Solarrius Research Institute, Designed by Eugene Tssui

Director's Statement

As the director of the film “TELOS: The Fantastic World of Eugene Tssui” it is my aim to present an accurate and unvarnished portrait of my subject: a social idealist, a complex character, and visionary architect Eugene Tssui.

I first encountered Eugene when he was speaking at an environmental conference about the failure of traditional architecture to withstand natural disasters. He used a cardboard box to model the way that four walls and a roof would collapse when pitted against the forces of nature. His topic was of significant interest to me because I grew up in Japan and I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both of these regions are noted for their frequent seismic activity, so his dynamic method of illustrating this point was captivating to me, but his unusual attire was equally as intriguing. He wore a cape, as naturally as any superhero! I knew immediately that I had found a compelling subject for a documentary.

To date, Eugene Tssui’s zeal for “evolutionary architecture” has yet to capture the public’s imagination. Even now in the post-Hurricane Katrina era when tragic weather events appear to be increasing in global frequency and intensity of impact Tssui’s innovative architectural concepts have failed to gain traction. This may be due to the fact that people simply do not agree with his philosophy or possibly because there is reluctance to embrace a self-professed, environmental savior who is literally dressed as a fantasy comic book character.

By presenting Eugene’s earnest quest for public influence without utilizing my privileged position as filmmaker to tone down the impact of his unconventional appearance my intention is to provide viewers with an opportunity to give genuine consideration to the core of what he has made his life’s work: the intersection of nature, architecture, and the public landscape. By striving to remain neutral in my portrayal of Tssui’s social ideals and lack of conformity I trust that my audience will navigate for themselves around any potential discomfort with Tssui’s subversive aesthetic and arrive at their own conclusions.

Kyung Lee, filmmaker

Solarrius Research Center, 1987

Fairbanks, Alaska
This seven-story tower overlooking the Pacific Ocean houses This research facility was designed in response to the client's interest in understanding the effectiveness of various building forms in a very cold climate. The low-angle design is intended to maximize solar heat efficiency by directing sunlight to the interior spaces and recirculating warm air currents throughout. The dark exterior absorbs heat from the sun to warm an interior water circulation system. A parabolic shield configuration reflects and disperses sunlight for additional solar heating. All of the building's heat comes from the sun.