Keng-Fu Lo, Master of “Carchitecture”, explains the growing design trend

Three different intricate sketches of car garages oriented next to each other on a paper background.

“Carchitecture”, as the name suggests, is architecture for cars. The movement was first popularized in a book called Architecture: when the car and the city collide by the Dutch architect Alex de Rijke in 2001, and has steadily picked up steam in the 20 years since.

For some luxury vehicle owners, underground parking is no longer enough. They want extravagance worthy of the car’s parking lot; just look at the new one Aston Martin Residences in Miami, which has an elevator dedicated to cars that allows renters to park their sports cars across from a unit on, say, the 50e floor.

Architects such as Keng-Fu Lo have stepped up to design next-level c architecture – for both private homes and residential buildings. He is the founder and director of the architectural and design firm Chain 10, based in Taipei. As a car enthusiast, he understands creating custom spaces that take the often-overlooked garage to the next level. Lo creates garages that showcase cars, which is truly the heart of automotive architecture. “I like to think of garages as a living space, as opposed to a storage space,” said Lo. “Think of it as having a beautiful gallery to house precious art.”

Whether housing a treasured vintage model or a sleek new electric car, the trend is sure to dispel dull design. Lo recently sat down with InsideHook to discuss craft, feng shui in architecture, and his high hopes for 2023.

Lo at work in his office. He is a car enthusiast himself, with an Aston Martin, McLaren and Ferrari to his name.

Images Courtesy of Chain 10

InsideHook: You’re the master of architecture, so how will car design change in 2022?

Keng Fu Lo: Just look at it this way: As our cars continue to evolve, so do the garages we store them in. This year we focused most on design elements that allow us to adapt to the needs of the customer and the car. Sustainability is a top priority for our customers and having sustainable elements in your garage is a huge selling point and personal priority. Using natural light in the architecture is key, not only aesthetically but natural light – leaving room for more windows – reduces the chance of mold. Here in Taiwan, the humidity is high all year round, so we always make sure to use good ventilation and use as much natural light as possible. With the lingering effects of climate change, this tip is crucial to keep in mind for the future of car design.

How will automotive architecture change in the future given the rise of electric vehicles? Will the separate car garage become a thing of the past?

Carchitecture will always evolve to meet the needs of the customer and their cars. Sustainability will be one of the most important factors for the future of automotive design. With the rise of electric vehicles, consumers want sustainable elements in their homes and garages; those factors may mean having an outlet or charging port to support electric vehicles, or proper ventilation, or the use of durable materials in the garage construction. Frankly, I hope separate car garages will be a thing of the past. What the distinct garage design lacks is the art of feng shui in the home. The seamless transition between the spaces makes coming home after a long day feel soothing. A separate garage disrupts that transition, depending on how far your garage is from your home. It can add another dimension of stress.

What did you go for? this house you designed, architecturally speaking?

For the Comfort in Context house, we wanted to take the more rural environment into account. I always design with sustainability and the environment in mind, and this design created that intimate connection. We wanted the garage’s design to fit in with the surrounding lush, green landscape. That’s why we choose to leave the back of the garage open so that air can flow into the room for natural ventilation.

A view of a futuristic open air car garage.

Lo likes to give homeowners plenty of space to pull out their car and park.

Images Courtesy of Chain 10

Why is nature so important to your design work?

Feng shui is an important aspect of oriental design and an integral part of my own design philosophy. In this part I chose the land partly because of its connection to the mountains, but also because of its location near a reservoir. As the wind crosses the reservoir, it is cooled by the water, keeping the garage space more comfortable during the hot Taiwanese summers. Keeping the structure facing west also allows ample sunlight from the garden to flow into the space in the morning, while keeping cool all afternoon under a short roof structure.

What should you pay attention to when it comes to feng shui and architecture?

