Love or hate the never-ending race that is New York City, you have to run to keep up. Danu Hassik has maintained a steady pace since arriving from New Zealand 4 years ago. For her first freelance project, Danu and her partner were the architectural designers behind New York City cafe Happy Bones: recent winner of Interior Design Magazine’s Best of Year Award. In the blur of constant motion, Danu relies on her own two feet to keep moving forward.
“The minute I got here I knew it was the right place. In New Zealand everyone told me how hard it was going to be, but I’ve been blown away at how facilitating the city is and the altruistic attitude among the people. It’s true that the lifestyle can get to you sometimes—you’re in a place driven by incredible ambition, surrounded by high achievers doing a million things at once. Work is really valued here and what you do holds great social currency—it’s rare to meet someone who hates their job.
I recently started working at Parts & Labor, a design firm with a creative approach to retail & hospitality spaces. The previous agency I was with specialized in high-end residential architecture, which gave me great local knowledge but was not necessarily my passion. Towards the end of my time there, I took on Happy Bones with my creative partner at the time. It was our first freelance project and a taste of what I want to get into—I’m really interested in social parameters and how architecture can impact society. With Happy Bones we injected a little bit of culture in that Soho block and brought all of these people together, which is what it’s all about for me.
Happy Bones came about for a reason—NYC is a powerhouse for manifestation. Why wouldn’t you concentrate on what you want, when the alternative is to be unhappy and disappointed? I’ve always believed that as long as I’m doing something, the things I want will happen. If you don’t know what your end goal is, just do something—anything.
Wrong decisions have always helped me get to the right one.
When I’ve had a clear plan, it never happens that way anyway. I’ve let go of needing to know everything and it stops me from worrying. That confidence to self-explore comes from a nurturing, loving platform that allowed me to be curious about myself and the rest of the world. With a supportive family, you know that if shit hits the fan, you’ll be ok.
After Happy Bones, I tried freelancing for a while but it wasn’t the right time to go out on my own. With architecture you’re making big decisions that involve real money and consequences—there’s a lot of responsibility. I still do freelance projects on the side, but I want to learn as much as I can while I’m here, because I know I won’t be here forever. I think this city has an expiration date on it and a lot of people who I speak to agree. It’s perfect while I’m young and want stimulation and opportunity,
but at some point what I want will change.
Having children doesn’t scare me as such—maybe intimidates is a better word. I’m a bit daunted by the idea of having to give up my work, but I also wouldn’t be with someone who didn’t support me in that way. Either way, I don’t see myself as a parent who will be totally sacrificial. When it comes to marriage, while I like the idea of it, I’m not sure of the significance it will have in my life. Who knows though, my answer could be different in 5 years from now. That’s what’s more interesting to me—the question of when. I’m turning 28 and used to think I would have kids at 25.
I recently read an article about technology that freezes your ovarian tissue. Primarily developed for cancer patients, there are healthy women using it to reproduce when they’re older. I question the idea of making child-birth about convenience. I don’t know that we’re meant to have everything in that way. You have to work a really long time to get to the top, which is why a lot of women there don’t have children. I’m not sure it should be so selective—to tick the career box at 50, then have a child as a reward.
Life, naturally, is more fluid than that and there’s a reason for it.
At this age we’re on a horizon of all these things in our future that have never been a reality until now. It makes you question what’s important, which for me is in how I go about my day to day life, what I say yes and no to and who I surround myself with. It’s easy to say I value friends and family, but I’ve also chosen to leave them—so I clearly value ambition, experience and the unknown. I know there will be a time when my values will change—maybe this is the beginning of that time.”
As told to Amy Woodside, June 2014