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Meet The Next Generation of Leaders in MAREJ's Thriving Under 30

Paulina Escobar | Architect | CREATE Architecture, Planning & Design

Years with company/firm: 1.5
Years in the field: 4

How do you contribute to your company and/or the industry?

As a young architect, I believe I bring a unique perspective and contributions to both my company and the industry as a whole. Being part of a younger generation that has grown up with a rapidly shifting world has given me a different sensibility and approach to design that has to adapt to these constantly evolving needs and desires. I believe that architecture should be community oriented and should respond to the context and environment where it is situated. In a time where architecture has to be addressed with such a strong focus on sustainability, innovation and social responsibility, I bring a fresh point of view that strives to incorporate these principles into our work. This has allowed me to challenge established norms and find unconventional solutions, while actively searching for opportunities to experiment with innovative design concepts and newer trends in urban planning and architecture.

Additionally, ever since working at CREATE in the architectural commercial sector, I recognize the dramatic evolution happening in retail. Today, no longer just selling products; retail has transformed itself into an experience-led industry due to a new generation of consumers that prioritize the “shopping experience” when visiting malls and retail spaces. I contribute to both my company and the industry by understanding this constantly shifting landscape and how it is crucial when it comes to the future of retail architecture and design. Interpreting the new needs and preferences of the new generation of consumers enables me to provide design solutions tailored specifically towards meeting their expectations. Successful retail architecture involves more than simply functional spaces; successful designs create experiences that evoke emotions, reflect brand identities, and facilitate memorable encounters between people and brands.

By bringing a fresh perspective to the table that understands a younger demographic and by being part of a generation with great academic and professional focus on sustainability and community oriented design, I add value by pushing for innovative, experiential and sustainable architecture. I am excited for the future of architecture, retail and design and am lucky enough to be part of an organization that is at the forefront of reimaging them all.

Who or what has been the strongest influence in your career?

The strongest influence on my career has been the combination of my Latin American roots with my experiences and knowledge acquired while working in the United States. This fusion of cultures and perspectives has shaped the way I look at design.

Growing up in a family with great sensibility and appreciation for architecture, design and culture had a tremendous influence on me. Music, literature and art were deeply valued in my home as integral parts of our everyday life which shaped the way I look at the world, and in turn, architecture. My family also instilled in me a great enthusiasm for travel which has allowed me to interact with architecture in different settings and has allowed me to understand the importance of cultural context when it comes to design.

Later on, as I began my professional journey, I was fortunate enough to work with mentors that sparked new curiosity and passion within me. They challenged conventional thinking while encouraging me to question norms and explore innovative design approaches.

Today, I believe my design approach draws heavily on the combination between those two experiences. I try to capture elements of my Latin American culture, while also drawing upon the knowledge gained later on in my professional life abroad such as cutting edge technologies, innovative materials, new construction methods and global perspectives in design.

What were some of your early goals and did anything happen to change them?

Early in my career, my goals centered around aesthetics and overall innovation of design/architecture projects. My primary focus on architecture was deeply rooted in aesthetics and my main goal was to design visually attractive projects. Today, while aesthetics remain important to me, my perspective has grown overtime to appreciate design as a vehicle for positive transformation.

Currently, I recognize that every architectural intervention has the power to make a significant impact and this understanding motivates and drives my design approach. Whether it's a new construction project or a renovation, my ultimate goal is to add value. Responsible architecture should go beyond aesthetics. It should be about designing spaces which improve the lives of people who interact with them. I believe in the importance of place making and our responsibility as architects to consider the social, cultural and environmental factors that shape a specific context. My goal is to understand a space’s identity and create architecture that responds to these surroundings by celebrating the unique character of a place.

My recent work in commercial architecture at CREATE in New York, has reinforced the importance of designing for people. I have come to appreciate the importance of designing spaces that foster social interactions and a sense of community. Additionally, as I have engaged in more renovation projects, I’ve come to value even more the significance of sustainability and it has become an important goal in my designs. I challenge myself to find innovative ways to create architecture while preserving what is necessary by reusing and renovating existing structures in order to embrace sustainable design principles. Looking back, my initial goals in architecture centered around aesthetics and innovation; over time they have transitioned towards exploring the transformative power of design and how it can change people's lifestyles for the better.

What was the most defining moment for you?

