BODW 2009
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New York-based architect and designer Calvin Tsao began his professional career under the auspicious guidance of I. M. Pei and Priztker winner Richard Meier. In 1985, Tsao, together with Zack McKown co-founded TsAO & McKOWN to concentrate on a multifaceted gesticulation of architecture and design.

One of the partnership’s first major commissioning, Singapore’s Suntec City, plunged Tsao head on to reconcile the challenges of building for mass public consumption. Requiring over tens years to complete, the sprawling six-million square foot civic-commercial Suntec City complex is a monumental example of how design and architectural distinction can be driven pragmatically through contextual sensitivity and cultural appropriateness. Completion of the Suntec project earned TsAO & McKOWN a distinct international reputation for memorable architecture, and importantly, established a confidence to embrace visions formed by the collective rather than the individual – and advocates emotional interaction over mere concerns fixated on style.

By eschewing aesthetic and thematic reiteration, Tsao’s projects are able to transcend the clearly defined boundaries set by traditional attitudes. Freely inspired by a dazzling spectrum of culture and art forms, his highly original work is often a humanistic response to looking beyond an environment or a product to answer the behavioral considerations it inspires. Spanning continents and every conceivable category and scale, the diverse projects undertaken by Tsao and his team range from mixed-use commercial complexes, museum exhibitions, private residences and hotels to furniture designs, retail environments, a lipstick case, and an ambitious urban plan for the Chinese city of Chengdu.

A graduate of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, Tsao currently serves as President of the Architectural League of New York, and was recently named the William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome. Also a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, he has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and regularly serves as a guest critic and juror at universities and institutes across America. In 2009, he was awarded Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Interior Design. Tsao also won a National AIA Housing Award for his project in Sagaponac.