Of the many schools of design, interior architectural design is perhaps the most intimately associated with our everyday lives. As an experienced commercial architectural designer, Hank Chao has an unparalleled grasp of the subtle relationship the huaren community has with space and environment.
As Chao sees it, interior architectural design serves to strike a balance between humans and their natural environment. Since ancient times, the huaren community has revered nature, applying the motto “respect the wishes of the heavens” to many aspects of life. The concept inspired Chao’s architectural work, Hotel No.12. Chao and his design team kickstarted the project with a thorough environmental investigation of Jiangxi province, focusing on how the local traditional culture has survived through the ages and evolved in tandem with the regional environment.
The project captures Chao’s belief that design should blend seamlessly with the lifestyle preferences of native people, and embody cultural traits based on distinctive regional characteristics. “The huaren community I know is one that, albeit nowadays under the constant sway of various foreign influences, feels its culture in its bones. Even the younger generation recognizes this, and will naturally grow into their huaren environment and lifestyle because of this resonance, which is particular to the huaren community.”
“We cannot deny the bond between humanity and the environment, and between land and architecture; these ties are at once distant and intimate. We do not need to strive too hard to realize we are most comfortable in our own cultural backdrop.” It’s an ethos that Chao conveys through his designs, which were awarded with the 2015 Golden Pin Design Award Design Mark.
He also has a profound appreciation for the relationship between community and space. The name Dan-Dan Wu (Egg House) will surely ring a bell for gastronomes born after the 1980s in Shanghai. The restaurant’s interior is packed with fascinating egg-shaped decorations, and the seats are designed in vibrant colors. When it initially opened, the restaurant caused a sensation, attracting hoards of youngsters eager to experience these infamous characteristics. Speaking of the ins and outs of the design proposal for Dan-Dan Wu, Chao notes the location of the restaurant was far from ideal. “The restaurant was located on the B2 floor of Shanghai’s Cloud Nine shopping mall, in a high-ceiling area. Amidst the highly competitive brands crowded in the shopping mall, a new restaurant in such an obscure location would have a hard time attracting attention. A new restaurant has to be seen; I wanted an eye-catching sign as they step on or off of the escalators. That way I could capture their attention and entice them to descend two floors below ground.”
In view of his understanding of the younger consumer group and the characteristics of the product itself, Chao chose bold and lively colors interwoven with crisscrossing patterns that imitate the effect of the moment an egg is shattered. The visual experience is vivid and novel, and completely in tune with the restaurant’s specialty — rice wrapped in omelette. Dan-Dan Wu’s innovative and bold style enabled Dan-Dan Wu to rise above its rivals and become a leading player in Shanghai’s vibrant dining scene.
About Hank M. Chao
Born in Taiwan, Chao is a member of IES (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America), the interior design branch of the Architectural Society of China, and the Chinese Society of Interior Design. Chao was named one of the World’s 100 Most Outstanding Villa Designers, and one of the most anticipated Asian designers. His works have gained recognition and have been widely included in international mainstream media platforms of professional design — such as SPA-DE, City Interiors, and 100 Best House — and extensively published in various media in Germany, Spain, the US, Japan, Australia, and China. In 1997, Chao founded Mohen Design International, an architectural and illuminating design consultancy firm that has developed into an international design platform that spans Taipei, Shanghai, Chongqing, and Tokyo.