Muscat: It is the unquenchable thirst to carve a niche for oneself and to set precedence for the rest that makes one stand out, along with an undying passion and ambition in the chosen field.
Underlining the fact that one ought to follow his or her heart, Nisreen Kayyali, a young Palestinian architect is hitting the headlines after she designed some of the most iconic projects, maintenance facility for an airport besides many residential and commercial projects in the region aiming to cater to the changing times and generations
Studied in Jordanian capital of Amman, Nisreen made her presence felt in the GCC after establishing herself in the region with her architecture practice in Dubai.
Today, she has completed over 500 projects ranging from mega projects such as aircraft maintenance facility, hotels, large scale residential and commercial buildings to private villas and mansions. The extensive portfolio of her firm, Nisreen Kayyali Consulting Engineers includes residential, commercial, religious, educational, and hospitality projects.
Her project for Jordan, Al Baddad Aviation project, a 32000 M2 massive edifice located at the King Hussein Airport in Aqaba, Jordan, was built on A64000M2 land and consists of two buildings, viz, an administration building having a total area of 5000M2 and, an airplane maintenance hangar with a free SPAM of 110M and 32M height making it one of the world's largest Free SPAM Hangars. Both the maintenance facility and aviation academy, two projects at the same airport has made her cynosure of her peers. The scope of its work was full design including architectural, structural and electrical and mechanical works.
Excerpts from a tête-à-tête with her:
1) How long have you been designing aircrafts’ maintenance facilities at airports for?
I have designed aircrafts’ maintenance facilities at many airports. It was at the very beginning of my career when I first got the opportunity to design a project of this scale. At the time, I did not have a lot of experience, so I learned a lot of what needed to be done through extensive research. There were a lot of terms that were new to me but that didn’t discourage me.
2) How strenuous was designing an aircraft’s maintenance project?
An aircraft’s maintenance project has a lot of very specific requirements for dimensions and spaces that we need to adhere to. Designing something so massive and complicated inside the airport was a big deal for me at the time. It boosted my self-confidence regarding my work at a very young age. Luckily for me, the aircrafts facilities project turned out to be a big success. It also helped me connect with suppliers globally and taught me how to communicate with people and helped me understand the fundamentals of price discussions. From there, I knew I could design anything. Soon after that, I started taking on bigger projects.
3) What aspects do you take into consideration as you start designing a project?
My design process truly centers around my client’s desires for their spaces. The first meeting with my clients determines which aspects of design I would need to take care of or pay attention to. For example if my clients are particularly inclined to use their space to host, then I will focus on making their home design optimal for carrying out those activities.
4) Functionality, aesthetics and care for environment?
In general my focus is on balancing functionality and aesthetics with ease of movement throughout the project. The environmental impact of each design is also extremely important and considered during the initial phase of a project. My design processes also change according to what exists naturally in the surroundings such as the view around the property or the type of ground and elevation we need to work with. The movement of the sun can’t be ignored either as it impacts the orientation of the spaces that we design.
5) How has the journey been so far as a woman in this field?
At the beginning of my career, I did struggle as a woman in the architectural industry. I had to work through obstacles such as a lack of trust and more particularly the bias of preferring male architects for larger projects that needed bigger financial investments.
I had to prove that I was able to produce great work that was comparable to or exceeding that of my male counterparts in the industry. This was a time that I was not as established as my male colleagues within the industry.
6) How has your upbringing helped you in establishing yourself as an architect?
It was my confidence in myself that became the true turning point in my career. I could only convince clients if I was myself convinced that I could bring or exceed the expected results. One of the biggest challenges of being a woman in the industry is being able to build that confidence in your abilities. In this case, truly formulating your own unique style that cannot be replicated by anyone else goes a long way. In other words, you cannot afford not to stand out.
7) What are the other challenges in this profession that you’d like to share?
There are many challenges and deterring facts in literally every profession on earth. And yet, when done right, these same professions become highly profitable and meaningful to us. In our line of work, we sometimes need to work longer hours. But I think if you are truly passionate about what you do, you can always learn to find the right balance for your life. I believe that at the end of the day, it’s important to continuously get better at what you do and never stop learning.
8) What opportunities do women have in architecture?
Women have all the opportunities in the world when it comes to architecture. We have reached a point where there is no longer any gender differentiation. If you excel at what you do, you will enjoy a plentiful career.
9) What is your secret mantra in life?
Follow your heart, never leave your passion for work, instead, make your passion your work so that you will never get bored and regret in life.