Friday Five with Michael K Chen of MKCA

In 2011, Michael K Chen established Michael K Chen Architecture, aka MKCA, in New York City. The practice is dedicated to producing innovative, crafted work for clients who are seeking thoughtful, considered design. A love of tinkering, drawing, collaborating, and making are at the heart of their methods and capabilities that create exceptional experiences, choreographed spaces, and unexpected works full of delight. Michael himself is principal of MKCA as well as a professor of architecture, teaching studios and seminars at Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture. He himself studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and Columbia University, and was named the 2003-2004 John Dinkeloo Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. Michael’s work and research ranges from micro-apartments to large-scale urban, with a growing body of work through MKCA that regularly appears in international exhibitions and media including the Venice Biennale, The New York Times, Dwell, Metropolis, Architectural Digest, Interior Design, and The Daily Mail. Today Michael is sharing five of his favorites for Friday Five.

Photo via Artsy

1. Noguchi Museum
Serene and thrilling at the same time, the Noguchi Museum hosts terrific temporary exhibitions that are displayed in dialog with their incredible holdings of work by Isamu Noguchi. Every visit is an inspiration.

2. Chemex
I have a long-standing love affair with Chemex coffee makers. They’re beautiful, and make the nicest coffee. The ritual in our studio is that we make and have coffee together in the morning as everyone is coming in and getting ready for the day. It’s a daily four-minute meditation and just about my favorite moment of the day. Okay, more like a several time a day moment, but still.

Photo by Alan Tansey

3. Colony
Jean Lin started Colony, a gallery/showroom/cooperative for independent American design, around the time that MKCA was also getting off the ground. Not only has it become an indispensable and inspiring source for contemporary design and design collaboration, but Jean has become a dear friend. We work with Colony every chance we get. Recently their programming has also started to include socially conscious events and resources for designers, as with a recent panel on intellectual property basics for creatives.

Living room, Villa Planchart, Caracas, 1953-57 \\\ Photo © Antoine Baralhé Caracas, Anala and Armando Planchart Foundation

4. Villa Planchart
Villa Planchart in Caracas is a wonderful example of Gio Ponti’s approach to design, which encompasses a range of scales and disciplines. The house’s bulk resonates with the surrounding mountains, but is detailed to be aerated with razor thin slits and cuts that lift the roof and dematerialize the walls, “like a butterfly,” as he said. Inside, it’s a riot of material, color, plantings, and views of the mountains and valley beyond. And typical of Ponti, the design vision extends from the objects, to furnishings, to materials, to structure, to landscape. It’s an inspiring total work of art.

5. Citibike
As soon as the weather in New York is tolerable, and as long as it lasts, Citibike is my preferred way to get around the city. We did a small research project for Citibike a couple of years ago that resulted in free memberships for the whole studio, and to this day I use it as often as a I can. The city is so accessible when you’re on a bike, and it’s becoming more and more bike friendly, which is such a positive development for health, for sustainability, and for convenience.

Kelly Beall is senior editor at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based graphic designer and writer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, and enjoys sharing her finds with others. When undistracted by great art and design, she can be found making a mess in the kitchen, consuming as much information as possible, or on the couch with her three pets. Find her @designcrush on social.