Breeze Block Design Goals at Domu Florida. Photography by Chad Baumer.
Father-son architect duo George and Justin Fong of GDPdesignbuild place great importance on ensuring that the functional necessities of a client’s program are met with innovative and detail-conscious design solutions. An excellent example: new build Restaurant Domu in Orlando, Florida.
Domu is a Florida-based eatery specializing in handmade ramen and specialty craft cocktails. The client’s program included an intimate bar as well as a relaxed dining room. It was required that these adjoining spaces be clearly separated from each other. This programmatic necessity prompted the architects to explore materials that would provide positive spatial separation without disjointing the two zones.
The Breeze Block Design
In their research of materials, the GDP team was fascinated by a perforated clay block. A modular material which was at once solid and open. When the block was first introduced as a building material, they were a revolutionary way to transition architecture to landscape. Its ubiquitous use in temperate climates ensured enclosure without sacrificing views, ventilation, and light.
Often referred to as textile blocks, the delicate tracery patterns of the masonry units added a decorative finesse to hefty masonry buildings. These qualities have since allowed the versatile blocks to become rooted in the vernacular of Floridian architecture. This narrative provided the architects with a fascinating springboard to approach the design of the interior.
Guided by the color, geometry, and texture of the clay block, we selected a complementing palette of warm and natural, earthy finishes.George and Justin developing the interior with a focus on materiality.
The center of the room prominently features a free-standing diaphanous clay block wall. This wall separates the bar and dining functions while offering filtered views across the space. Similarly, the same clay block is also used as a textured wall treatment. And as the supports for two large communal tables.
Brick pavers that echo the color, texture, and module of the breeze blocks form a wainscot that envelops the perimeter of the room and a built-in reception counter. In addition, red oak tambour paneling and bentwood furnishings add a natural, organic feel to the space while complementing the streamline geometry of blocks and the floor plan. GDP rendered the ceiling and walls are in a rose-colored hue to underscore the monochromatic material storyline. As a result, these subtle tonal and textural shifts contribute to a harmonious interior. An interior that is alluring and emotive. Designed through a minimalist lens, the space feels current and contemporary while maintaining a distinctly Floridian identity.
Who are the Principals at GDP?
George and Justin are a father-son architect duo. Justin Fong attended the University of Florida for his undergraduate and graduate education and received my master’s degree in Architecture in 2014. His father, George Fong, attended Columbia University for his graduate and undergraduate education. George received his Master of Architecture in 1982.
How did GDP start?
George started the company on his own in 1987 after working for a local firm for a few years. He expanded his licensing to include contracting as well as architecture to be able to design and build his projects. At the time, George worked out of the den of their home where Justin was primed with an appreciation for art and design from an early start.
What is your design ethos?
We believe that well-considered design is transformative and that it can improve our surroundings and the quality of our lives. In every endeavor, we place great importance on ensuring that the functional necessities of a client’s program are met with innovative and detail-conscious design solutions. With every project we take on, we set out to create engaging environments that people will remember and enjoy.
What are your biggest day to day design challenges?
In a time where styles and fashions change so rapidly and so often, one challenge is to achieve a sense of timelessness while designing for the present. We are constantly looking forward (and backward)– taking cues from both to push the boundaries of our craft. While we practice design in the present, it can oftentimes imply some level of prescience. Often, many ask designers to look ahead to predict how people will use a space or how the spaces might change over time. I think this exercise helps ensure that whatever we are designing maintains its relevance.
What do you think is the key to good design?
I think good design is a design that has the power to convey emotions and a narrative while functionally addressing a set of real-world problems: poetry and function. Good design should leave an impact on people. It is so important to look outside of your own frame of reference. As a designer, it’s necessary to grow and evolve while maintaining focus and vision. It’s a big, beautiful world with so much to see and so many perspectives to see it from. Take some time to truly look at it.