Function: noun
Date:  1555 
1 : the art or science of building; specifically : the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones
2 a : formation or construction resulting from or as if from a conscious act

b : a unifying or coherent form or structure

Function: noun
Date:  1748
1:  the act or process of making or carrying out plans; specifically:  the establishment of goals, policies, and procedures for a social or economic unit

function:  noun
date:  1982
1: the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes

Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is an ancient concept recently returning to scientific thought that examines nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements — and emulates or takes inspiration from them to solve human problems sustainably.

Scientific and engineering literature often uses the term Biomimetics for the process of understanding and applying biological principles to human designs. This includes biomaterials, biomechanics, biological systems composed of individuals of one species (e.g., schools, herds, and swarms) or multispecies ensembles.

The materials we choose are the expression of our values, attitudes, and sense of life. They reveal the inner characteristics of our personality and our own sense of ourselves and our relationship to the world.

When we build we reach into the future beyond our lives, beyond our present generation, to places we will never go and to people we will not see. Our building materials choices, such as GigaCrete, interact in a language with the earth, a language millions and millions of years in the making.  We can choose a granite slab from India’s Juparana or the mild, renewable soapstone.  We can also fashion what has never existed before taking new materials to mold and craft into surfaces that surprise and celebrate our ingenuity, the earth and its materials.  Learn about GigaCrete here.

We must build as nature builds, with a plan and with an intelligence to create form and structure. New methods allow us to spray on concrete over an inflatable form with reinforcing steel and insulation using materials many times stronger and lighter than structural steel. This saves months of intense and expensive labor; creating indestructible and magnificent results.

We must welcome, research, and vett new methods and quickly supplant the old for the sake of economy, ecology and conservation of materials. In this way, our labors can be freed for detailing and creation of masterful features which establish the building as a true work of functional art. 

Architecture gives form to the invisible pulses and rhythms of life. It gives pattern to structure and structure to pattern. It is an elemental mystic power that is innate to all things.

The physical manifestation of this power is a consequence of the desire for the invisible to be made visible. This desire, this great motivating force is essential to the life of a thing.

It is a process which organizes and composes various interrelated forces into a unified whole. Architecture is the comprehensive expression of all science and art . . . the wellspring of interconnectedness and functional art.

If designed on genuine originality, a commercial building will exude this characteristic for as long as it exists: a building truly designed for commerce will forever embrace an aspect of daring, courage, and the fight for freedom that is intrinsic to us all. Such a building will belong to all of us. It will become an icon of human aspiration with a life of its own, a living symbol endowed to each subsequent generation. It is your hallmark.

Home is the center of our personal universe. It is the crucible by which we test life’s rights and wrongs and the mysteries of unfolding moments. Our sense of beauty, of light and shadow, of gardens and azure heavens over head are discovered and treasured from the memories of our residence.

We jettison ourselves into the world each day from our abode.This is the catalyst by which we know that, if all fails, we have a sanctuary where we can return again, to the warm glow of the familiar patterns of our private rooms. Our home is where we become human beings, where our personalities are tested and the sense of life lived in kitchens and living rooms is given history and perspective.

Residencial concepts deserve to be the best that we can offer: places of high aspirations and quiet beauty and surprising diversity. More than anything, home is the personal expression of our inner sense of beauty and our place in the world.

Urban Planning should establish growth projections for infrastructure, population, commuter traffic, urban growth rates, traffic congestion, pollution, greenbelt areas, job growth, and residential development rates. These plans should reduce harm to existing ecology by preserving green and open spaces. Projections in all urban planning should be designed for a minimum of 500 years.

Sometimes planning requires international and regional cooperation, even in oceans and waterways. Examples of such projects include The Nexus Mobile Floating Sea City and the “Prosperity Tower,” the world’s tallest retail/office structure for the Hung Kuo Financial Group in Taipei, Taiwan. Both examples incorporate special ecological technology and self-sufficient energy systems. Tssui’s two-mile high Sky City Tower, powered by the sun, wind, and atmospheric pressure differentials prevents the destructive effects of urban sprawl by creating a vertically integrated growth that protects the natural environment for public benefit and recreational use.

Commercial buildings should be strikingly appealing to arouse interest and appeal. This appeal must have substance and meaning for commerce. On the one hand, the commercial building should place purpose, functional beauty, and structural daring to embody a timelessness that denotes permanence. It may be built today, but its life reaches through the veils of tomorrow. Its ability to anticipate the unexpected demands of tomorrow give its owners confidence and vigor common to commercial endeavors. 

International Protocols 

Projects and plans should spring forth from an understanding and respect for local cultures and native building methods. The design of these projects should be informed by spending time in the geographic location where they are to be built. There is no good substitute for the kind of knowledge of a region and its people that comes from direct, first-hand, on-location experience.

By immersing ourselves in the others’ world, we learn how they perceive time, space and material objects. We experience how they strive to preserve their environment and how their cultural history informs their relationship to the natural world.

