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Pooja was born and raised in Dubai, in a small nucleus family of her and her parents who moved from India to the Gulf in 1977. Growing up, art was an important part of her life and it slowly transformed into loving art history, design and architecture.  When she was a teenager, she came across an interview of Hazel Wong, the architect of The Emirates Towers. The idea that the towers had sprung from Wong's sketches, and she was now able to walk around them and experience the space, but also sense the impact that it had on so many lives drew Pooja to the the profession of Architecture. It seemed like the perfect combination for her: Art + Science. That’s when she knew she had to study Architecture. She went on to pursue Architecture and Urban Design at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) in 2003.

In 2008, she began working for Aedas in their Architecture division, and later moved to their Interior Design division. After 6 and a half years, Pooja went on to work for other big names like DWP, Emaar and Perkins & Will. A vast portfolio of high rise towers and 5 star hospitality projects, Pooja is leaving her mark all over Dubai's high end developments.

If you were a movie, what is your story?

A struggling artist who eventually finds a breakthrough and becomes a successful Artist and Designer, against all odds. Much like Gabrielle Chanel. I am inspired by successful women who stand their ground despite all odds and let their voice be heard through their creative work.  

How would you define your design style? What do you think has shaped the way you design?

My design aesthetics are minimal, elegant with a touch of fun!All my work experiences understanding Client expectations, practicality along with my own aesthetic intuition which comes from a vast love for all things beautiful has definitely informed the way I approach design. 

Top 5 favourite designers.

Zaha Hadid

Yabu Pushelberg

Rem Koolhas

Thomas Heatherwick

Joseph Dirand 

Name a mentor or someone who impacted your career and life.  And how?

Lulie Fisher, my ex boss is definitely an inspiration. She guided, nurtured and inspired me during the formative years of my career. Her approach to design- elegant, timeless yet not afraid to inject fun, along with her benevolent leadership skills that leaves all who meet her touched are definitely qualities to aspire to.

Is there something you would do differently if you ran a design school? What do you think there should be more emphasis of in design schools?

I think it’s crucial students need to be educated about the high demands of a professional life. The extremely tight timelines in particular. The sooner this approach is followed the better they are equipped at dealing with real life expectations, especially in the Middle East.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to directly work on the opening of a few hotels here in Dubai. To now watch people enjoy the spaces, after  the endless blood, sweat and tears we put in made it a really fulfilling experience. 

Talk about a time you failed at something or thought you did – but how it molded you in some way.

I for one have realised that if a mistake or failure has been made, it is best to own up to it. We are humans after all. However, the next time, to plan better to consider all possible outcomes and remember “Failure is the stepping stone to success”.

A quote you live by… or a quote you love.

“You live and you learn” - Professor at University . It’s the hard truth of life.

The hardest part of your job is….

The very very tight timelines. 

The part of the design process you love most.

I really enjoy the whole process and parts of every stage. The abstract-ness of Concept design to developing tangible details and viewing the final product, I relish all of it.

The part of the design process you least like.

Having to make a million iterations to what you believe is completed due to a changing program or Client’s needs can get exhausting.

Do you have a dream project? What is it?

My own personal Villa. This would be the best opportunity for a personal artistic expression without having anyone else to please. 

If there is one thing you want people to know or be inspired by from your story – what is it?

Find inspiration everywhere. Beauty is all around you.

Are there any other outlets you express creativity? How did that come about?

I paint as an outlet for creative expression. I started drawing before I could really talk. It’s an expression of my soul and a natural extension of myself.

What makes you happy?

As shallow as it sounds, beauty, art and design.

What is your morning routine before you begin work?

Meditation and an espresso.

What music do you listen to when you work?

Deep house makes me work. 

What is an important lesson you’ve learnt over the years as a designer that you would like to share with other designers?

Don’t get too attached to your end design vision. Due to the long process, many people and multitude of factors involved, the end product will be a result of several compromises. Focus on enjoying the process instead.

Pooja has her eyes set on the world, and hopes to be designing in all parts of the globe someday. Her favorite cities are Paris and London, the hub of design and fashion. She's excited about what's coming next, and curious to see how she will be challenged creatively.  

Written and Edited: Kamsin Mirchandani

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