Dezeen Magazine

Dong-Ping Wong and Virgil Abloh at Design Indaba

Dong-Ping Wong and Virgil Abloh design a city in 15 minutes

Architect Dong-Ping Wong and fashion designer Virgil Abloh have produced a sketch design for a city during a 15-minute video call live on stage in Cape Town.

Wong, founding director of architecture studio Food New York, called Abloh during his presentation at the Design Indaba conference, in front of an audience of 3,000 people.

City by Dong-Ping Wong and Virgil Abloh
Wong and Abloh produced the city design in 15 minutes

With Abloh on the big screen, the two of them then worked together to design a city. Abloh suggested some qualities he thought were important, and Wong interpreted them into architectural features.

The resulting design features a sky forest, a dog park, lakes and a floating wind farm. Other highlights include a series of futuristic skyscrapers and a huge dome "cause it's the future".

Wong designed Off-White stores for Abloh

Wong has worked with Abloh for five years and is behind the interiors of many stores for his fashion label Off-White.

The collaboration started with the brand's first flagship in Hong Kong, which Abloh asked Wong to design while the pair were in a car travelling together to Kanye West's wedding. Abloh famously worked with West before making it big, while Wong designed the pyramid stage for the rapper's Yeezus tour.

Off-White store by Dong-Ping Wonga
Wong is behind the interiors of many stores for Abloh's fashion label Off-White, including its first flagship in Hong Kong

Wong said that Abloh's fast-paced approach to design has changed the way he produces architectural projects.

"The idea of doing things really fast came from Virgil," he told Dezeen. "When we first did the Hong Kong Off-White store, actually for every project we do, everything is done through texts. I realised there was a way to do this without formatting big presentations, without doing a load of emails."

"With brands like Supreme and Off-White, immediacy is so important," he added. "It's all about the excitement of what that new thing is and getting it as soon as you can. It's very ingrained."

"We're always trying to push ourselves to get initial ideas faster"

Wong said, while most architects like to go away and think about a brief, he thinks the best approach is to force yourself to develop an idea immediately.

"We do a lot of sketches in the office and we're always trying to push ourselves to get initial ideas faster," he said. "You need to sit there and fight your way through it."

+ Pool
Wong also designed the + Pool proposed for New York

Wong was previously one of the two directors of Family New York, which he set up with Oana Stanescu. Among the studio's most prolific projects was + Pool, a proposal for a cross-shaped swimming pool floating in New York's East River.

The design was initially just a concept, published on websites including Dezeen in 2011. But it got so much attention that a series of consultants got on board and Wong was able to start an organisation aiming to make the project a reality.

"Architects are not good at communication"

Although the pool hasn't yet been built, the architect sees the project as an example of how immediacy can make a difference to whether a proposal lives or dies.

"It's nice that the idea was very immediate and simple. I think that wouldn’t have happened if we had done it five or 10 years before. It's totally an internet-born project," he said.

Dong-Ping Wong
Wong believes architects can become better communicators by developing ideas faster

He believes that architects are going to have to adjust the way they work if they want to keep up.

"I think architects are generally not good at communication in general," he added. "That's why I love immediacy – it has to strike really quickly and if it doesn't resonate with someone you lose the moment."

Dezeen is media partner for Design Indaba 2019, which took place at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town from 27 February to 1 March.

The sketch made by Wong and Abloh had been made into a poster, with 200 copies handed out to conference visitors today.