The Everyday Carry of an Architect: Kent Chiang of Aidlin Darling Design

By Paige Alexus
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“The design tools I gravitate towards are the ones that have a tactile dimension—a responsiveness to intuition and the hand.” -Kent Chiang
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Courtesy of Kent Chiang

What you need to know about Kent: 

As a principal at the San Francisco-based design studio Aidlin Darling Design, Kent works on a range of projects from private residences and custom furniture, to exhibition design and university projects. The multidisciplinary firm prides itself on designing with all the senses, which leads to artful strategies including physical modeling, mock-up fabrication, hand sketching, and on-site observation. Kent is no exception to this rule—take a look below to learn about the tools he uses on a daily basis.

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Photo by Adam Rouse

The Tools of the Trade 

For hand drawing

I use a wide range of tools—each type has a specific purpose. Thinner pencils lead to more precise drawings while softer, wider tips are better for loose sketches. When using pens and pencils feels too restrictive, I pull out my trusty watercolor set. There’s a wonderful freedom to the medium’s imprecision. It’s perfect for capturing the gestalt of an idea. 


Sketchbook 

It’s a depository, and using it has all the comforts of a security blanket.


Glasses and a magnifying glass

I have a pair of glasses for the computer monitor, another pair for desk work and reading, and a magnifying glass for those tiny texts in half-sized drawings. It was a running joke in the office for a while. 


Kraft paper and cardboard 

We use a very quick paper model technique which we termed "sketch model." We crumple a sheet of kraft paper which we shape to mimic a site’s topography. Then, we insert planes of cardboard into incisions made in the paper to study the engagement of building onto the site. This is a parallel effort to the hand sketch, where looseness and quickness are the keys to triggering ideas. 


Measuring and adhesive tapes

It’s very easy to lose sight of our relationship to the physical world when one models digitally. As a counter strategy, we’re constantly calibrating the relationship between our bodies and the spaces we design by measuring mock-up areas that we’ve scribed with tape in the studio.


Compass

This was given to me by my life partner of 25 years to use during my travels. It was way before smartphones with GPS functions became ubiquitous. I now keep it next to my desk at work as a figurative life compass.


Keep up with Kent and the rest of Aidlin Darling Design's work by following their profile here.

Paige Alexus

@paigealexus

Content Producer & Blogger at Dwell

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