One of the most defining moments in my career as an architect was when I had the opportunity to intern for an architectural firm in New York City in my last semester of college. Working at CREATE Architecture, Planning & Design in such a cosmopolitan and diverse city had a profound effect on my perspective - particularly regarding art, architecture and cultural exchange. Being immersed in this vibrant environment allowed me to see how different architectural styles, innovative design approaches and cultural influences all blended. Having this city as my background constantly inspired me and pushed me to explore the limits in my own ideas and work. New York City provided me with a contrast to my past experiences, particularly as an architect from Colombia where architectural styles and urban environments possess their own distinct character, I discovered a whole new array of possibilities. New York's diversity, going from historic landmarks to cutting-edge contemporary structures, taught me the value of contextualizing design within its surroundings and producing spaces which reflect the own cultural and urban fabric of a place.

Additionally, working in New York introduced me to an incredible diversity of individuals from different backgrounds, disciplines, and cultures. Collaborating with professionals from various fields, different cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life broadened my perspective while opening up opportunities to explore new ideas, materials, and techniques. It also broadened my knowledge of social and historical influences on architecture and helped me cultivate an approach to design that takes into account all needs and aspirations of diverse communities.

Finally, CREATE broadened my perspective on what architecture could be and allowed me to meet valuable mentors that shaped the way I think. It provided me with access to a great variety of architectural projects that required me to think outside the box. Working on projects that included retail, mixed use and residential projects all over The United States, each with unique constraints and opportunities - I learned adaptability, versatility, as well as how best to navigate urban environments. Moreover, learning from experienced architects who guided me and mentored me, I learned about approach to design, construction methods, material selection and project management. Their guidance not only expanded my technical abilities but also instilled in me a sense of responsibility in delivering high-quality designs.

What unique qualities and or personality do you feel makes you most successful in your profession?

In my profession as an architect, I believe that several unique qualities and aspects of my personality have contributed toward my career.

One quality that sets me apart is my awareness of inspiration all around me. I find that although I have many hobbies outside of my professional practice, architecture permeates almost all aspects of life. Whether it's my passion for photography, keeping up with recent films or books, baking or even immersing myself in nature, I can always find inspiration in unexpected places and have architecture in the back of my mind. This has helped me approach projects with a fresh perspective and come up with unique and captivating elements in design.

Attention to detail is also another quality I believe is indispensable for an architect, and I’ve strived to master over the years. Observing the intricacies of any space and carefully considering every element and detail, from material selection to lighting design is what differentiates good design from a great one.

Motivation and dedication are also key components that have contributed towards my career. I am incredibly passionate about my profession, and this enthusiasm drives my desire to continually learn and stay updated. This has allowed me to remain innovative, relevant and responsive to changing needs and ever evolving architecture. I have trained myself to be adaptable, fast learning and flexible, all which I believe are important qualities when practicing architecture.

More generally, my multicultural experiences - such as my time working in New York City - have broadened and deepened my appreciation of architecture in a global context. Merging my Latin American heritage with exposure to diverse cultures and design philosophies has fostered a more inclusive and culturally sensitive approach in my work which is crucial in today’s world.

What inspiring word of advice would you give to a young executive graduating from college?

Especially to young architects graduating from college, I would advise them to embrace their personal style and passion for architecture and try to find it every day in the world around you. Stay curious and open minded, search out opportunities for learning through internships, mentorships or continued education courses. Traveling, meeting new people from different backgrounds and embracing diversity of approaches within the field allow you to explore new ideas that force you to collaborate and look at architecture in ways you hadn’t before. Take the time to improve and enhance your technical abilities and your understanding of the context in which you work. Conceptual design and ideas are important, but as architects we are only as good as what we can actually “put on paper.” Keep in mind that architecture is a profession that demands both technical expertise and creative spirit, so try to keep learning as much as you can and use those tools to be able to pursue and vouch for your vision. Each project presents its own set of unique challenges and opportunities, so we must learn to be adaptable and come up with creative solutions for each specific challenge. Architecture is a profession that requires patience, perseverance and a willingness to evolve.

Ultimately, my advice to young architects as a young architect myself, would be to remind yourself that architecture is a life long learning process. Take every experience, both big and small, as an opportunity to increase your knowledge and develop new skills, be open minded about different approaches, and don't stop seeking inspiration in everyday life.


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