March Girl Power Sunday - feat. Nai

March Girl Power Sunday - feat. Nai

Inspired by her ancestors, our Girl Power this month extends her flair for design beyond the world of architecture. Meet Nai (which is also the initials of her real name, Nurul Ain Idris), the founder of Studio NAI that provides a space for local creatives to express themselves freely. Not to be belittled in a male-dominated field, Nai is a power ready to take the architecture world by storm!



1. Please introduce yourself and share your journey as an architect. How has your experience been in the field?

Hi, I’m Nai, and I was pursuing architecture at a leading firm in Malaysia, which is predominantly male-dominated, making it challenging for women to assert themselves and stand out.



2. What made you pursue architecture? Is there anything that’s driving your passion?

My decision to pursue architecture was influenced by my grandfather, who owned the "Oriental Building" in Kuala Lumpur, an exquisite Art Deco structure adjacent to Masjid Jamek. Malaysia boasts numerous heritage buildings that I am passionate about preserving.

Editor's note: Art Deco architecture is a prominent architectural style that emerged in the early 20th century, characterized by a combination of modernist styles with fine craftsmanship and rich materials. The style is often characterized by bold geometric shapes, intricate decorative motifs, and a sense of luxury and glamour.



3. In your opinion, what are the most pressing challenges architects face in today's world?

Pressing challenges faced by architects today include clients' budget constraints and their desire to adhere strictly to the original design. From a broader perspective, the gender disparity in architecture creates significant tension. I once received a project with feminine undertones simply because of my gender. Surprisingly, when I tackled a more masculine project independently, my boss was amazed that I had built the model from scratch, attributing it to the fact that I am a woman.



4. Architecture often requires a blend of creativity and practicality. How do you maintain a balance between innovative design concepts and functional solutions in your work?

I always prioritize functional solutions over innovative design concepts. Ideally, these two aspects should complement each other, with functionality taking precedence over design.



5. Can you share some of your most memorable or favorite architectural projects or collaborations? What made them stand out to you?

During my tenure at an architecture firm in Kuala Lumpur, I was involved in designing a residential building that prioritized community living, leading to a successful pitch win. Working alongside my colleagues was a valuable learning experience that has shaped my knowledge and skills to date.

Apart from high-rise buildings, one of my most memorable projects was the Handmade Heroes' pop-up at Wanderlust. I meticulously crafted and painted everything by hand, witnessing the transformation from a 3D concept to a tangible reality.



6. Reflecting on your career so far, is there anything you would have done differently or any decisions you would reconsider?

Every mistake and decision I've made has led me to where I am today, pursuing what I am most passionate about. I have no regrets, but I wish I had spoken up more and advocated for myself and my work.


7. What advice would you offer aspiring architects to help them navigate their journey in the field?

To aspiring architects, I encourage them to have confidence in their designs and consider the purpose behind their creations. Who is the structure for? Why are we constructing it? What is the community like in the area? Who will benefit from this project? Addressing these questions is essential in the design process.



8. What is one thing you like to do besides being a designer?

I have a penchant for painting, which I consider a form of design. In addition to painting, I enjoy cooking and sewing, traits I inherited from my grandfather, Omar Ali.


9. Share something about yourself that your followers might not know but that you'd like to share with them.

In its simplest form, my favorite color is blue, not pink, and I am left-handed.



10. If your life was a movie, which character would play you and why?

FAIR PLAY. If my life were a representation on screen, Phoebe Dynevor, known for her role as Emily, would portray me. While reflecting on my real-life experiences, the portrayal may omit some of the aggression I faced, although I did endure physical and mental abuse.


11. What is the best quote that you live by?

"The grass is greener where you water it."

Follow her at @nai.journal!



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