Nominated for our Rising Star category, German architect and construction manager, Mariska Stoffel has delivered landmark projects in the UAE. Here, she discusses challenging stereotypes of the construction industry and how she supports underprivileged youth.
Tell us about your work as a lead project manager for construction – how have you gotten to this point and what sparks your interest and passion in this field?
In my previous role as an associate at Woods Bagot, Dubai Design Studio, I was lead architect on site for the Madinat Jumeirah Phase 4 Extension, which is more commonly known as Jumeirah Al Naseem. I worked on the day-to-day details of building the hotel, and I managed its design and architectural aspects in terms of planning and organising, as well as the coordinating of resources to achieve specific goals and objectives.
I love to design, but I really enjoy getting projects built. I like that they exist. Professionally, there is no greater feeling than seeing a project you worked on come into existence. It takes a lot of commitment and desire to consistently deliver enhancements and solutions to meet the client’s satisfaction.
At Killa Design, I am currently managing the design and architectural aspects of the Museum of the Future, which requires using the latest technology to share available design intelligence and strengthen company knowledge. Challenging conventional design production through advanced technology is something I’m particularly interested in.
I am also passionate about challenging the stereotype that a builder is always a man, and I would like to help women thrive in the field of construction. Many still imagine a man in a hi-vis jacket on a building site, but women make up half of the world’s population, so it’s only right that we see them able to fulfill their potential and thrive in careers across our economy.
Discuss some of the projects that you have been responsible for.
For the past two years, I have been a major part of the Museum of the Future in Dubai as a project architect. Located in Dubai’s Financial District, the museum will become a permanent home for the world’s greatest innovations.
Not only is the museum a visual and artistic beacon, it also sets new innovative benchmarks: it’s cladded in stainless steel, achieving LEED Platinum status, and it’s designed holistically through BIM at every design stage. The design is a low carbon civic building, achieved via multiple design innovations, which include parametric design, passive solar architecture, low-energy and low-water engineering solutions, recovery strategies for both energy and water, and building integrated renewables.
Another project that I have been responsible for is the Jumeirah Al Naseem Resort. I was responsible for the day-to-day detail delivery of the five-star hotel, which included coordinating the given design vision, overall project coordination and documentation to achieve the set objectives.
The 85,000m2 development contains 430 suites (including two presidential suites and a royal suite), restaurants and bars, a beach club, a waterfront F&B zone and a turtle lagoon, which is part of Jumeirah’s turtle rehabilitation project.
Jumeirah Al Naseem Resort was handed over to the client on 1 December, 2016 and opened to the public on 2 December, 2016.
You’re originally German but you work in the UAE – how do you hope to contribute to the UAE’s built environment, and what do you think you can bring to it as an expat specialist in your field?
Germans are known for being punctual and detail and goal-oriented in our interactions and approach to work. We love rules, organisation and structure – and this is reflected in my character. While practicing in the Middle East for the past 11 years, my work has long been informed by my rationale and logic.
My “cliché” ethos centres on critical thinking, and extends beyond the boundaries of architectural production to realise specific and unexpected solutions. I try to push boundaries by implementing design decisions rooted in the cultural context, while respecting local sensitivities and the environment. My main focus is on connecting cities with their communities and my interest in innovation, new services, products and solutions, is all geared toward creating new design thinking.
The UAE is very inspiring and offers infinite possibilities for the future. My ambition is to be a part of the process, and to be a pioneer. Witnessing the transformation of the UAE, and being a part of the construction of the cities of tomorrow, is greatly inspiring.
What do you aim to achieve during each project you work on?
I always approach each project with an eye on the future – a method encouraged by the interactive nature of the international firm I work for.
I always ask the question: how do we design today’s buildings so that they can address tomorrow’s challenges? Our interaction with the built environment and architecture was very different a decade ago, and I predict it will be different again a decade from now. The process of anticipating changes and designing something today that will still be relevant in the future is a big challenge.
However, in order for any architect to improve the productivity of a building, one must understand its sole purpose, and that’s what we plan to do moving forward with our projects – to understand their context and give meaning to the process.
Also, with pollution levels on the rise and global warming worsening, it’s important to consider construction’s impact – be it from construction machinery, material waste or the transportation of materials to the site. Then, when in use, buildings are responsible for a significant proportion of our carbon emissions. Poorly designed and constructed buildings use more energy and contribute to global warming. To raise awareness and social activity around this issue, I try to set an example: if we show that we personally care and implement procedures that enforce environmentally sustainable work practices, then others will follow. We will design better and educate our clients and contractors on best practice in building design.
Tell us about your social responsibility efforts.
I work for an organisation that is dedicated to making the world a smarter, safer, healthier and more sustainable place, which I take great pride in.
I think of architecture as a representative of who we are and what we believe in – it is something to live in and encounter every day. The responsibilities I assume through my work are woven into the fabric of my social values, not only in my efforts to teach and lecture about architecture and construction, but also in my work supporting young women in their endeavours to complete their education and fill positions of authority. I believe that most young adults are blessed with creativity and intelligence, so I strive to find ways to empower and support those who have limited resources.
Most of my travels are to areas where there are limited education opportunities, and I visit schools to bring learning materials for the students. During these volunteering missions, I have also taught English in remote areas.
I help empower young designers flourish in today’s economy, and I strongly focus on local community welfare. I also work to raise awareness of how orphans and disabled youth can be better integrated into our daily social and urban fabric.
What are you working on now?
I am working on the Museum of the Future, which is now LEED Platinum-certified. It’s on track to open in early 2020. I also aim to improve the company’s focus on day-to-day sustainability in projects, as well as the use and application of BIM.
Our Meet the Finalists series is a compilation of interviews with those who have been shortlisted for our awards. Mariska Stoffel is a finalist for Tamayouz’s award for women in architecture and construction, which awards female architects from the Middle East and North Africa.