Nicole Hollant-Denis, AIA
AARIS Design Studios PLLC
New York, NY
Nicole Hollant-Denis joined the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey right after obtaining a degree in architecture from Cornell University. At the Port Authority, she received intensive training in the entire design process. It was a great opportunity, the artist, painter, designer, and architect acknowledges, but she ultimately left to open her own firm, Aaris Design Studios PLLC.
“I wanted to do projects that were more culturally focused,” she states. “Architecture allows me to help people by exploring ways to rebuild communities such that their residents can relate strongly to the designs.” The most difficult aspect of running her company is on the business end — attending to such details as accounting, labor laws, and benefits packages. “I don’t feel I have successfully delegated that part of my work,” Hollant-Denis concedes. “Anything architectural, even though it’s hard — anything having to do with design, creative thought — doesn’t feel like work at all.”
Aaris has worked on several gratifying projects, but Hollant-Denis is most proud of its design of the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City. Parents, mentors, and friends supported her goals, but she learned a few painful lessons on her own and has much to say to aspiring architects. “Know how to organize your time: business is business; home life is home life. Don’t sell yourself short for the value of your work. Collaborate. This is a great time for team building, for marketing in a synergetic fashion so you’re getting larger contracts,” she advises.
Hollant-Denis also has a master’s degree in design studies, with a concentration in urban planning and real estate development, from Harvard University. “I would love to help in the struggle to end starvation and homelessness. With the advance of technology and the understanding of history, there are simply no more excuses,” she asserts.