01 September 2009

Aesthetic Equilibrium

For many years, I've admired how designer Fu-Tung Cheng finds balance in his projects. In this remodeled kitchen, a massive counter floats above cabinets, light and dark work in harmony, the handmade meets machine...and a prototypical modern house becomes personalized. chengdesign.com


  1. "Every good project begins and ends with good design."

    I can't remember where or when I first came across Fu-Tung Cheng — a design magazine? — but I do remember thinking at the time that he was something I can only call the real thing. His work, though mostly in concrete, is as transparent as a piece of glass, entirely devoid of pretense. Words like "organic" or "natural" can not carry the load. There are clips of him on YouTube that your readers might enjoy.

    Now that I've poked around a bit to refresh my memory, I see that he did not come from a far-off exotic place, as I suppose I thought. (See John Updike's novel S. for the story of a Brooklyn born guru who developed an Indian pedigree and accent so people would listen to him.) Cheng grew up in Van Nuys, CA not all that far from Brooks Avenue. I also see that you share a publisher. Is that a coincidence. Have you met?

    One final thing. He's been in my favorites file for a long time, but I did not make the connection. He designed Teance in Berkeley. I've had them under Tea/Retail for just as long.

    Ah, me. My list is getting long. I can only hope these people and places will still be there in my next lifetime.

  2. I first had the pleasure of meeting Fu-Tung in the early 1990s, when I was at SF magazine. It's always rewarding to see someone remain true to their vision, yet still be an innovator.

  3. Indeed. You bring a surprising amount to this project.

  4. At the risk of dragging this post off track, I found it very interesting in the referenced video that Cheng credits his poverty with the discovery of concrete. "At the time," he says, "I couldn't afford even Formica." Modesty of this sort is often the sign of greatness.

    In 1984, my boys competed in the Olympic Swim Stadium a week before its official dedication. They were finalists in the Regional Parks & Recreation Tournament. Mayor Bradley gave a speech and handed out the awards. With the Coliseum looming behind him, he complimented the kids on their effort, said a few words about the Olympic Spirit, and then, with a certain unease in his voice, said that the greatest moment in his life had been watching Eddie Tolan win the 1932 gold medal in the 100 meters. "He ran right past me," he said. Then he turned his back on the audience for a moment, standing on tiptoes. "In fact," he added, "those of you in the bleachers, if you'll look just to your left a bit, can see the fence I crawled under."

    I'm sure that when I stand before St. Peter and remind him of all the times I was modest and self-effacing, he'll ask, "Yes, but how often were you convincing?"

    Anyway. Back to sinks and toilets. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.


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