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One of the newer architects in the RMJM family, Marija Krsmanovic Stringheta was quick to establish herself as a significant team player at the Dubai studio. Before joining RMJM, Marija (alongside Milena Kordić and Bruno Stringheta) founded SOBA, an architectural collective focused on understanding how an individual’s relationship with and understanding of a space evolves. Marija’s approach to architecture, and to her professional life in general, is to embrace the dynamic learning processes of each new challenge by constantly growing and adapting. She sat down with us earlier this month to discuss how engaging with these learning opportunities has shaped her career.
What do you do?
M: I am a senior architect, I joined RMJM in October 2019 but I got stuck into the middle of things straight away. I have responsibilities for a number of projects. It is a rewarding job because it has a really diverse requirement of skills, so I am constantly pushing myself.
Who inspires you?
M: Lately, I have been searching for some wisdom and balance that I expected to have at this point in my life. In that search, I found that inspiration often comes from simple things. Family and friends of course, but also the people you meet day-to-day who have small impacts that shape how we experience life. Professionally, I am always inspired by architects and studios who question the traditional and conventional approach.
How did you come to join this career path?
M: It was a fairly smooth and natural path for me to take. As young as seven I remember taking art classes and that was something I continued in the background through most of my formative years. When it came to deciding what to do at university I had two wished, to become an architect or a costume designer. I remember sitting down with one of the lecturers at the university and they were telling me how many careers incorporate elements of architecture and that felt really liberating. The idea that this one discipline would open all these doors for me really sold architecture to me and I have never looked back.
What role do you think gender plays in the architecture industry?
M: Gender can play a role in how an architect approaches certain topics. In my experience, women approach community and environment considerations differently to men. Having diverse team rounds out skills and ideas. It isn’t about just men or just women but the outcome of men and women working together.
How has the industry changed for women in recent years?
M: Its never been about one major change every now and again. Instead, it is about those small, everyday changes that have slowly but surely helped women garner the respect they deserve. More women than ever are studying architecture, which is fantastic, but this isn’t necessarily being reflected in practices.
What changes still need to come?
M: We still need more women in leadership positions. Not just team leaders but positions of seniority like directors and CEOs. It is easy to attend meetings and find yourself the only woman in the room. Last night two women won the Pritzker prize, which is an incredible honour, but they are only the fourth and fifth women to win the prize in its forty-plus year history. The industry is starting to recognise the achievements of its female peers but it has a lot of catching up to do!
What is the best professional decision you’ve ever made?
M: To invest in my education, for sure. I was living in Brazil with my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and we were both looking for jobs and struggling. We decided to move to Germany and study for a second masters at Städelschule Architecture Class in Frankfurt. It was the most challenging two years of my life but without a doubt the most rewarding years too.
What advice would you give to women entering the industry?
M: My advice for all young people who dream of becoming architects would be to follow their interest and find their niche outside of the mainstream. Now more than ever there is space for individuality and experimentation so embrace that! I would also remind them that we are shaping the physical environments our societies are built in, so remember that to be an architect is a privilege.