Emeryville Watergate resident and Architect Eugene Tssui is the subject of this week’s East Bay Express cover story. The article details Tssui’s flamboyant lifestyle and his “refusal to compromise” personality. Tssui’s unconventional ideas about architecture might finally be coming around in the face of a housing crisis and the threat of climate change. “You have to be a radical. You have to do things that you believe in,” he notes in the article.
Tssui is often described as an “anti-establishment” or “Eco” architect and is probably best known for his Berkeley Fish House. A house built in 1994 that was actually inspired by the microscopic Tardigrade that has been described as nearly indestructible. Tssui’s dream is to build a two-mile high tapered structure that would be four times the height of the world’s current tallest building dubbed “Ultima Tower”. The structure’s footprint would be nearly the size of our entire city at one square mile and house a million people, according to his design. Tssui’s philosophy about architecture is detailed in his 1999 book Evolutionary Architecture: Nature as a Basis for Design.
This isn’t the first time Tssui’s eccentric character has been spotlighted. He was the subject of a 2014 Documentary TELOS: The Fantastic World of Eugene Tssui that had a notable film festival run. The Documentary chronicles his unorthodox life and his attempts to bring his designs to life amid resistance by city planners and neighbors.
Tssui has also been active in the community and spoke in behalf of Emeryville Marina neighbors who were upset by changes to the Emery Go-Round’s Watergate route.
FEATURE IMAGE: Eugene in front of his Berkeley Fish House (John Storey/Berkeleyside.com).
Architect Eugene Tssui Might Be the Most Interesting Man in the East Bay
And he believes his ideas could save the planet.
On a quiet West Berkeley street lined with modest stucco bungalows, the “Fish House” rises up, true to its name, like some giant sea creature that decided to move to the suburbs. From the outside, the house looks a little bit like a hobbit hole, or perhaps a super-villain’s secret lair. Inside, even on a gloomy, overcast December afternoon, it is flooded with natural light, which filters down through an enormous, 8-foot-round skylight — the eye of the fish, if you will. In the entryway, Eugene Tssui (pronounced “ts-way”), the Emeryville-based architect who designed the house more than two decades ago, explains his original inspiration: the tardigrade, a microscopic, eight-legged creature known for being virtually indestructible.
His intent had been to design an earthquake-proof home for his parents after Loma Prieta in 1989, and he had heard about how this tiny animal was the only creature known to have survived outer space.
“And that’s impossible,” Tssui said. “What could possibly survive for ten days in outer space, with nothing?”
So, naturally, he built a house that was modeled after the tardigrade’s anatomy.
With apologies to Dos Equis, the most interesting man in the East Bay isn’t some Hemingway clone in a beer commercial, but rather this mild-mannered Chinese-American architect.
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