The Concept: Great Architecture & Public Design
Cool Spaces! The Best New Architecture is a prime-time series for public television that profiles the most exciting architecture of the 21st century. Each hourlong show focuses on buildings and spaces across the U.S. created by daring architects and others who push the boundaries of design, materials, and process.
Hosted by architect Stephen Chung, Cool Spaces! offers viewers an experience of design as never before: From napkin sketches to study models of paper, clay, and cardboard to lyrical watercolors, we take viewers behind the scenes — not just in the physical sense, but right into the architect’s mind, exploring the design process before one wall is built. Each story proceeds through a tapestry of voices, including not only the designers, but the people who use and enjoy these spaces, giving meaning to them on a daily basis.
But Cool Spaces! is unlike any other reality show about architecture, because all of the amazing sites we feature are open and available for the public to explore. Every episode will encourage viewers to visit these places and experience the wonder for themselves.
In addition to hosting aired TV segments, extra interviews, and other videos, the Cool Spaces! website will be a destination for everyone to learn about architecture news, innovations in building products and technology, design exhibits and public events, and much more. We’ll also offer an educational component and resources, both for those interested in pursuing a design degree and for teachers at every education level.
The Inspiration: Bridging the Gap
A few words from Stephen about the origins of the show:
People often ask me what Cool Spaces! is all about. And I never can answer without giving a bit of background. You see, it really begins several years ago, during the recession, which decimated the architecture profession. In a four-year span, approximately 30% of all architecture jobs in the U.S. were lost — including my own. This time away allowed me to reflect on the profession and its problems and to think about what role I might play in bringing about some positive change.
I decided to focus my energies on finding a way to share my passion for architecture with the general public — to bridge the gap between my fellow designers and those who use the places we create. My hope was that if we, as architects, could better explain what we do, and why it’s important, it would increase interest in architecture. With a more engaged general public, there would be more opportunities for architects to build. Ultimately, I figured, the increased attention could lead to a better built environment. And by that I mean it could be better designed, less costly, more sustainable, and more beautiful. Everyone would benefit.
Too ambitious, you say? I think that ambition is a quality that afflicts all architects.
It’s taken more than seven years to see this idea come to fruition. Now, having a television show about architecture is a great beginning, but it’s only one part. I feel it’s equally important to have this website as a place where we can continue the conversation with people who are interested in architecture and design. If we can highlight what’s important about architecture and do so in an accessible, informative, and entertaining way, we might just have something.
The Cool Spaces! Team
Stephen Chung, Host
Stephen Chung, AIA, LEED AP, is a registered architect and principal of Stephen Chung Architect. His Boston studio focuses on small to mid-size residential and hospitality projects. In 2009, Metropolitan Home named Stephen a “rising star” and profiled several residential projects; also that year, Casa & Estilo Internacional published a monograph on 11 of his residential projects. Stephen has worked with Philippe Starck and Machado and Silvetti Associates (Boston). He received his M.Arch. from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
An educator as well as a designer, Stephen has taught design and drawing at several institutions, including Cornell, the Rhode Island School of Design, Yale, and the University of Texas at Austin. Most recently he was a visiting critic at Syracuse.
In broadcast media, Stephen has appeared as on-air talent for design programs on HGTV, Travel Channel, Fine Living Network, and Showtime. For the American Institute of Architects, he has hosted a series of videos about architecture is also the host of the live broadcast of the association’s annual national convention. Stephen is represented by N.S. Bienstock.
Sun Joo Kim
Sun Joo Kim is a designer and writer based in Boston. She is the co-writer and managing editor of the Cool Spaces! book and a contributor to the website. Sun Joo received her Bachelor of Architecture, with a double major in Social History, from Carnegie Mellon University and has worked in the office of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Her architectural experience includes the design and planning of civic, university, residential, and hospitality projects across the United States. Sun Joo has written for SmartPlanet as a contributing editor on design, architecture, and business.