International Women's Day & the women designing Dubai: Sneha Divias

Sneha Divias, founder and architect at Sneha Divias Atelier

Sneha Divias, founder and architect at Sneha Divias Atelier

…a brief introduction:

I am Sneha Divias, founder and architect at Sneha Divias Atelier – a boutique interior architecture studio based in Dubai. We are a multiple award-winning practice specialising in commercial, hospitality and residential projects delivering a complete guest experience with a multi-disciplinary approach. Our latest projects are diverse and include offices for Dubai Holding Group, OliOli – which is a children´s play space – a show apartment for Banyan Tree residences, high end residential villas in Dubai and Muscat as well as a salon/spa concept. We have been awarded CID Interior Designer of the Year and Residential Design of the Year in 2017, as well as an International Property Award and a Harper´s Bazaar Interiors Award for Best Emerging Designer.

Talk us through your average day at work:

The best thing about my working day is that there is no “average” day. Every day is different and brings something new. I´m a believer of the out-of-office work culture with a flexible work schedule so I work my days around the project requirements and meetings to attend. It varies from sketching and planning to attending site visits, meeting clients, consultants and project presentations. There is also time allocated for admin work, visiting showrooms whilst having some almond matcha lattes in between. I´m an early morning person so the first half of the day is when I am most productive.

How do you feel your work and the work of other female designers has changed Dubai?

The United Arab Emirates is one of the most innovative and forward looking cities in the world, with both the local designers and foreign expats moving to Dubai for opportunities. With such an international scene and the mixing of different people, ideas and backgrounds, I think the UAE is host to a powerhouse of female talent. There is worldly know-how that merges design sensibilities to pursue a context-based language that has a twist on traditional and stays away from the over futuristic and I feel a lot of female designers are tackling this aspect.


What other female designers/architects do you particularly admire?

As inspiration I have to name two prolific women in architecture and design ahead of their times - Lina Bo Bardi and Zaha Hadid. I admire a lot of female designers based in Dubai who have successfully established their design studios as there is an added challenge of running your own creative business and wearing many hats. Some of the names that come to mind are Summaya Dabbagh, Rania Hamed, Alexandra Cantacuzene, Pallavi Dean, Maja Kozel, Marie Laurent, Aljoud Lootah, Olivia Watts. I admire their work and also their open mind to share advice in a collaborative spirit in the interactions I have had with them.

What is your philosophy in terms of architecture and design?

Our architecture and design experiences are clean and balanced yet luxuriously detailed. The studio’s self-styled storytelling is concept driven, with a thoughtful process and technical expertise that lie at the heart of our firm. With an off-beat and forward-looking sensibility, we create bespoke experiences. We create spaces for people to inhabit, work and experience. We look for the emotional resonance in the user with a very open mind. Each design, prompted by the context, absorbs the surrounding urban factors, social elements, and aesthetic values.

How does Dubai and the UAE fare in regards to career and growth opportunities for women in architecture and design?

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been instrumental at Dubai Culture & Arts Authority inspiring creative entrepreneurs and pushing the design scene forward. There is increased support from the public sectors and initiatives like INDEX, Dubai Design District and Design Week contribute to enhancing this cultural and creative habitat. Women play a significant and critical role in this scene. We tend to overlook our own abilities so it is motivating to have these platforms to install design confidence in an industry that deals with a lot of egos and sees architecture as a male oriented profession.

What, to you, has been the most defining moment of your career to date?

The most defining moment was the start of my own practice. It was a fulfilling celebration of the years of work and experience to reach that point. A lot of dedication and weighty decisions you can’t pass off to anyone else but to be able to helm the kind of work, growth possibilities and freedom that come with it has been extremely rewarding.

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