Just three years after founding award-winning design practice, Design House Liberty, Dara Huang is already shaping London’s skyline. 9Fi5th meets one of the next generation of architects driving the industry to new heights.
“People create their own luck,” said Dara Huang, confidently. “Every person I have ever met, every connection or collaboration I have done, has led to now.”
Outspoken in her approach to success, Dara Huang has created a formula that has seen Design Haus Liberty (DHLiberty), the company she founded in 2013, stand out from the crowd. A young firm, DHLiberty approaches each project with fresh eyes, focused on generating something new. The layers of culture and history that make up the urban fabric of London are the starting point of every concept. “When I approach a project, I try not to have any preconceptions about what it should be. Every site is like a story; you get an intuition of how you feel about it, from the whisper of the air or the direction of the wind, and then turn this into a solution for the client.” The practice, although relatively small, is made up of a workforce that comes from many intense, design-led backgrounds, the world over. Dara describes DHLiberty as a “more formal version of a design think tank,” and similarly, every project starts with a conversation between departments, where all ideas are thrown into the mix, no matter how much they contrast. In fact, Dara revels in the juxtaposition of ideas, preferring DHLiberty not to have a set style. “I love a combination of different things that you wouldn’t normally expect to work together, whether it be textural qualities like marble and concrete, or form,” she said. “I really like combining a contemporary interior with antique, intricate, furniture.” This take on design has led to unique solutions, which have helped make DHLiberty the success it is now. Current projects include a 550 unit, new-build, graduate housing scheme for The Collective, a 110 unit, new-build, mixed residential/commercial development in Central London, and a collection of £20m penthouses in South Bank Tower. The DHLiberty international portfolio includes restaurants, offices, hospitality and commercial spaces. Not stopping at interiors and architecture, DHLiberty has recently designed bespoke light installations, now commissioned by luxury hotels and airports all over the world. A definite hit, Dara hopes to create smaller, more affordable pieces in the future. “I want to improve people’s lives through design. Habitat has the power to affect mood – if you’re living in a slightly depressing flat, all you need is one beautiful light to make a difference.”
DHLiberty is certainly making a difference in the London design community. With three RIBA competition wins for social projects under its belt, along with a constant stream of interesting new proposals on its desks, the company is becoming a force to be reckoned with. When asked what the best piece of advice to her former self would be, Dara kept it simple. “Always follow your heart. Don’t go into something just thinking about the money. If you truly believe in what you are doing, people will share your vision; that’s when the money comes in to keep the business going.”