The graceful renderings of Ray Chuang conjure a world of sleek, curving lines, ingenious proportions, and nifty lighting schemes. A junior designer for the Rockwell Group architecture and design firm, Chuang is already, in the words of Hospitality Design magazine, a “rising star.” The trade publication has featured him three times and selected him, based on his student work, for its 2007 list of “fascinating” designers, the “HD Dozen.”
His proposed scheme for a hotel lobby, guest suite, and spa featuring a unique Jacuzzi made up of concentric pools won him $30,000 in a Donghia Foundation competition. For a restaurant rendering that won an HD award, he designed booths that resembled Chinese “moon gate” garden entryways. His are spaces anyone would want to enter. Given his roundabout route to success, Chuang’s bright future is remarkable. Takashi Kamiya, department chairperson, chuckles at the irony: “He really couldn’t focus on anything at all until he got here.” Chuang agrees. He began an accounting degree in his native Taiwan. “But I was a bad student,” he says. “I didn’t like studying, and I was always reading design magazines under my desk.”
He moved to New York with his family seven years ago, and applied to FIT’s Interior Design program. He was rejected three times. Undaunted, he applied to the Photography program instead, got in, and eventually transferred. Kamiya gave him a C-minus in his first studio class. “Everything was new to me,” Chuang says. “I always chose solid color fabric; I didn’t know how to use pattern.” He learned quickly, earning an A in his second studio and in every class thereafter.
In October, Chuang joined Rockwell, where he’s been developing an MGM Grand casino floor plan. “Each space (casino, restaurant, lounge, lobby) has its square footage limit and seating counts,” he explains. “Also we need to consider security between casino cage and public space. If you’ve ever watched the movie Ocean’s Eleven, what we do is prevent this from happening again.” He also has a couple of independent projects currently in the works. A “bubble tea” shop design wittily incorporates bubble shapes; and a coolly streamlined Lower East Side apparel store reflects Chuang’s desire to, like his idol Philippe Starcke, “make classical things modern.”