Q3 2021

13 Q3 2021 BUILD Best Women-Led Residential Architecture Practice - Germany This year’s winner of Best Women-Led Residential Architecture Practice - Germany is Karen Schwichtenberg, Architektin. Her previous Build Magazine Architecture Awards include Most Innovative High-End Residential Architecture Studio - Germany in 2020 and Best High-End Residential Architecture Studio in 2019. From her Hamburg-based studio, Karen shares her creative approach and what’s next for her design firm. aised by a single mother who worked as a primary teacher and school principal, Karen had a strong female role model from an early age. Driven by her natural creativity and artistic flair, she explored new interests by carving her own path in life. Curiosity and a desire for adventure led her to the United States for a year of high school when she was just 16. She continued to pursue opportunities abroad with a summer internship with architect Jean Lai Kan in Port Louis, Mauritius in 1995. After completing her architecture studies, she received a scholarship to live and work in Japan for two years. She then went on to live and work in London for three years. When she returned to Germany, she invested in her first property at the age of 27. Karen’s unique point-of-view and creative approach are shaped from her collection of travels and experiences. Working in the office of famed Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima, Karen found design inspiration and a mentor in Sejima. She also experienced working with a woman at the helm of award-winning architecture projects. This influence established Karen’s ability to maintain her creative energy and artistic vision while ensuring quality workmanship and the on-site authority needed to persevere in the generally male-dominated building industry. Her design studio, based in Hamburg, Germany, employs a small and diverse team. A flat hierarchy inspires her leadership style, empowering those around her to share ideas and contribute design concepts. The firm offers a full scope of architectural services from concept through completion, serving private and corporate clients. Karen explains, “We specialize in design-led architecture. Living in Japan taught me the importance of simple details. We always focus on the quality of light in a space and incorporate open floor plans into our architectural vision, emphasizing how the finished space will feel.“ R When asked about her signature aesthetic, Karen says, „We combine natural elements like stone, wood, and a reduced color palette to achieve a timeless style. Japan, and its architecture, has changed how I think about the use and the quality of space. Our contemporary aesthetic is driven by an intentional focus on what is necessary, beautiful, and inspiring. We also integrate sustainable materials into our designs as much as possible. Ultimately, we strive to understand our clients’ aspirations and turn them into reality. We want to improve the way people live by creating homes and spaces that act as calm and enjoyable retreats from our hectic days.“ The global pandemic posed new challenges for all businesses, and Karen’s firm was no exception. Accustomed to in-person meetings and frequent site visits, Karen and her team had to get comfortable collaborating through Zoom calls and other technology not regularly used in their design work. After months of adapting to this way of connection, the firm has embraced digital platforms as a viable communication method. Karen says, „We had to take a hard look at how heavily we relied on conventional communication and get creative with how to effectively implement our design work when we’re unable to be in the room together. We learned so much and now we’re even exploring how digital communication tools can complement our existing systems and enhance our client relationships.“ Confident in her close-knit team’s ability to conquer any future challenges, Karen looks ahead to what is next, “Our clients appreciate our attentive, personal approach to design - so we’ll continue to work closely with private and corporate clients to implement their ideas. Wherever our projects take us, we always seek out work that is in alignment with our creative aspirations.” Website: www.schwichtenberg-architektin.de Jun21215