In feng shui, there is a concept called the ‘method of sitting’. Imagine a mountain with a tiger and a dragon. The individual is the mountain, with their right arm the tiger and the left the dragon. The tiger is short, but strong, while the dragon is long, flowing and hospitable. If someone were in their house, they would be looking at the entrance. As a welcoming arm, the left side should always be the side from which one invites company. In some ways, this can be like shaking a friend’s hand with your right hand while pulling him in for a hug with the left. As such, I placed both the garage and main entrance on the left side of the house to invite happiness and positive energy.

How many cars do you have and what kind of cars do you have?

I currently have six cars. My everyday vehicle that I use to get around and receive customers is my Aston Martin. I also have a McLaren and a Ferrari Roma, which I occasionally use as a regular car. I also have a Porsche Spyder, which is more of a passion car for me. Occasionally I have to travel to more rural areas, off the beaten track. For these occasions I have a Mercedes Benz G-Class Edition. I also have a Mini Cooper for short daily trips around town. Taiwan is a densely populated island and having a smaller vehicle can be hugely helpful at times.

Why is parking important to you?

Getting from A to B is more than just distance. It is also a feeling. To get the most out of the experience, we need to make sure our vehicles are always in the best possible condition. Having a suitable space to park your car is necessary, not only to store your car, but also to clean and maintain it. A car may not be a living thing, but they still need respect if you want them to serve you well. An adequate garage is just as necessary for a vehicle as a stable is for a well-groomed Thoroughbred.

Should a car’s parking lot be like a museum?

It depends on the person, but yes, I do believe that a parking lot can be a kind of museum. However, I think this has less to do with the car itself and more with the personal passion of the car owner.

How do you park your own car?

I prefer to give my cars enough space when parking. I feel that all too often architects are more concerned with regulatory compliance than with proper vehicle storage.

A view of a futuristic open air car garage.

Natural light is a crucial part of Lo’s work. However, he will make sure that the cars stay cool by

Images Courtesy of Chain 10

What do architects usually underestimate when it comes to designing car garages?

On a small road it can be difficult to drive into a narrow garage. For that reason, I prefer to add both depth and width to the space in front of the parking lot. This allows the driver to maneuver better in his parking space without having to adjust the direction of travel. This also becomes valuable when exiting your space, as it gives the driver a wide visual range of obstacles or oncoming traffic. Personally, I hope that architects take into account not only the dimensions of the vehicle, but also the people who have to move and live around the vehicle.

How can c-architecture also be a social space? Can it be playful or fun or even social?

Carchitecture can be seen as a social space and offers functionality. I like to think of garages as living space, as opposed to storage space. Designing the garage with that in mind emphasizes cars – especially as a car enthusiast who enjoys presenting their car collection as art, but also as a place to gather and socialize around these beloved pieces. I always design them with versatility in mind. Improving and investing in parking garages is what makes architecture so beautiful: a space can be used for so much more than it is intended for. Think of it as having a beautiful gallery to house priceless art. Given what many collectors spend on their cars, it makes sense that they would invest in a good space to house them.

What do you think of the latest wave of architecture? Do you have favorite examples?

I would like to see more attention to scale. Many buildings in Taiwan offer basement parking. This may seem like a good solution, but the amount of space a ramp takes up reduces a lot of space that could have been put to better use. Personally, I really enjoy the Singaporean solution of creating a parking lot where we would traditionally find the first floor. This both allows us to reclaim the space that would have been lost for a ramp, while also allowing for an open structure for better airflow. I find this design really inspiring and hope to see it more often in the future.

What do you think of some of the books on architecture that have been released in recent years?

Over the past 20 years I’ve been there to see how the intersection of automobiles and architecture has really evolved into something beyond a car parking space. When the car and the city collide is something that I read many years ago and I think it raises questions that today are still unanswered by urban planners and architects. As we move into 2023, architecture should see fewer personal vehicles and emphasize the beauty of public transportation. This may sound like a cliché, but that’s what the world needs. So I see that homes have fewer parking spaces, but they are more luxurious and versatile.

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