In this new series, Small Studio Snapshots, we're taking a look at the ups and downs, ins and outs of running a small architecture studio. For this installment, we're talking with Safura Salek of MASS STUDIO, a bicoastal design collective based out of New York and Los Angeles. Run by two sisters, their work focuses on developing high-end residential, commercial, and hospitality projects.
What motivated you to start your own practice?
Regardless of the fact that it was always part of the plan, the biggest motivator to start my own practice has been creative freedom. Working for companies has always been a great learning experience, but you are always designing under their creative umbrella and having to abide by their aesthetics. Of course you can always bring your ideas to the table, but they are not always considered. At some point you want to advance your own name and market your own identity/brand.
What are the benefits of having your own small practice?
Your learning curve is far greater than if you were working in a firm. You have to quickly figure out how to do things on your own and make many many decisions. You are also free to experiment and be creative with new ideas and if you are lucky enough to get a client that trusts you and is willing to take that ride with you, you can end up with a great project.
What hurdles have you come across?
I have been pretty lucky in getting many high-end and interesting projects. Most of them I was able to obtain through word of mouth. I think a big hurdle has been being able to market yourself in this day of intense social media and online branding. Keeping up with this momentum can be exhausting and takes time away from what really is important: the design.
Other hurdles I have come across is having clients try to negotiate your fee/their payments way down, or sometimes try and not pay at all. A big piece of advice I can give is to negotiate to a point that does not compromise the value of your work and to try and get as much money as possible upfront.negotiate to a point that does not compromise the value of your work and [try to] get as much money as possible upfront
In a more general way, a hurdle that I sometimes have faced is having to prove myself as a woman in a field surrounded by men. A majority of architects, contractors, and subcontractors in this field are men, as well as some clients. Sometimes this breeds skepticism of your level of knowledge or experience. This has always pushed me to increase my knowledge in order to erase any doubt, and go in confident of my work and what I am bringing to the table.
Do you run a practice with six or less people? Get in touch!
Writer and fake architect, among other feints. Principal at Adjustments Agency. Co-founder of Encyclopedia Inc. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org