The Dr. and Mrs. George Yuen Residence :: Charles W. Wong, AIA, 1962
Charles Wong’s well-designed post and beam Yuen Residence is a thematic exercise of the burgeoning postwar influence of Japanese design in Southern California. Wong’s design here functions beyond the definition of a typical house. He has successfully created a residential pavilion delicately wrapped in glass that blends the aesthetic of sixteenth century Japanese aristocratic ideals with the modern ideology of experiential living through introspective and thoughtful design.
Decidedly different from its neighbors, Wong carefully blends the simplicity of post and beam design inside the house and more complex, intricate details on the outside. Both of these elements are experienced through the thoughtful sheathing of glass walls that surround the property. Solid beams support the tongue and groove wood ceiling of the interior of the house and fenestrated rafter tails are seamlessly extended to the exterior. All of these intricate details are met along the periphery of the house as they appear to be delicately balanced over the horizontal ribboning of clerestory windows. Engawa decking further accentuates the thematic elements of Sukiya-zukuri influence and is clearly reminiscent of Kyoto’s Katsura Imperial Palace in which Walter Gropius described as “a product of sheer vitality uninhibited in its feeling for volume and movement” after his visit there in 1954.
Spaces within the Yuen Residence are clearly defined. They are not, however, defined by traditional, solid massing; they are identified by clever applications of functional divisions such as an indoor footbridge over a long sunken garden, cabinetry with paper-lined doors, and walls of glass. Fusuma and sliding glass doors, as well as shoji screens accentuate the simplicity of Wong’s composition while simultaneously paying homage to historic design and acknowledging the work of his fellow modern masters. The finished product is a dual exercise in unpretentiousness and existential architecture that redefines the residential experience.