Women in Arch Viz - Sandra Milena Arciniegas
Tell us about your current role and what you are doing in the industry.
Since 2011 I have been the Executive Director at Ekoomedia. Over the last ten years, we have developed high profile imagery for prominent architects and construction professionals around the world. Ekoomedia today is positioned as one of the top visualizations companies in Latin America
At Ekoomedia, we help our clients to connect with their target markets with alluring yet efficient graphic media. I have no no doubt that visual communication has an essential role in the pursuit of design excellence. We have worked with companies like SOM, Gensler, Aecom, UNstudio, Brokfield, Madison Capital, Estudio Herrreros, Nabil Gholam Architects and Richard Rogers, among others.
I also co-direct EKOOBIM, a company focused on providing centralized information by means of technical solutions for coordination and construction.
What was the path you took to get where you are today and was this always the role you thought you would have? What was your dream job as a kid and why?
I have a life long passion for visual arts in all its forms and an interest in computers. I love learning new computer software, surfing the web; as well as video playing games.
At Architecture school I used to make basic 3d models of my projects and finish them up by hand (shadows, people, cars…). In those years my interest in ArchVIz grew to the point where the main objective of my thesis project was to create the best possible renderings.
When I was about to finish school Ekoomedia was hiring, they needed an architect. I applied for the job and Sergio Garzon (my partner now) interviewed me, but I never heard back from him. I was so interested on the job that I decided to call, and told him " I Want the job, you should hire me". He was surprise but at the end he did it. I began working for Ekoomedia one week after my graduation.
My dream job was to design architecture for video games, but being honest, what I do right now is not far from it.
What is the best and worst decision you've ever made?
The best decision I've ever made was to drop out of engineering school to study architecture. I wanted to build a career where math and science work in parallel with design. I was a little afraid but it was worth it.
The worst decision any executive can made is to hire the wrong people and leave them for too long at the company. Ekoomedia needs people that are great 3d artist, but also proactive and good team players. To find this type of talent is the most challenging aspect of my job.
Based on our industry survey, women still only represent 7% of the industry. Do you have any thoughts on this, how it can be changed, and if it will be changed in the foreseeable future?
That is a reality, but also a changing one. Over the last few years I've seen more women involved in the industry. The real challenge is to get more women in leadership positions, so the working culture can be redesigned to be equal for ALL genders.
Name three other women, who are not working in this industry, that impacted your work artistically and/or the path you took to get where you are today.
Sheela Maini Sogaard BIG's CEO. I agree with her vision about architectural design as a business. She understands that creative process and corporate goals are complementaries. I admire her views on corporate culture, leadership and success.
Patricia Urquiola (Interior designer). Her design is innovative and elegant. She has a unique and inspiring way of combining colors, materials and textures. The furniture and objects that she designs have been captivating my eye for long time.
Zaha Hadid. She is a role model for me. I respect her work, but I particularly admire how she positioned herself as one of the best architects in the world in a very masculine driven profession.
What motivates/inspires you the most?
Art, travelling, photography, architecture, industrial design, graphic design, beauty. I love challenges, I put my all my heart and energy when I face facing them. I always try to give the best to my team.
What lessons have you learned in your career to date that you think would benefit others in the field?
Nothing gets done in any industry without persistence and a good team. And in our field you have to add an excellent client management.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don't start a company without the services of a human resources professional, a lawyer and an accountant. Growing is fun, but can be messy. Try to contain the mess as much as you can.
What has been your proudest achievement in business to date?
The positive impact we have made in the lives of our own team members. They have been able to grow and to become experts in a job they love.
What other artistic pursuits or creative outlets do you pursue outside of your day to day work?
Interior design. I am lucky I can do a lot of it at my job. It actually feels more like a game, it is a passion.
Where do you see the industry going? Does it look significantly different from where it is today? If so, how?
Technology developments like VR is the most obvious next step. I believe the final users of the design, clients and designers will be able to participate in the creation of architectural visualization. The more technology advances the smaller the gap that exist between the different players in the industry.
Please name five artists, creatives or business people (outside of the archviz industry) who have inspired you.
Please name five artists within the industry you think have influenced your own work or have influenced the industry?
As a women do you feel you had to work harder or do anything differently than your male counterparts to get where you are today?
Yes. The industry and specially the Latin American market is very male oriented. But I've been lucky enough to have a partner, clients and collaborators who appreciates professionalism and talent from whorever it comes.
Unfortunately in any field or any place of the world have to work harder to obtain professional respect and achieve success. Sexism that still persist in our culture.
What advice would you give women thinking about entering into the arch viz industry?
You are entitled to everything you have dream of, so speak up and don't be afraid to show leadership.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you as it pertains to working in this industry?
As I already mentioned, get in leadership positions.
Where do you envision yourself 10 years from now? What are you doing and what did you do to get there?
Ten years from now I hope I'll have a healthy still growing business with an excellent team. I also hope to have more time for my family and travel.
Please take one of your favourite projects and walk us through the piece from start to finish.
My job as a CEO is to manage teams, the people who are actually doing the work.
I am concerned about the lack of information and debate about directing and leading creative process in the Arch viz industry.
I think this field its way to focused in "doing", when the biggest failures happen due to poor management.
Currently, we have a very well defined workflow that, from a technical point of view, allows us to be efficient and to come up with powerful results at the same time.
Nevertheless, I've developed a personal method that I try to teach my team: I start by "reading" the project, I devote myself to understanding the architecture ideas and concepts behind the design, what the client wants and needs, to imagine how people would live in it, how it's materials would react to light, what atmosphere and personality it should have.