WE SHOULD NOT BE SO CONCERNED ABOUT RE-DESIGNING THE WORLD. WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT RE-DESIGNING OURSELVES.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF EUGENE TSSUI’S INTERNS AND APPRENTICES THAT BEGAN IN 1990, IN EMERYVILLE, CALIFORNIA, AND NOW SPANS TO SHENZHEN AND SHANGHAI, CHINA. APPROXIMATELY 500 INDIVIDUALS FROM NEAR AND FAR; FROM AROUND THE USA, THE AZORES ISLANDS, ROMANIA, AFGHANISTAN, INDIA, MEXICO, PAKISTAN, SPAIN, GERMANY, ENGLAND, CANADA, CHINA, INDONESIA, SLOVENIA, TURKEY, MALAYSIA, THE NETHERLANDS, AND HONG KONG, SHARED THEIR LIVES AND LEARNED TOGETHER.
Apprentices came to work with Eugene Tssui not just to learn about new possibilities, construction materials, applications, and experiments in architecture and design. No. They were there to be encouraged to find their true passion in life; to find what it is that will sustain them throughout the entire lives, and many of them found that architecture and design, was not why they are alive! They came to find themselves–to find out why they are here and what is it they here to do? Young men and women from around the world searching for meaning and purpose.
Most apprentices and interns of today do not use their hands. They sit at a computer and believe they understand how things go together. They do not touch and feel materials. They do not see how shape and form interconnects and how structure and space must be experienced! They propagate a minute reasoning. With Eugene, apprentices use their hands and their minds to build things, to feel form and structure, and know the weight of materials and how materials and design is malleable. To learn the universal law of strength-to-weight ratios. They learn how the nature of a material and form can be felt and guided, learning to work WITH nature and not against it. All living things have a purpose and are sentient beings born with an intrinsic capacity to design and survive. We must learn from them.
One apprentice became a master photographer, blazing the pages of Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and other international fashion magazines. Others, originated new forms of sculpture and personal growth philosophies, went in to the health professions, reached for politics to be mayor of Nantucket Island, became filmmakers documenting the hidden truths of the world, created bicycle companies, lighting design companies, landscape design, and construction firms. Some went into radio and television, computers and structural engineering. Some that remained in architecture are now working in the largest firms in the world; Gensler Associates, SOM, HOK, and Perkins and Will, and some are professors in universities and institutes of technology.
A proud salute to those that went on to continue their education at prominent graduate universities; California Institute of Technology, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Cornell, Vassar, MIT, Virginia Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech, University of California, Berkeley, USC, Princeton, New York University, University of Hong Kong, TsingHua and Beijing Universities in China, to name a few. I am honored to have shared that time and place with you all, to learn with you, and to travel together in the darkness of the unknown and the undiscovered and reach, together, for the light of experiment and originality! If you are to design a better world then begin by designing your self; your character, your determination, your body, and your spirit! Thank you, all, for a fascinating journey into the unknown…
Photos: Various sources including the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Laurent Le Gall, Eugene Tssui, and apprentices around the world–1990 to the present.
I interned with three great architects: Victor Prus (Canada), Bruce Goff (USA), and Frei Otto (Germany). I am very honored by my own apprenticeship experience. These architects were the greatest of their country and time, and they gave me the platform for the hands-on master/apprenticeship model and the importance of the study of Nature; a model that is now dying out. Hands-on apprenticeship is becoming non-existent. Being involved in the construction experience is crucial to any architect. Now, laws and computers, are eroding this capacity to be an integral part of the construction of the building–to physically create.something you can touch. Architects have distanced themselves from the act of architecture and the results are sterile, stark, and lifeless–decorative, polluting, elitist containers, without soul and meaning.