An interview with Fariah Shameem Akbar, Chairman, Arquitectura Private Limted
A passionate architect with a big dream of breaking challenging boundaries of all obstacles around architectural facts, Fariah Sharmeen Akbar with her perfect camaraderie and her life partner Ar. Shafiul Azam Shamim is the key visionary person of her own independent Arquitectura Pvt. Ltd. studio. Fariah’s experience encompasses a wide range of residential, commercial, factory and industrial, recreational and tourism related projects across the region and elsewhere.
Graduated with Architecture in 2009 from country’s one of the leading institutions Brac University, Fariah is an enthusiastic person with a wide interest of art, music and culture also. Currently, she is holding the position of Chairman at Arquitectura Private Limited.
Recently Fariah talks to Fintech team and informs about her working experience and future plan of her company. Here is the excerpt for the Fintech readers.
Tell us bit about you and your career. How did you come at this position today?
Completing my graduation from Brac University, I inclined to start a venture with my vision. I am very much enthusiastic in designing forms& Space. After 10 Years of extreme hardship presently I am serving as the Chairman and also a partner of this company. Not only I am the business woman but a mother of two little kids as well. So it’s indeed a bit hard for me being in this profession to maintain the balance of my lifestyle. I along with my partner Ar. Shamim for the last 10 years have been running through the professional life. I am always saying my earnest love is architecture and it is kind of addiction to me. I have total three offspring: my two children and Arquitectura. This is actually the main passion to lead me ahead with my working responsibility. Right now we are working with large scale urban projects; some apartment buildings, factories and side by side commercial buildings, interior projects as well. In business filed, I must say, I am doing okay. Alhamdulillah.
If you ask me how I came at this position, I must say my determination to work with creative sector has led me to pave the way to hold this position. I am always grateful to my family & my partner Arch. Shamim for being my so supportive because without them I might not be able to come at this platform today.
How did Arquitectura begin its journey?
Arquitectura started its maiden voyage in 2013. Before starting my venture after my graduation I began to work in information Architect and kept working there around three and half years. I was there under Ar. Khalid Ahmed Khan and Ar. Nazmul Hassan Palash. I admit they are my best mentors in my life at least for me because they not only introduced me to the professional field but also taught me many things which are my learnings of practice today.
While working in Neoformation I was working as a freelancer too of my own. Coincidently One day while visiting my uncle’s office I got introduced with the country head of Bureau Veritas and all of a sudden he asked me if I am interested to do a project for BV Bangladesh with him. As I was so new to this corporate world for me it was a great challenge at that time. By the by, I didn’t say no and accepted the proposal since I was interested in this work. I went to Savar. It was almost a great billion amount project. I don’t know whether I could be successful or not but Mr. Rassanga had a great faith on me. I worked there as an architect for 3 years since and I think it was the life changing decision of mine because I left everything I was comfortable with, my job at Neoformation. So, that particular project gave me the courage to move on and made my new venture. In fine, June 2013, I started Arquitectura design studio. Two years later, we were commissioned to do the Dhaka Club wellness centre project. Shamim joined me in 2015 and finally in 2017, we established Arquitectura Private Limited. So we have two ventures Arquitectura Design Studio for core consultancy and Arquitectura Pvt. Ltd for construction & supply.
We witnessed the massive change of Dhaka Club within a very short period of time. How did you manage so?
Well…. Yes, maybe we are so young at age and it was the benefit at work also because, we never consider the negative aspects and the risk factors of project as the fear factor. The best thing is, Both Arch. Shamim and I am hard working person. We don’t pay heed to tiredness. We try to complete our commitments, be there for our clients. However, Dhaka Club was also a coincident for us. They were looking for architects for some other projects and among them badminton space was one of them. When we showed our project to Dhaka Club President Mr. Khairul Majid, he appreciated our design much and some days later he offered us another project to be implemented for the wellness centre but it has to be completed within six months. Somehow the whole team worked very hard and synchronized including the club authority itself. With seven days, we got the order of Dhaka Club project and fortunately we manage to finish our work within due time.
It was very difficult for us indeed because we were only three architects then. We had a civil group with us including interior group. Almost four hundred people worked every day for that site and we worked full days, day & night. Sometimes I and Shamim shifted the time schedule like six hours or Shamim sometimes was there for all night. I salute Shamim for such a support. I think when we correspond every time with plan, vendors and suppliers, the things must be done. Maybe it could take time but altogether you can manage proper plan and procurement facilities as well.
What are the challenges women face at tech and business particularly in leadership positions?
Being a woman leader, from clients perspective the prime thing that we face is 50-50 chance like you as an woman can do the thing or you may not perhaps. People think, “She is a woman, would she be able to do the technical thing or could she maintain the timing schedule?” This is the biggest negative issue to working woman. The trust even still today I face so from some of my clients. Basically, they doubt, they cannot have the faith on women and that doubt is the drawback in working sector because we need to be 200% confident to take them in confidence. I need to know more, study more than my male partner. Yes, balancing business and family like is also a very difficult part, as I am also a mother. My kids get unwell, family becomes sick and for that reason implementing the project could be delayed but it’sa very natural thing for human being, we cannot avoid these. When a man stays back their work for this, society has no problems, they consider it as a kind act for that men. But for woman society or clients point it as an issue of corporate flaw or shortcoming.
But nowadays, I also experience some corporate sectors, who are welcoming women so much because of their dedication. And that is the positive sign for women. If you are in balancing terms, challenges may be there but you can overcome all those obstacles.
Your company always prioritizes eco-friendly design. Tell us something about this.
Arquitectura’s vision is “To touch the earth lightly”. We use minimal terms of building materials, what you need or prefer to build. In recent years we have been working for LEED certified factories which is an international strategy. When we get opportunities we use regional materials as well, like clay for building too. We try not to use unnecessary materials which are hazardous for nature. we mostly use wood-in different forms as our design style too.
Our idea is to make sustainable and self-breathing architectural facility with minimum costing and eco-friendly materials while keeping the individual aesthetic approach of every designed element either it’s a building or product. Team Arquitectura together looks for every opportunity to make any project workable both for the client and the physical world around us. Besides, we try to have green enjoyable spaces for every projects to feel to enjoy. Green means its not like a tree or a clumsy garden just to show off. Green means an invitation to nature in your space without harming the nature. If you are providing a better solution to the clients, you are going to have better feedback with better response to your projects. This is how we want to introduce the green thinking to our clients.
What do you enjoy most while working?
I enjoy working with my team mostly. I never try to be boss to them. Yes I am a leader and I lead them but not treat them being the graved boss. I always tell my members to consider this office to be theirs. And I think, it is so because almost two fourth of the day they are spending time with this office. They should think they belong to here as the family and this workplace is their own. Our togetherness is our main strength. Besides, we divide our working style in groups like-some manage the technical part or some belongs to design- depends on the field they are interested to. We are happy to work together here at the office. It’s like the Architectural studio more than a tight scheduled office though we work ten to eleven hours per day.
What is ahead for Arquitectura?
The whole world of architecture is now concerned about environmental design and to make the healthy relation of manmade design with natural environment. Soon it will be a main stream practice we all hope. But for Arquitectura, what we more emphasize is the practice of Regional Architecture with the global trend of practice. And it is not only environment friendly but also self-sustainable. Practice with local material, Environment while respecting the locals. As Arquitectura mostly practices Turn key projects we have the opportunity to build our own project. To build is not the only job for architects, to implement the idea of functionality without building much is what Arquitectura is looking forward in upcoming years.
Thank you much for your time to Fintech.
You’re most welcome and I am pleased to talk to you.