Dr. Kody Kato: Providing Eco-Conscious, Experiential and Performance-Oriented Architectural Services

The field of architecture relies heavily on mathematics, physics, material science, engineering, digital design, geometry and chemistry to construct safe, habitable and long-lasting structures like schools, offices, large facilities, skyscrapers, flyovers, bridges, and more. In addition to building safe, risk-free and enduring structures, it’s equally important to create an enjoyable experience for people as they move around, socialize, work and live within these spaces. Even the German poet Goethe famously said, “Architecture is frozen music.”

Modern architects are increasingly embracing eco-friendly architecture i.e., erecting structures more in harmony with their natural surroundings. This approach to construction respects the natural environment deeply, adopts environmentally friendly building materials and actively involves natural elements like airflow, light and even water. In light of expensive construction processes, limited resources and increasing levels of pollution, eco-friendliness is one of the most relevant, meaningful and popular trends within professional architecture today, around the world. 

Dr. Kody Kato
Dr. Kody Kato, Founder, Office for Design Evolution

Dr. Kody Kato, an award-winning architect from Hawaii, is reputed for his multidisciplinary accomplishments within architecture, the natural environment, engineering and traditional construction methods. He creates unique spatial experiences through the wide spectrum of the disciplines, all with immense respect to a building’s natural surroundings and the lives connected to them. In 2017, he set up the Office for Design Evolution (ODE) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to provide his renowned architectural services to many more people. 

Emerging from a Desire to Improve Peoples’ Living Conditions

“I am originally from Maui, Hawaii, where I spent a lot of my childhood surrounded by beaches, rain forests and freshwater ponds. This is one of the main reasons why I am so curious about the natural world around us. This curiosity led me toward my Doctoral degree in performance-oriented architecture with a focus on mathematical biology and structural engineering,” Dr. Kody says.

As a student, Dr. Kody had the precious opportunity to travel to different parts of the world. During these trips, he would often venture out on his own, without any plan, just to experience where the journey would take him. While sometimes he wouldn’t see any special places, he often came across underdeveloped and impoverished parts of the country. He thus realized how lucky he had been to grow up in Hawaii, with a clean place to live, fresh air and drinking water. “These experiences also made me sad to think that most of what I was witnessing was how millions of people in the world live. I want to help change this—to improve the quality of life for everyone—not only for the privileged,” he says. 

Dr. Kody’s desire to help the needy and less unfortunate people live in safer, cleaner habitats more in harmony with their natural surroundings is the primary reason for establishing ODE. For this, he brings together a distinguished architectural aptitude, his own performance-oriented approach to architectural design as well as years of practical know-how working with renowned architects like Dr. Ken Yeang and Byoung Soo Cho.

A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Create Exceptional Architectural Experiences

“When I first started, I only had one client. Then, slowly over time I had two clients. We have now grown and are working on factories, commercial and residential buildings,” Dr. Kody says. ODE’s multi-disciplinary approach to architectural design and delivery has been very successful, some even receiving international architectural awards. In addition to conventional projects, the company provides interior design services as well as factory design and optimization services. Throughout each project, ODE considers experiential aspects such as daylight, gravity, heat from the sun, natural ventilation, acoustics, aesthetics, ambiance as well as human beings’ senses to create truly enjoyable spaces. 

ODE has received lots of positive feedback from clients. For instance, Dr. Kody led his team and a group of university design students to create a giant, gravity-defying sculpture made entirely from over five thousand pieces of origami. This craftwork ‘Beyond Surface’, received lots of critical acclaims and attracted many visitors as it was displayed in an exhibition in London, for months. In fact, the project was designed to showcase the beauty, strength and quality of paper from one of the world’s oldest and reputed paper manufacturing companies named ‘G. F. Smith’. 

“We embarked on a long, interesting, work-intensive journey to make his idea become reality. It was a journey full of joy, reflection, problem-solving and excellent teamwork and the end result was stunning and justifiably won several prizes. Working with Kody was a joy, we learnt a lot from his meticulous and precise approach to what he was doing for us and we can highly recommend working with him,” Ms. Jutta Birkenhauer, the international sales manager at G. F. Smith, says.

Eager to Continually Grow and Learn for Even Better Spatial Experiences 

Dr. Kody, an architect-turned-entrepreneur, has received lots of recognition for his projects. For instance, the London Design Award in 2018, the best paper award for Asia’s computer-aided architectural design research in 2012, a best prize in the 28th International Space Architecture Competition in Seoul in 2010, among others. Through years of hard work and persistence, he has learnt a valuable lesson that other people may not readily believe in our capability. He shares that most people unfortunately see situations from their own perspective, but this shouldn’t discourage us. He believes that we must try working even harder, turning these situations into a driving force for growth and learning.  

As a business leader, Dr. Kody has learnt that our minds are our only limitation. According to him, a good leader can set up a vision and communicate it well to the rest of the team, so that it can be developed and achieved, supported by a variety of people with diverse backgrounds and skills. 

“A leader who runs a successful business is a lot like being a coach in sports. It requires the ability to see the natural strength of each team member and put them in a position where they can succeed. Then, you must be able to develop that strength, help them grow and inspire them to become the best that they can possibly be. To do this, you need loyalty, empathy, humility, honesty and tenacity,” Dr. Kody says. 

As an eminent architect, leading a growing architectural design firm, the future looks bright for Dr. Kody. He looks forward to continuously grow and learn, supported by technology. “Now, more than ever before we have access to information and technology that can help us better understand the world: both our natural and man-made environment. As these advance, so does our awareness. We can thus make more intelligent decisions so that we can enhance the spatial experience for people and also improve the quality of their lives. Furthermore, it is time to play the music of architecture for our evolving generations,” he concludes.