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Interview: Designing on the EDGE
Farah Mudhefer, 26, Irene Caravaca, 27 and Nenad Filipovic, 28, all work at EDGE whose current projects include two major high end waterfront projects along with car showrooms for top brands such as Aston Martin
Amidst the high-pressure design environment of the Middle East, with its emphasis on achieving targets, while keeping costs low, but also trying to build something which will make the rest of the world sit up and take notice, maintaining a work-life balance is not always a prime consideration for many studios.
But three young architects – variously dubbed “The Fighter”, “The Explorer” and “The Thinker”- say they have bought their outside influences into a workplace which encourages self-expression, rewards innovative thinking and promotes the taking of responsibility.
Farah Mudhefer, 26, Irene Caravaca, 27 and Nenad Filipovic, 28, all work at EDGE whose current projects include two major high end waterfront projects along with car showrooms for top brands such as Aston Martin.
Caravaca feels privileged to be at a firm which gives someone of her relatively young years such control over a project.
“The company will explain the concept along with 3D models, detailed concept summary and guidelines,” she says. “It is then up to us to take this brief and concept forward and design. There are brainstorming sessions and we discuss the work and make adjustments, but there is no hierarchy.”
Filipovic emphasises the team ethos at the studio. He says: “We all help each other. Now I couldn’t work in any other surrounding. I would find far too much blockage for creativity.”
Mudhefer joined the company fresh from graduation. She explains: “I started work and I was dealing with clients. Most of my friends were saying ‘but you’re just a graduate’. I admit I was scared at first. But then came a feeling of pride that I was being given such responsibility.”
The trio all emphasise how much their interests away from architecture are encouraged in the workplace and can also aid their creative processes in the field of design.
Mudhefer says: “I have always been a physically active person. Kick-boxing is a big favourite of mine and we [work colleagues] all went to the gym together. I also told everyone how I work far better standing up at a desk. The blood is circulating, I feel inspired – I work faster and find it much easier to communicate with colleagues.”
Filipovic explains he adopts a more cerebral approach to his design work. “I really like playing board games,” he says. “They teach me to think in a logical way and so I have learnt to apply that strategic approach to a project. I think it all through and try and work out the best route to get to where I want to be. Playing games with other people is challenging – really just the same as life.”
Art, music, culture and travel are the inspirations for Caravaca, especially in the early stages of a project.
“Before it all gets technical – that is when you can bring in so many different ideas and thoughts,” she says. “I want to experience as much as I can. It may not obviously be useful at first but you never know. If it’s in your mind it [an experience or influence] can come together when you need it. For instance, when I travel I’ll just go with the flow – I don’t research a place or anything like that, so I have no preconceptions.
“If I’m in a city I study everything, all the details of the buildings I see. It’s just me and one little camera, looking around and recording it all.”
But – for all the creativity the trio exhibit – do things ever go seriously wrong in the design process?
Caravaca says: “Yes, it’s true – we do make mistakes. But we discuss what went wrong and how to solve the issue. At work we never point at one person. We all get together in a meeting room and work out how to tackle and resolve a problem.”
Mudhefer adds: “I remember one particular mistake and I took full responsibility for rectifying it. After all, if you make it, you fix it. I feel this approach certainly builds my personality.”
- Farah Mudhefer was bought up in the UAE and studied at the American University of Sharjah.
- “It was on a trip to Europe that architecture took hold of me,” she says. “I was in Paris and I was looking at all those old and beautiful buildings which I loved. I had the weirdest feeling – how can a structure have such an effect on a person? It was then I knew what I wanted to do.”
- Irene Caravaca is from Spain and was first inspired by architecture when she saw the work of a friend of her fathers.
- “The design were so simple, yet so gorgeous,” she says. “When I saw what he was achieving I was just ‘wow’. He told me what an amazing impact architecture could have on society and how it can improve the quality of people’s lives, whether it’s a city masterplan, a home, or plotting the best route for buses.
- “I played the violin for 10 years and I still love music – Bonobo is a great favourite at the moment. But design became my great passion and I just thought – let’s do it.”
- Nenad Filipovic’s home city is Belgrade, Serbia.
- “I loved sketching as a child,” he says. “I was always building things out of Lego. As well I had a great mentor, a teacher who was also a friend of the family. He encouraged me in my original interest in design and that helped me to achieve what I wanted to do with my life.”
ON THE EDGE IN 14 COUNTRIES
EDGE is currently working in 14 countries on projects from single-family housing to master developments of 90km2. Clients include government agencies, master developers, international contractors, business leaders, and prominent families.
Ivar Krasinski, design director, has worked at top international organizations for 19 years and says the company philosophy is as follows: “We don’t manage. We lead and create a space for people to grow.”
Martin Baerschmidt, managing director, has 20 years of experience in Australia, Southeast Asia and the GCC and has worked with some of the most famous international firms in management and director positions.
The firm says it ensures every project from feasibility and master planning to architecture and interior design utilises BIM technology ensuring tight control of quantities and costs, multidisciplinary coordination, and optimised results.
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