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 and Zack McKown, FAIA

Calvin Tsao, FAIA and Zack McKown, FAIA

 

 
Calvin Tsao

Calvin Tsao is a recognized and leading voice in contemporary architecture whose work draws from a lively engagement with a variety of art forms. He serves on the Board of The American Academy in Rome, and is an active board member and President Emeritus of The Architectural League of New York. He is also former Vice President for Design Excellence of the AIA New York chapter, and served several years as member of the Visiting Committee to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. In 2012 Tsao received a Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Legacy Award and in 2009 the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Award for Interior Design, along with his partner Zack McKown. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, he has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Cooper Union, Syracuse University, and at Parsons The New School for Design, and has also served as guest critic and lectured at universities internationally.

Education
Harvard University / Master of Architecture
University of California, Berkeley / Bachelor of Architecture

 

 
Zack McKown

Zack McKown has been recognized for his contributions across the fields of urban design, architecture, interior design, as well as furniture and product design. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Design Trust for Public Space, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public space in New York City, and on the board of Scenic Hudson, a nonprofit instrumental in preserving and restoring the Hudson River and its Valley. McKown is also a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.  In 2009 McKown received the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Award for Interior Design, along with his partner Calvin Tsao.  He has served as guest critic and lectured widely, and has been honored, along with Tsao, by retrospective exhibits at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Syracuse University, and Parsons The New School for Design.

Education
Harvard University / Master of Architecture
University of South Carolina, Honors College / Bachelor of General Studies