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Huy Bui on Freunde Von Freunden

PHOTOS BY EMILY JOHNSTON

Though we have a particular fondness for so many of the designers we’ve featured or worked with in the five years since Sight Unseen began, Huy Bui might be the only one who can lay claim to being both one of our favorite designers and the co-founder of one of our favorite New York restaurants. As the founder of Plant-In City — or what he calls architectural terrariums for “the 21st century” — Bui was one of the inaugural exhibitors at our Sight Unseen OFFSITE showcase last year. And as the designer and co-founder of the Lower East Side Vietnamese eatery An Choi, Bui’s provided the backdrop for many a late-night design date. So when Freunde von Freunden reached out with the opportunity to co-publish a story on Bui’s Brooklyn apartment and studio — complete with cameos by the designer’s sweet dog Loopy, one of the more popular attractions at OFFSITE last year — we jumped at the chance. We’ve excerpted the intro (written by Shoko Wanger) and a selection of photos here, but head on over to FvF when you’re done for a full look at the designer’s digs as well as his unconventional career path — from banker to architecture student to full-blown plant whisperer.

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“Huy Bui speaks about his plants the way some people speak about their children. His eyes widen. He smiles. He tells stories with the energy and awe of someone who’s been witness to the beginnings of life and all the magic of notable “firsts”: first blooms, first blossoms, first signs of growth.”

“To those familiar with Huy’s path as an architect, designer, and creative thinker, this makes sense. Fascinated with nature and the adaptability of plant life, the former banker has spent the better portion of the past three years tending to a project he calls Plant-in City, which marries smart design, technological innovation, and a deep appreciation for the natural world. Centered on stackable wooden structures made to sustain plant life in urban settings, Plant-in City installations serve as a reminder that science and art can coexist beautifully — and are connected in ways that transcend aesthetics.”

“The artist himself appears to be someone who’s deeply connected, too — to his work, certainly, but also to the many joys of life. When he’s not ensconced in his Williamsburg studio, he’s reading at his apartment just blocks away, or walking his dogs (both of whom he shares with friends), or squeezing in a meal at the Manhattan restaurant he co-owns with his brother. He talks often about how lucky he is, and how inspired.”

“Standing outside his studio, shivering in the biting cold of a January afternoon, he beams. ‘What a great day,’ he says. ‘And what a life.'”
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