The Shenzhen Bay Tower project emerged after decades of work and play in that region by Eugene Tssui and his staff. It mixes Shenzhen’s modern strength and Guangzhou’s traditional fragility. It honors the gateway basin to the South China Sea and Pearl River Delta as a place to both replenish the gentle estuarial sea and feel it deeply as one network.

Some designs call for an awareness and research into local cultural and environmental details. The Dubai Eye in the Sky design preserves every precious droplet of water and collects it into oasis vats. The proposed bridges over the Strait of Gibraltar and the Bering Strait replicate the Paleolithic social history with a twist. These designs demonstrate how modern technology can be used to both preserve ancient cultural belief systems and solve current regional energy and resource scarcity issues.

The Nexus Floating Sea City and Ultima Tower are aimed at the preservation of city-dwelling communities, the restoration of the oceans and the recording and remembering of the things that went wrong with earlier, less-thoughtful 20th century development schemes. This kind of preservation of past values and development of a sustainable future built within the context of the indigenous culture constitutes a simple protocol for the 21st century. 

Meeting with clients

Eugene Tssui designs every aspect of the project, from residential remodels through large-scale civic buildings and regional plans. Unlike other design offices, projects are not delegated to junior architects in the design phases. Landscape design, light fixtures, rugs, furnishings, murals, etc. are designed personally by Eugene Tssui, as are all presentation renderings.

Some building owners have come to us after having disappointing, sometimes shocking, experiences with other architects relating that other architects had delegated their design to junior architects in their office producing less than satisfactory design results as well as poor communicative treatment, or that they, as owners, received designs from the principal architect that had nothing whatsoever to do with their stated needs and aspirations. Previous architects completely neglected the design contributions of the owner leaving the owner trying to decipher what it was their architect had given them; certainly not what they asked for!

At Tsui Design & Research, the team listens very carefully to what the owner wants and what the owner aspires to have. The requirements of the owner, the limitations imposed by the owner and the locale, zoning and building department restrictions, the climatic conditions, availability of materials, etc., are all very seriously taken into account as design challenges that act as a catalyst to creative originality. The more we listen to the owner and acknowledge the constraints of the design the more we are excited by its possibilities and imaginative results. Owner and architect (and engineer and contractor) form a bond by which the design is developed that is absolutely satisfactory to the owner. It is a lively and exciting collaboration; a dialogue that is both gratifying and fulfilling to the owner.

Working within the budget constraints is an essential aspect of any successful project. We take many steps to insure that budgets and time schedules are met. Many of our previous projects were constructed for the same square foot costs as typical construction for their area. For instance, the Tsui Residence in Berkeley, California cost $275,000 for 2000 square feet of habitable space. Typical cost for conventional homes of the same locale were $300,000 and up. Unusual, unique designs need not be expensive. The circular plan, 110 story office building for Tuntex Corporation in Taipei, Taiwan was designed at $120 per square foot. Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind buildings can be produced at the same costs as conventional structures, depending upon the nature of the design, and we have proven this.

Regardless of the project’s cost and scale, TDR is proud of making every effort to give the owner the greatest result for their budget—creating the maximum benefit per square foot. Making possible the seemingly impossible. Whether the square foot cost is $100 or $1000, the owners agree that they received much more for their money than they expected. Eugene Tssui and his team engages in researching materials and methods of construction which make the construction more efficient and less time consuming than conventional building. Research is central to the entire design process and provides marvelous solutions to the complexities of design.

 The design process

1) The design process begins with the owner. The owner is asked to write out a list of requirements and provide photos or articles, if possible, of architectural likes and dislikes, shapes, forms, colors, textures, concepts, stylistic preferences if any, a description of how they see the building working within its purpose, its relationship to the site and to the people who will live, work and be around it.

2) Biographical and historical information about the owners is requested in order to understand the owner(s) better and to better relate the building to the owner’s sense of values and aspirations.

3) The owner may provide written documents and information given by the City or County which delineates all of the legal zoning, planning and building department constraints that must be obeyed to successfully complete the project. In some cases, with the permission of the owner, the architect may directly seek out this information from the jurisdiction of the project site.

4) A soils report and topographical survey is needed to determine the characteristics of the site that are crucial for designing the safest, most efficient and economical structure that is appropriate for the site. In most cases the soils report and topographical survey is also legally required for eventual submittal of permit drawings to the planning and building department before beginning construction.

5) When all previous information is gathered and studied by the architect the owner and architect arrange to meet face-to-face to discuss and clarify design possibilities. The architect (Eugene Tssui), with pencils and paper roll, will together with the owner, sketch out ideas that address the specific constraints and requirements of the owner. From this design session many possibilities will reveal themselves and the owner and architect will develop a sensible design concept.

