Integrating Nature and Comfort; The era of private, independent homes
An interview with Architect Mr. Lai Chang-Liang
By Ann Li Translated by Ann Lee
Home of the Excavators
Architect Lai Chang-liang has a face filled with character and a rugged personal look. He is known for using original ideas and foresight to create things like elementary and junior high schools, as well as kindergartens. In the last couple of years though, he has gotten into designing private homes.
Lai designs homes with the concepts of "freedom" and "nature" in mind. By "freedom", this means not having to "hide" any part of your home--no closed doors, no closed windows, and no curtains and covers dividing the house into pieces. Lai's design philosophy also encompasses things like planning homes specifically for families, where everyone should have their own space; the living room should be comfortable, clean and relaxing for guests but not extravagant; and everyone should feel free to move around the home at their leisure.
With "nature", the architect pays special attention to the integration of ventilation and natural lighting, and an engagement with surrounding natural elements. When designing a house like this, Lai communicates with his clients, getting a thorough grasp of the future use of the space before construction even begins. Every corner of the house--from the living room, bedrooms, bathrooms and double kitchen, to the balconies and laundry room--should compliment the design and facilitate a harmonious flow for future occupants. His designs are not only about looking good, but are also about practicality and usefulness.
In the past few decades, designs for private homes and "mini-mansions" have focused mainly on looking good. This strictly aesthetic design can sometimes backfire on the people living in the house, because it's just not practical. For example, many large homes have suitably large windows that open wide and let natural lighting in. However, the longer people live there, they might begin to see these large windows as a threat to their home security and buttress them with heavy iron bars. The bars take away from the home's original purpose--visual appeal--and distract from an overall feeling of freedom.
Apart from building a beautiful-looking home, today's architects like Lai are faced with the challenge of reconciling the aesthetic with the practical. This is where creative planning come in; architects use natural and diffused lighting, open floor plans and good air flow to make people feel secure in their homes and make spaces visually appealing. Even "outside" balcony spaces, gardens and driveways have to be well-designed so that the occupants can interact with nature while still feeling secure and unexposed.
The feeling of privacy in an open area is only possible in a well-designed, comfortable home. This movement towards more personal space makes people feel good about being home and contributes to the overall sense of well-being in modern society.