Public Access: Cool Spaces Goes Behind the Blueprint

A new television show showcases exceptional public buildings and design.

While he’d be the first to tell you he’s not a TV person, architect-turned-host Stephen Chung can get beyond the medium, as long as he’s able to communicate his message. With Cool Spaces, a new public television series that profiles the process and personalities behind contemporary public architecture, Chung takes viewers behind the scenes at spaces like the the Seattle Public Library and the Barnes Foundation, while talking with architects like Steve Holl and exploring their work with an approachable, yet investigative tone. It’s all a means to help educate the public about the importance of public spaces.

“We as architects weren’t communicating why it was important,” he says. “I was going to write a white paper, and thought, who’s going to read that? I sort of said I’ll do a TV show on a lark.”

Chung, who has taught design at RISD and Yale, started the project seven years ago, when a recession and the subsequent struggles of many architecture firms made him consider how to make the work of architects more relevant. While there were whole networks devoted to homes and interior design, there wasn’t a place on television to discuss great public spaces. Cool Spaces seeks to remedy that, focusing on a particular building type each episode, such as libraries or stadiums. The inaugural show on performance spaces, which is rolling out on network across the country, explores Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and Barclays Center with the architects and designers.

“With our show, you can see the place on television, then actually go there,” says Chung. “When I was preparing to make the show, a director told me that buildings aren’t the stars, it’s about the people.”

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