Certain useful information is produced by this session:

a) The relationships of spaces to one another
b) The general size of each designated space in the building
c) The function of the spaces within
d) The relationship of the building to its site
e) Special features of the building
f) The conceptual look of the building

From this initial concept development will come a preliminary set of drawings which clarify the design concept in detail. These drawings will be scaled and include a site plan with topographical contours, all floor plans, longitudinal and latitudinal sections, north, south, east and west elevation views.

The owner will be presented these drawings for review and modification. A question and answer period will ensue so that the owner is clear about the details of the design.

The owner will then make adjustments, additions and/or deletions to the preliminary drawings.

The architect then reviews these modifications with the owner and proceeds to draw a new set of final drawings that include and solidify all of the owner’s changes and modifications.

The owner then reviews the final drawings for a last perusal of every detail including color, materials, spatial sizes, special technologies, site orientation, budget estimates, etc. Upon approval these drawings will go to the engineer for structural engineering drawings and calculations. A copy will also be received by selected contractors for construction cost estimates. When architect, engineer and contractor have verified cost and structural details, and all approved by the owner, working drawings will be completed and submitted for construction permits. Any adjustments to the permit drawings required by the County will be made by the architect and his staff for subsequent approval.

During construction the architect and/or designated members of his staff, will be present during certain crucial phases and these vary from project to project. Suffice it to say that Eugene Tssui is on the construction site frequently and the duration and frequency of construction participation increases as the project progresses.

It should be emphasized again that the owner, architect, engineer and contractor form a harmonious team whose mutual motivation and goal is the completion of an original work of art, a work of innovative science and technology, a work of applied ecological understanding and, above all, a living and working environment that illuminates the heart and stirs the soul – a place that speaks to the highest and deepest aspirations of human life.


Tsui Design & Research is constantly conducting scientific research in design methodology, ecological and innovative building materials, innovative structural systems, the building methods of natural organisms, cell structures, and much more. Through experimentation and innovation, we have already invented many alternative building methods that have come from directly applying the knowledge gained from our research. We also test how different building structures and materials are affected by wind, fire, and other natural phenomena. We will present our findings through our practice, in publications, and through this web site.

Research is the most important endeavor in the development and evolution of any substantive design principle(s). It is the proven basis of all of humankind’s ingenuity and inventive undertakings and is the process by which we can gain a profound understanding of the universe we live in–nature’s universe; of which we are an indivisible part. To ask fundamental questions and to indefaticably persist in finding the answers is the necessity of true human evolution. To implement these answers in ways that are beneficial to all human beings, even in the face of ridicule, vicious criticism or even possible death, is natural to the inquisitive and creative human being. Each discovery of the thoughts of nature contributes to raising and deepening the collective consciousness of humanity. History has clearly shown us that every invention, every philosophical underpinning, every illumination of human intelligence is rooted in some “discovery” of the miraculous workings of nature.

Of all of nature’s creatures, human beings seem least gifted with an inborn sense of efficient, intelligent design. All creatures who build do so instinctively, precisely and with a marvelous understanding of their domain. In many instances animals seem to have an understanding of the earth that goes far beyond their immediate surroundings. Certain species of birds, for example, fly a route that is guided by a strong magnetic meridian spanning from South America through North America. These birds obviously are not relying on cues from their native locale. It seems that living creatures are aware of the invisible forces of our planet. We human beings, however, seem to lack this marvelous instinctual intelligence inherent to other creatures; we must learn it–and the greatest resource we have is the open book of nature.



Benson & Wendy Chow – Oakland, CA
Vince & Remy Reyes – Oakland, CA
Patrick Farrell – Oakland, CA
Greg and Sophia Snowden – Fairfield, CA
Doug and Maxine Ashcraft – Montclair, CA
Bruce Christie – Piedmont, CA
Tim and Gail Penso – Weaverville, CA
William & Florence Tsui – Berkeley, CA
Jim and Adrienne McGee – Oakland, CA
Mark and Karen Ramsey – El Sobrante, CA
Margarite Camp – Dallas, TX
Mr. And Mrs. Solomon Tsai – Hillsboro, CA
Richard and Petra Newton – Woodside, CA
David Wiltner and Marilou Babilonia – Alameda, CA
Minnie Williams – Oakland, CA
Lawrence Peterson – Chapel Hill, NC
Dave Bayer – Montclair, CA
Belen Balaba – Oakland, CA
John Mann – Weed, CA
Korie Edises – Hillsboro, CA
John McCrae – Vista, CA
Dave Monberg – San Francisco, CA
Ricardo Nuno – Lisbon, Portugal

Head Over Heels Gymnastics – Emeryville, CA
New Watsu Center at Harbin Hot Springs – Middletown, CA
Sierra Hotsprings – Sierraville, CA

Alphasonik Corporation
Postgres Electronics Group
H & K Wallpaper Company
Camiz Clothing
Kaepa Shoes
ROC Sunglasses
The Department of Industry of the former Soviet Union