Woodbury University alumnus Henry Cheung graduated from the Master of Architecture program (MArch) in 2013.
After his graduation he joined Bestor Architecture in Los Angeles and has worked on such high-profile projects as the Beats by Dre headquarters in Culver City, California. Bestor Architecture was founded in 1995 by architect Barbara Bestor. The office engages Southern California as both the site and subject of architectural and cultural production to create contemporary environments.
We caught up with Henry to find out how his education at Woodbury University prepared him for his role as a designer and architect at a firm that navigates between popular culture, art, and architecture.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments both personally and professionally?
My greatest accomplishment both personally and professionally is discovering balance between the two. I’ve always been left of center, navigating one realm more intensely than the other. It is essential for me to make time to reinsert myself into normalcy and allow time to reflect and reinvent.
Balancing and being balanced was what I was striving for after graduate school, and I feel like I am just getting familiar with it after graduating in 2012.
How did your time in the Master of Architecture program at Woodbury University help you to pursue your work?
The inter-connectivity and intimate network of creative individuals at Woodbury University has allowed me to pursue my work as a young Los Angeles designer. The avant-gardist approach to architecture and elevated conceptual thought of the graduate department shaped the way I approach architecture and design. It has allowed me to extract the quirks and oddities of life, reshuffle them, and present them in an unusually beautiful way.
What do you like best about working at Bestor Architecture?
Bestor Architecture’s play on creating strange and beautiful atmospheres align with my own design manifesto. My thesis, Synesthesia, plays with layering atmospheres in a similar way, blurring the lines and creating subtle collisions between pop culture, graphics, art and architecture — and this is what I love working at Bestor. I am able to tap into my diverse skill-sets, whether it’s my previous graphics and arts background, geography or architecture. Come on, it is also rooted in the best city ever, Los Angeles.
What projects have you worked on that you’re most proud of?
Beats by Dre HQ in Culver City is one of those projects that I will never forget. I learned and developed tremendously as a designer, creating spaces that were both conceptually profound, graphically punchy, while maintaining a balance between play and function. I was able to apply that acquired knowledge to one of the proudest project that I’ve had the chance to work on – a conceptual juice store in Pasadena due to open in July 2016. The project is a great balance between high-design and detail, and is on the pulse of what architectural design should be – a gesamtkunstwerk if you will.
You work at Bestor Architecture, founded by Barbara Bestor. As the architecture field is still a male dominated field, how has working with an accomplished and award-winning female architect such as Barbara Bestor shaped your approach to design and architecture? (if it has)
It’s quite funny that you bring this up. When working at Bestor Architecture you don’t immediately think of gender roles. We are all great designers at the office, and the work that we are producing is highly collaborative and the work speaks for itself. Barbara is an inspirational mentor who surrounds you with the utmost ammo for success. She encourages you to explore, to expand, and to tap into the unexpected and unrealized. She was my thesis advisor after all.
What have been the biggest challenges in your career? Did your experiences at Woodbury University help you to overcome the obstacles you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge in the creative professional realm is being able to adapt and collaborate with a wide array of individuals with different working styles, personalities, and skill sets. As a former teaching assistant and adjunct at Woodbury University, I’ve developed into a more patient, understanding, and collaborative individual. It will be something I will continue to work on – to become a better collaborator not only in design but also across all disciplinary lines.
What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
“Be conceptual, be weird, and just design!” That’s what I would say to current graduate students attending not only Woodbury University but elsewhere as well.
What would you say to a prospective student who is considering Woodbury University?
Woodbury University is a place of sheer exploration of self and design in the most avant-gardist, indie way. You can sculpt your path and explore your interest with support and minimum restrictions. Woodbury is embedded in the most exciting city for architectural exploration, experimentation, and implementation.
What is your lasting impression of studying architecture at Woodbury University?
Woodbury has provided me with a design education that allowed me to find my voice not only in architecture, but all form of design. The network, connections, and colleagues that I have made are pivotal to my professional and personal life as a Los Angeles-based designer.
Describe Woodbury University in 3 words.
Theoretical. Rad. Exploratory.