Welcome to Tsao & McKown, an eclectic group of accomplished individuals who share an avid preoccupation with the state of the built environment. Since 1985, over the course of a broad range of projects, we’ve arrived at a series of different responses to the same question: What is architecture today? If not an art object or a personality cult, then what are the possibilities?

We have built our practice on a distinctive way of thinking rather than a trademark style. Mindful of the shortcomings of many architectural “interventions,” we approach a project as the occasion to put global experience in the service of local cultures and contexts. Technology meets traditional methods of fabrication. The design of each unique project informs the next, building a knowledge base that helps free us from conventional understandings.

Advocate, provocateur, broker, shaman-our role may vary, depending on the situation. Our inspiration resides not in the grandiose and the monumental but in larger existential questions, and in focused observations of the sensual, the tactile, the unexpected: our favorite streets in our favorite cities, a stairway we remember, a room glimpsed in passing, seen through an open door. The spatial becomes a means to the spiritual.

Urban plans, private homes, office complexes, museums, interiors, furniture, bathtubs, table settings, lipstick. The big and the small are to us equally compelling.

Our backgrounds, our interests, and our idiosyncrasies converge in our life in the studio. Together, we seem to have shed the capacity to distinguish between what’s serious and what’s fun. The serious business of architecture is fun in our experience. The fun stuff, like our annual “Pie Day,” we take seriously.

Calvin Tsao, FAIA
Zack McKown, FAIA