Tell us about your background.
I grew up in the US in a military household that moved to a new base every two years, so I got used to making new friends and changing environments quickly. My family finally ended up in Texas where I earned my undergraduate degree in Architecture, from Texas A&M University. Five days after graduating, I moved to Hong Kong and enrolled at HKU for my master of architecture, graduating in 2012. I’ve lived in Hong Kong since 2009, I met my wife here in 2010, and our son was born here in 2017.
What’s one thing not a lot of people know about you?
I enjoy cooking nearly as much as I do designing. I worked as a part-time chef during my undergraduate days, and still cook as often as I can. I’ll typically spend my weekends making homemade corn tamales or grilling fajitas on my rooftop. Cooking is a great stress reliever for me.
Did you always want to be an architect?
Even though I spent most of my childhood drawing elaborate designs for dream houses and futuristic inventions, I’d always intended to follow in my father’s footsteps in joining the military to become a fighter pilot. But despite him being a pilot, he had a collection of hand-drawn mechanical schematics and industrial designs from his university days as an industrial-design major. I studied these drawings at every opportunity and tried to emulate them in my own ways. When it came time to make my decision to join the military or study architecture, I visited my future university’s architecture building and saw students building models in their studio. I decided to follow the path that would allow me to build physical, tangible objects and spaces in real life, which is what I’m doing today.
Tell us about your first big break.
After graduating from HKU and spending the next few years working under William Lim at CL3 Architects, my classmate and good friend Norman Ung and I made a risky move by starting our own design studio, DEFT, when we were both 27 years old and without major institutional clients of our own. At that time, each project we brought in was our biggest break up to that point. We were approached in late 2016 to take on the flagship project of a new co-living start-up called Weave. Working with Sachin Doshi and his team at Weave to design their first property in Hong Kong was an amazing experience, and it gave my team and I a hefty amount of confidence in handling larger projects. We’ve since worked with Weave on two more properties, one of which opened in August and another that will open later this year.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Starting a company at the age of 27, two years after graduating from university, comes with many challenges and potential pitfalls, and managing a company with staff and facing clients at a relatively young age, while convincing these clients to trust in our vision and abilities without a lengthy track record or portfolio of our own, seemed like an impossible task at the time.
What impact has the pandemic had on your operations?
Fortunately, our current work in Hong Kong hasn’t been affected much by the pandemic aside from occasional delays in procuring materials and furniture. In fact, we’ve seen an uptick in project enquiries, specifically regarding office and restaurant/bar design work. The most impactful consequence of the pandemic for us is not being able to visit our Manila office in the past half-year. Fortunately, our persevering team there have pushed through and are still doing a remarkable job.
What can we look forward to from you in the next 12 months?
We have a few more hospitality projects under construction that will be opening in the next four to six months: a 200-room hotel in Wong Chuk Hang, a boutique hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, and a new living brand from Weave that will be wrapping up towards the end of the year. We’re also working on our first project in India, a 236,000-square-foot, mixed-use development in New Delhi for which we’re providing the branding, architecture and interior design.