canada) is very much alive today and they are still practicing the traditions and celebrations of their ancestors. They are dancing the stories with the Masks, that the old people remember and they are recreating the Masks that have been carried away and placed in museums.
Our choice to integrate the Masks into our design was part of our desire to create a more multi-cultural feeling of “Northwest – Asian fusion” as outlined in the ~6~ page article on us in OBJEKT INTERNATIONAL Magazine.
Ms. Chen: How do you relate your understanding of the Chinese culture to your design work?
Inclinedesign: I apologize in advance for answering this question backwards! The best way to respond is to say that we feel very strongly that Chinese culture understands our design (James and my designs).
When we met last (in Bryan Dear’s house) you said the open, serene but comfortable design (we had created) would be well received in China. I realized this for myself the first time in 2006, when I traveled to China with my friend Robert Hsu (creator of the newsletter ‘China Strategy’ and who is very aware of China’s emergence as a powerful world leader); during this trip I spent much time viewing both traditional and modern Chinese architecture, and felt completely in harmony with what I saw, as it is so much on the same page with our own design direction. This was when the idea came to me of creating high-end/one-of-a-kind residential design in China.
In the early 20th century the West began to discover simplicity of form, serene, luxurious open spaces, and a minimalist palette of rich materials; and this is what is inspiring China today; a trend that will continue and mature as the Chinese economy gains strength and confidence.
We incorporate concepts of balance, harmony and business success as integral parts of our designs and have been designing for many years with an understanding of Feng Shui. We advocate using touches of vibrant colors; reds and golds, when appropriate for our clients and for the particular project, and these colors contrast with the serene basic tones usual in our designs. Our landscaping designs embrace nature in their simplicity and movement, and compliment both the energy and the peace found in our interiors.
Ms. Chen: How do you view design work from Chinese designers?
Inclinedesign: Both James and I have great admiration for your modern designers. The “Great Wall Compound” is one area with several compelling examples. We also admire the work of various designers including: Wang Hui, Guan Yi, Chien Hsueh-Yi, and Jiang Qiong Er. (It’s easier for me to remember the houses than the names of the designers! ) We are well positioned to contribute to the modern design directions becoming more popular in China.
When we do our first residential architectural project in China, we would like to interview and select a Chinese Architecture student to collaborate with us. Please let us know if this is an appropriate idea, and how we would pursue this? I understand that Hangzhou is a main cultural center, and we should be able to find talented students.
Ms. Chen: In our daily life, the little things we do may have a significant impact on the environment. Is this the reason why you use wood in your designs?
Inclinedesign: At the beginning of our projects we develop a unique design philosophy based on the clients, their unique desires and qualities, the project location, the geography and the climate. This philosophy may dictate the inclusion of polished concrete, antique brick, or a fine stone or some other element other than wood; however our personal preference is to use wood as a strong element in our designs. Whenever possible we specify materials which have the least negative impact on the environment and we are interested in the new green building movement in the West. We choose a minimal number of materials, for consistency and harmony in our designs, and we design for the optimal balance between different elements and different cultures. I hope you will see evidence of this in the images and descriptions of projects I am sending you.
– Caroline Di Diego & James Ferris December, 31st 2008
Caroline Di Diego
INCLINED TO DESIGN