I have admired Dara, her company, and her work for years. She has a creative and ambitious energy that you will see in her interview. The thing I admire most about her is her ability to identify great talent and empower those around her. Her inner circle is so vastly different than her, but she places such confidence in their individual gifts and skills. We are most powerful when we are surrounded by those whose strengths compliment ours and even fill our gaps. It’s obvious to me that she does a tremendous job of empowering people and their creativity. She is definitely a catalyst in the modern world of architecture. I have decided that next time we are in London, I am setting up shop in DH Liberty to feast on their fire and energy. After reading this interview, along with Lisa’s and Sofia’s, you may decide the same.
Dara Huang, Architect
Dara graduated from Harvard University with a BA and MA in Architecture. She then worked at Herzog de Meuron in Switzerland, Asymptote Architects in New York City, and Foster + Partners in London. During that time, she worked on Skyscraper, 56 Leonard Street, New York City and The Tate Modern II museum in London. She is regularly invited to participate as a public speaker, in design and global events including: reSITE, Prague; MIPIM, for the City of London, Cannes; PropTech, London; Art Basel, Hong Kong and at the RIBA, London. Dara’s father was a NASA scientist who emigrated from Taiwan to the United States. She’s lived in places like Tokyo, Basel and New York City. This multicultural background shows in her work, as does her love of contemporary art, pop culture, and technology. Dara created DH Liberty in 2013. Her idea was simple: First, recruit architects and designers who’ve honed their craft working for the world’s most renowned architecture firms. Next, give them the freedom to look at each project with totally unshackled imagination. Since then she has watched the magic unfold.
Where’s your favorite place in the world and why?
Home in London. I travel so much, and I even have an apartment in Hong Kong where our second office is located. Therefore, it’s very difficult to feel relaxed and calm unless I’m in my bathtub with a candle burning in London. Another one of my favorite places is actually at my desk in my office. I love the people so much, and I genuinely miss them when traveling. I am rarely at my desk, so it’s actually a real pleasure to be static. It helps me feel the most focused.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about so many things, I don’t know where to start. I’m passionate about life, design, architecture, and people. I get a lot of my energy from people, and I like to give energy as well. I love nature, and nurture – meaning eating well and exercise.
What’s the last thing you watched on TV? How was it?
I don’t watch TV, although I love TV. On airplanes, I occasionally watch movies. However, I tend to get really distracted and never watch the full movie. Either I fall asleep or start thinking about business plans and start writing. I recently started watching ‘A Simple Plan’. It was entertaining because Blake Lively kind of reminded me of myself. Then she got really twisted in the end, and I had to switch it off! HA HA!
What’s the craziest or funniest thing you’ve ever done?
I actually have a bit of a wild streak in me. I am pretty brave and fearless which isn’t good because I often dive head first into things without really thinking them over first. I’m a bit impulsive and slightly extreme in general. I guess the most recent crazy thing I decided to do is open up an office in Hong Kong. Trust me, it sounds much easier than it actually is!
What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
A 50 story tower in Guangzhou, but I also like the small simple projects that I can completely wrap my head around. They are easier to control, and the delivery doesn’t take years of coordination to complete.
Who would you swap places with for a day?
Good question. I think I would like to be Oprah Winfrey for the day. She must have one of the most fabulous lives. It’s enriched with so many people and loved ones around her. That’s what is most important to me – friends and family. She doesn’t seem to make a big fuss about material stuff because she already has it.
If you could visit anywhere in the world you’ve never been, where would you go and why?
I think Bali. I haven’t been and I keep seeing these photos of villas floating on crystal clear waters.
What are some of your pet peeves?
When someone tries to speak to me when I’m already speaking to someone else or on the phone. I’m just terrible at multi-tasking. Also, when I lose something, which is ALL the time. Eventually I just stopped buying expensive things.
If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Ha. I think a few years ago I would have said black, but right now I definitely think I’m neon PINK!
What’s your favorite way to get inspired?
I think actually getting away from my desk. It’s always when I’m in between commutes, or just walking around that I think about
the problem and quickly think of different solutions. It’s good to get away from the usual spot.
Tell me about your morning routine.
That changes every day. It depends on what city I am in. In general, I look at my calendar because it’s completely unpredictable. On any given day, it may be a photo-shoot, a board meeting, or going on site to oversee how a project is completing. Some days are just in the studio with the team overseeing what they are designing which is really exciting. My favorite place to be is my desk, but that’s so rare these days.
What’s the best purchase you made this year under $100?
Ha, that is a good question. Yesterday I was at Muji and I bought face soap. It sounds so simple, but in Hong Kong summers your face is constantly melting off, so you really need to wash it with something that dries it out. I got a good alcohol based astringent as well. These summers are impossible!
What makes you laugh the hardest?
My sister, and it’s usually about my mother…lol
What is your favorite family tradition?
Probably Thanksgiving. I am not always home for this, so many are missed. I love being with my family when the entire immediate family is present, its just so much fun.
What’s something you wish people would ask you more?
Hmm… there are definitely things I wish they would ask me less, but I don’t think there is anything I wish they would ask me more. HA!
What’s your favorite quote?
“If it doesn’t excite us, it won’t excite anyone else.” I used the same quote during Property Week when I got 40 under 40, but I actually still believe it.
Interview conducted by Anna Sirmeyer