F5: What Tools Yuwen Peng Uses for a Work/Life Balance + More

08.05.22 | By
F5: What Tools Yuwen Peng Uses for a Work/Life Balance + More

Yuwen Peng’s 25 years of architectural experience in hospitality, restaurant, retail, and entertainment design have contributed to the development of projects around the globe. Working out of CallisonRTKL’s Los Angeles office, her human-centric approach to a vast array of social spaces has resulted in several cross-sector innovations and a long list of noteable clients – Wolfgang Puck Restaurants, W Hotels, Lucky Strike Lanes, 7-Eleven Lab, McDonald’s, and Starbuck’s Prototypes to name a few. Passionate about the food and beverage industry, Yuwen works towards finding solutions that keep restaurants profitable, blur the lines between restaurants and retail, and create spaces where people feel like they belong. In the built environment, she’s involved in sustainable and community-building approaches to design. According to Yuwen, the more we cross boundaries to ask questions and learn from each other, the more innovation happens.

Today, Yuwen Peng is joining us for Friday Five!

light-skinned woman with dark hair wearing a long sleeved black shirt holding a blue mug

Photo: Yuwen Peng

abstract collage of warm colors

Photo: Yuwen Peng

1. Art

Making art is about switching to play mode and not being afraid of making mistakes; I love drawing outside the lines and creating messy textures. It is freeing and liberating. Looking at art always reminds me not to take life so seriously, and that it’s okay to make mistakes. Pictured is my own collage made with scrap magazine pages and crayons over pizza box cardboard. Without anything specific in mind, simply having fun and using what’s around me to explore space, form, texture, and draw outside of the lines. The process is freeing, allowing me to follow my mind at the moment and the primal satisfaction of connecting my mind to hands.

meditation space with a singing bowl

Photo: Yuwen Peng

2. Meditation

The faster my life, the harder I try to slow down and get back to a place of calm and peace. To combat the hectic days, about five years ago, I started practicing meditation. I love playing the Tibetan singing bowl (pictured) during meditation. It is like a mental detox to give my mind a mini vacation. Once I ring the gong, it transforms my mind from reactive self to a pause capsule. Every now and then I will reach the bliss of my inner strength. And the outcome is always a more clear new solution or untapped perspective.

two people doing acrobatic yoga in a studio

Photo: Yuwen Peng

3. Yoga

I love the feeling of bowing down to the earth and the state of flow. Nothing is better than a good sweat to help me sleep, think, move, and reset. As a child, my mom took me to yoga with her, but I lost the practice growing up. I got back to it after graduating college; it’s been a rewarding 20+ years. Yoga has given me a reason for a better work/life balance. It requires me to be more efficient at work and finish on time to get to a class, and it will often lead to family dinner time. There are so many fringe benefits of yoga beyond a good exercise, like spiritual connection, deeper understanding of my own body, and a good night’s sleep! I try to practice 2-3 times a week.

landscape vista of the sun rising or setting with two people watching from the hood of a Jeep

Photo: Yuwen Peng

4. Off-Road Desert

There is a saying in the outdoors community, “bad roads lead to good tourists, and good roads lead to bad tourists.” When I venture out off the beaten path, I can see how the vastness of the desert contrasts so much with our smallness as human beings. It creates a pure connection between humans versus nature. The bond is very powerful, tender, and calm. Pictured is a trip on the Joshua Tree Geology OHV Tour Road where we were forced to go into the wild with no reception. There is an immediate escape from everyday to a new reality. There is only the sound of nature and the rhythm of life. When you can drive and feel every bump of the road gently, you feel like you’re part of earth. It’s the greatest reset for me.

overhead photo of a table full of food with arms reaching for different dishes

Photo: Yuwen Peng

5. Community

Growing up in my family’s department store in Taiwan, I was raised by a village of friends and neighbors. There was a sense that everyone had each other’s back, regardless of who we were. I learned a lot about respecting different points of view and running a family-owned business. Since I moved to the U.S., I have continued the community mindset by hosting regular dinner parties at my house, where my family, friends, and neighbors prepare meals together from scratch. The process of slow cooking, appreciation of good food, and great companionship is my definition of a good life. A few of our closest friends are from different countries and we travel to different places. We often cook a cuisine to celebrate the places we’ve recently visited. Pictured is a meal from a Mexican friend who grew up in Texas. She played the role of her grandma, directing us as a family assembly line of salsa-making, meat-grilling, tortilla-heating to make TexMex chicken and bean soup.


Work by Yuwen Peng:

outdoor space with modernistic buildings and a large group of people walking

Dongpo Kitchen is a restaurant organization throughout China looking to bring its traditional Szechuan cuisine into the North American food palette. For their Universal Studios City Walk location, Dongpo Kitchen deviates from its usual fine dining atmosphere to create a visually appealing casual dining experience. Dongpo Kitchen, Universal Citywalk, California \\\ Photo: Aaron Leitz Photography

interior of a restaurant'd dining space with tables, booths, and two people seated at a bar area

The recently-debuted JA Jiaozi Authentic Dumplings restaurant in Irvine, California represents a new chapter for the well-established Chinese brand, which has hundreds of existing locations in China. CallisonRTKL designed a fresh branding aesthetic and strategy, as well as the restaurant’s interiors to reposition the brand and introduce it to a new market. Jia, which means home, was the inspiration for the design. The main dining space is open, while the bar area allows diners to watch their food being made through a large glass window. The material palette is dominated by earth tones: concrete floors and reclaimed oak help reinforce the natural theme. A feature wall made of concrete tile with ceramic, hand-sculpted dumplings visually anchors the back end of the space, making a artistic statement about the culinary offerings. JA Hiaozi, Irvine, California \\\ Photo: Lawrence Anderson Photography

The historic Uline Arena, a sprawling brick masonry structure with a concrete barrel-vault roof in Washington, D.C., has been transformed into a mixed-use development space with REI as its first tenant. CallisonRTKL collaborated with REI to create a store design befitting the space, with original seating from the arena incorporated as a wall installation. Wood panels used to cover the ice hockey rink during basketball games finish the east interior wall. Vintage posters honoring musicians and bands from D.C.’s go-go, punk, and bluegrass scenes create an art display based on the history of the arena. Indoor and outdoor event spaces and integrated food and beverage service help build a sense of community and connection to the brand. REI, Washington, D.C. \\\ Photo: CRTKL/David Whitcomb

vertical image of the interior of a modern white commercial space with many levels and a geometric glass ceiling

Shanghai’s 26-square-kilometer Hongqiau Transportation Hub is the world’s largest transit center. In its midst is CallisonRTKL’s design for The Hub, an urban oasis providing an escape from the eight forms of transit that transfer of up to 1.1 million passengers daily. The Hub caters to guests seeking time and space to escape and relax. Green spaces connect one functional area to another, helping to ease navigation. Clean, contemporary interiors are complemented by an abundance of natural finishes and indoor landscaping. A series of overlapping openings and bridges connect each of the project’s eight levels to create geometric patterns that shift and change the space as it is experienced vertically. Mini retail districts, market-style food and beverage, and a VIP lounge with wine bars and a stunning view enhance the consumer experience. Unique amenities, such as a check-in station that allows passengers to check their bags directly rather than having to go to the terminal, create synergy between spaces and increase efficiency. The Hub was designed to pursue LEED Silver certification. The Hub, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport \\\ Photo: CRTKL: Yihuai Hu

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.