Why Architect Dara Huang Is Turning Her Attention To Public Projects
“I was always an artist growing up,” says Dara Huang, an architect, designer and founder of studio Design Haus Liberty in London, which has worked on projects for Cartier, LVMH and the Four Seasons, as well as luxury homes, galleries and plush offices. “When I attended college, my parents wanted me to pick a professional degree and I thought architecture aligned the most with art. It’s totally different than what I could have ever imagined, but all for the better.”
Huang didn’t grow up surrounded by inspirational design. Her father was a scientist at Nasa, having emigrated to Florida with her mother from their native Taiwan. “Coming from the suburbs of America, the definition of good architecture was cookie-cutter houses,” says Huang. “I wasn’t exposed to great architecture like the historical [buildings] of Europe and Asia.”
But that didn’t hold her back. She graduated from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design with a master’s in architecture, then worked at famed architecture firms Herzog & de Meuron and Foster + Partners on projects ranging from skyscrapers in Tribeca, New York to Manolo Blahnik stores. In 2013, she stepped away from the major firms and established her own studio. “I’m definitely an entrepreneur at heart—I love coming up with new ideas and solutions,” she says.
2020 looks to be a busy year for Design Haus Liberty. The firm is launching its new furniture line, Dara. “I wanted to make beautiful, functional furniture,” says Huang. She is launching the brand with a couple of collections designed for specific developments, such as a residential tower in London for Knight Dragon, a subsidiary of New World Development. After that, Huang hopes to design a full, affordably priced collection.
There are also the handful of restaurants she’s designing in London and the 1,200 shops for four different retail brands to be built across Mainland China. But one of the projects that Huang is most excited about is a new 40,000sqft school building in East Croydon, London, which will house classrooms and playrooms for pre-school-aged children.
“One of my goals as a designer is to get more into civic and public spaces,” she explains. “A large portion of our work is private, but I love the idea of creating communities, changing perception through built form, heightening user experience and emotions, and taking the user through a journey of memorable moments.” This has been a big draw when it comes to her work with arts institutions—she’s worked on new arts and culture district Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, an art gallery in London and pitched a summer installation for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
“So much of being a designer is about ego,” she says. “But I have always been less about ego and more about how design can help and impact people.”
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