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My Duality-Culture and Architecture, Culture and Chocolate

My College Days

I tend to do things in pairs. In college, I majored in Environmental Design but had a strong interest and love for culture and social issues. So I took plenty of classes in African-American, Native American, Asian Art History and so on. In fact, my senior architectural project reflected my dual interests as I chose to do my project on the Sunnydale Housing Development, the largest inner city community in San Francisco. My project certainly was just more than creating updated spaces for the people. My senior project thoughtfully emphasized the psychological effects of architecture on low-income residents.

Sunnydale Housing in San Francisco's south side

I revamped the entire neighborhood, from the individual family’s private apartments, their ‘defensible space’ or semi-private spaces (front and backyards), to the shared spaces that included courtyards, laundry mats and other adjacent areas. To understand that the culture of people can be negatively affected by the layout and space planning of their neighborhood is to understand a better solution for the community at large. The photo above was taken in 1941 and the layout of Sunnydale presently is much the same. My senior project called for the necessary visual barriers, enclosures and tighter-knit community within the community type of architecture. The San Francisco Housing Authority, owners of the Sunnydale Housing Development, was so impressed with my project, they offered me a job right out of college. I took it.

Sunnydale, year 1997

You may think that the above photo is of the same era, taken in the 1940's, when in fact the year was 1997. The lack of any architectural details and the unsegmented plots of land suggests to the inhabitants that they are not worthy of what other city residents in other parts of the city may call a home as 'home sweet home'.

My Professional Career

Sadly, as time passed, I decided to get out of the architectural/social activism field and start up a business in chocolate. I brought along my love for culture and created Jade Chocolates. The company's uniqueness stems from specializing in artisan chocolate bars blended with teas and spices from Asia and the Pacific Islands. All of the bars are uniquely flavored and reflect my cultural heritage. The look of the packaging and the flavor of the bars are all a direct extension of me.

When I sample out my products and customers give praise to my packaging, what they are really saying to me is, ‘I like you’. Or when they taste the chocolate and have a moment of chocolate bliss, what they are also saying to me is, ‘I like you’. And in those rare cases where people just don’t understand my concept….well I probably wouldn’t want to be your friend anyways. Just kidding.

My Chocolate Bars

I’m writing this post as an introduction to my future posts–the Development of Genmai, Orient Espresso, Dragon’s Breath and Mahal. Now that you see my duality, hopefully you can understand how I express myself through my products. Stay tuned for these future posts.

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