What is Luxury? Interview with Dara Huang at reSITE 2018

Dara Huang is an award winning architect and founder of Design Haus Liberty, an architectural firm that often works with clients to design high-end buildings.

Dara has been recognized in China’s BBC 100 Women, Property Week’s 40 under 40, and has received 4 RIBA competition recognitions. Dara speaks about her leatest project, Viva House, a co-living concept in London, and about why people are turning towards co-living and working spaces. She also talks about what it is like to design luxury buildings, giving her thoughts on the Zaha Hadid Project in Prague.

What is Viva House, and who is it meant for?

DH: Viva House is a co-living operational platform. It is meant for a millennial demographic, looking to live in city centers all over the world, starting with London. It is really meant for anyone with a similar mindset, so they do not just have to be millennials, but its focused on affordable urban housing.

You’ve also designed homes, tech offices, and co-living spaces — how is living and working blurring together?

DH: Living and working have been blurring together for quite a long time. Even more so now, I think people are starting to really value design, bringing in a more comfortable aspect and lifestyle to working. So, it’s this line that been blurring, but also I think it’s the real estate market that’s been appreciating it. They are realizing that they can’t lease space without an aspect of living and working together in one environment.

Your firm, Design Haus Liberty, is only five years old. What is the firm’s culture like? What did you seek to do differently than other firms?

DH: I have a young practice, it’s only 5 years old. I would say the oldest people managing the office are me and my 5 directors, and we are all in our early to mid-thirties. The culture is really fun. We are very casual. I think the hierarchy is pretty flat. Everyone’s opinions matter. We listen to them. We laugh together. We are really like a bunch of friend’s, and that makes it really fun.

You’ve worked with some of the largest luxury brands in the world. As an architect, how do you maintain your own perspective while working within their well-honed point-of-view?

DH: We’ve worked with a lot of luxury brands. As architects, we try to maintain our own perspective by putting forward designs that we believe in, things that we wouldn’t be embarrassed by, things that we want to represent us as much as the brand. I think that the idea and look of luxury has really changed and transformed over the years. Its gone from really synthetic to very natural, raw, and real. This is really nice, because we like to have an authenticity to our design. Luckily, taste is changing. We try to keep true with what we define as luxury, and they hopefully our clients think the same way.

What is your definition of luxury?

DH: I have a few definitions of luxury. I think it depends on the context. I think in a very general one, luxury is having an accessibility to the limited things that we take for granted. I’ll give you an example. If you are in a city, luxury is really being around a garden or green. So offering people a terrace, fresh air, a great view, privacy, or sunlight, are just some things that architects can do to give people subtle luxuries. In terms of design, I think luxury is having fine details, beautiful architecture, sustainable systems. It’s a real luxury when everything is kind of working in conjunction with each other.

What role do large scale international developments, such as the Zaha Hadid project, play in terms regeneration-- a forgotten part of the city, in your opinion?

DH: Large scale developments really help to regenerate forgotten parts of the city by really bringing a cultural icon to the area. A great example of that is what Penta is doing with Prague right now. They are bringing a great Zaha Hadid building right by the train station. The beauty of bringing iconic architecture is that it grabs a lot of attention and global attention, it is in the media. People start to recognize the building and then start to associate the building with that part of they city. Inevitably, that means you are going to have more visitors, its going to create growth, it’s going to help with jobs and the economy. Architecture has an amazing way of bring growth and recognition.

More from reSITE

Marcus Fairs On Homes, Drones and Humans

Interview with the founder on Dezeen Marcus Fairs on the future of our homes and technologies. Interview by Greg Lindsay, with the contribution of Radka Ondrackova and Elvira Islas.

Life after dark. Interview with Mirik Milan

Does your city need a Night Mayor? Mirik Milan, the first ever Night Mayor and founder of the Night Mayor Movement, might argue yes. Mirik inspired a movement— Night Mayors and Night Tsars are now popping up in cities all over the globe.

10 Tips for Summer Art Installation Hunters

Looking to spice up your next summer trip with some innovative and Instagram worthy art? From London to New York to the Maldives, these art installations that will make your heart beat faster and your holiday trips memorable. Check out our ten tips, and let us know what else is going on around you!

reSITE 2018 ACCOMMO­DATE: The Creative Paradox of Housing

Related Talks

Alfredo Brillembourg on How We Can Tackle Urban Poverty

Alfredo Brillembourg, founding partner of Urban-Think Tank in Zurich, discusses incomplete urbanization and service deprivation in poor city areas and what can be done to tackle urban poverty.

Jean-Louis Missika on Reinventing Paris

Deputy Mayor of Paris, Jean-Louis Missika, explains the project of Réinventer Paris and its focus on updating and developing the city’s future in a more innovative and inclusive manner, putting a precedent on sustainability over profit. With 23 sites open for redevelopment proposals, the city has welcomed winning projects selected based on the innovativeness and adaptability.

Janette Sadik-Khan on the Value of Our Streets + PlaNYC

Janette Sadik-Khan, former Commissioner of the Department of Transportation of New York City, discusses programs implemented in her time in the department and the positive changes these have made. She especially focused on safety and community opinion in her policies, and presents how they made safety programs appeal to people and how much safer she made the streets for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

Greg Clark on the Relationships Between Cities and Economies

Greg Clark, the Global Head of Future Cities and New Industries at HSBC, argues for a future in which the shared city is a collaborative project between cities and businesses, to the benefit of both and build a self-confident future. Clark notices six trends which he believes are redefining the relationship between cities and businesses.

Stories Library