Where does your interest in brick­work come from? “It started with the first project that made me move back to Korea, from New York, in 2003. It was called Pixel House; it’s a tiny 89-square-metre, two-storey house – it almost looks like an art gallery. Brick was not fashionable then, but I like it because it ages well and it gives a nice sense of scale. The off-white bricks we use for the White Yard, at Mount Pavilia [in Clear Water Bay, slated to open next March] were made specially for this project in the Pearl River Delta region. I like this idea of archi­tecture being about the dicho­tomy between solid and void, light and darkness. These white bricks introduce a softness to the building and give it a sculptural quality. They change in different light and they have qualities of handmade crafts – they’re not a standardised indus­trial material.”

The White Yard has shops, restaurants and a gallery that will be open to the public, as well as a clubhouse for residents. How do you start designing such a varied project? “My design process is a combination of digi­tal and analogue. I used to be very good with computers but not anymore. I don’t have time to do CADD [computer-aided design and drafting] or Photoshop, which I love. Instead I now draw over people’s digital drawings and am constantly massa­g­ing the design. I still draw by hand a lot in that sense, but more messy drawings over plans.”

Do you have plans to expand your studio, Mass Studies? “We were up to 40 people and I didn’t like it, so I got numbers down consciously. What I like, in my role, is to have an atelier type of studio, where I can recognise people and have one-to-one relationships on a daily basis. The office is now 25 to 30 people.”

You designed the clubhouse and retail elements of Mount Pavilia but other architectural studios were involved in the broader project. How did the collaboration work? “Architects are like conductors – our work is all about collaboration. There are certain kinds of architects who want to totally control everything, including the people inside their buildings and what they’re wearing. But, for me, it’s not about that, I think it’s much more expansive when you let other players play their own music. [New World Development heir] Adrian Cheng actually asked me to bring some Korean collabora­tors, so I brought S/O PROJECT, who designed all the fonts and signage for Mount Pavilia.”

What are you working on at the moment? “It’s funny because Mount Pavilia has an art gallery and I’ve done quite a shocking amount of art-related projects recently. We did the Korea Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in 2010 and for the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2014. Last year we did a 1,300-square-metre gallery space for a private collector in an area outside of the city often called the Hamptons of Seoul. We’re working on a mid-sized museum that we got through a competition. It’s in Seoul near the domestic airport; it’ll be in a corner of a park, so will really be part of the public space.”