Guest Chat – Shahad Al Azzaz

Azaz Architects is a multiple international award winning boutique architecture and design services firm based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Established in 2017, the company has received international recognition for its practice. Through a strong commitment to providing sustainable solutions while paying great attention to detail, Azaz Architects has grown to become a highly reputable firm under the leadership of Saudi Arabia’s prominent architect, Shahad Alazzaz who sits with us today for our 8th issue of “guest chat”.


1. Azaz Architects has already gained international recognition and is an award winning firm, what is the pillar to your success and achievements?

The studio was founded to introduce a new design philosophy. A new language which we aim to develop, learn and teach everyday since our start. This unique approach to design has simultaneously put as apart from other designers and enabled us to deliver proprietary architecture that is strongly distinctive. As the architecture methodology we practice is unmatched, it takes a certain talent caliber to understand our style and implement it. Thus, our team and the talent we house within the firm is another fundamental pillar we accredit our success to. I am very proud to see how my architectural line of thinking has formed and developed into an institutional practice, blossoming everyday by a wonderful growing team.


2. When did you discover your passion for design, and who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration?

I am humbled and stunned as I remember the beginning of my journey in design. Prior to seeking architecture as a field, I had always aimed towards going to medicine school with the hopes of practicing medicine. It was only at the very last moment prior to going to college that I considered my sister’s advice and look into architecture as an alternative. I quickly was convinced and ultimately changed the path I had spent my life preparing for. As I look back, I am pleased to say I think I have made the right choice.

Since I have entered the world of Architecture to this day, I am inspired on a daily basis by the creative industry itself and almost everything that comes out of it. For me, Architecture was my window to the creative world. I watch creatives all around the world express ideas in unimaginable ways and am very much inspired by that.


3. While working with a major architecture firm in Spain, and at a very young age, you were appointed as Director for the Middle East projects, which we can assume was both exciting yet challenging, how would you describe that experience, and what was the biggest lesson learned?

My experience in Spain was very rewarding. It is the cornerstone to the remainder of my career. Nonetheless, it was not an easy experience by any standard. At first, it was very intimidating to be around such seasoned experts in the field. I was overwhelmed at first, especially considering the language barrier. As I worked hard to catch up with my colleagues, I quickly learned Spanish. Learning a new language while trying to prove myself was unnerving at times, but I was steadfast and focused on succeeding.  My hard work paid off and was quickly recognized. I take away a few lessons from my experience in Madrid. Mainly, my time in Spain taught me the perseverance is the key to success. I am reminded that if there is a will, there is a way. As architects, our practice is about finding solutions. In order to be a successful designer, one needs to truly believe that there is always a solution.


4. Having offices in Riyadh and Madrid, do you believe a project should be connected to its location? And how do the two cultures differ when it comes to design developments and trends in your opinion?

Absolutely. We are a very conscious design studio. When taking on a project, we spend a healthy amount of time doing research about the project, the client and the location. It is not always an easy mission to introduce an unprecedented design technique while trying to deliver relevance. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with the balance we, at Azaz Architects, have been able to strike in that equation.


5. The award winning Deco Temple, designed for Elixir Bunn, is a spectacular project. From its beautiful high arches, Terrazo floors to the striking staircase. Ever since the initial design sketches up until the final design and execution, did it still maintain those same striking features or did it take a different direction throughout the process?

Whenever we are designing, we try not to constrain ourselves with one idea. We try to follow our instincts and that typically takes us down multiple routes. This typically allows us to present our clients with multiple concept options. This was the case during our work for Elixir Bunn Coffee Roasters. We initially presented a few ideas, each with a different unique approach. After holding a few workshops with the client, Deco Temple was the design chosen and we moved on to develop that concept. What Deco Temple, as a design solution, offered was seamlessly hiding the central structural column. This became the pivot on which the concept hinged and was the blossoming source for the overreaching arches. Embracing the column and using it as a centerpiece to our design was the key to the successful intervention. In short, once the Deco Temple was the concept of choice, it maintained its same striking features throughout the development of the design.


6. Do you see PURITY brands offered in future projects?

Certainly. We are always on the look for suppliers and brands that match our design ethos. When it comes to interior design, our projects so far have been very diverse. This makes us always on the search for new and different products.


7. A fact about you that our readers might find surprising?

Although I have been practicing architecture for almost a decade now, I only recently moved into my home which I designed myself and supervised its construction.


8. In such a multidisciplinary firm, is there a particular field you enjoy working on more than the other?

Although Azaz Architects works on multiple design fronts, we are at our core an architectural studio. I think I personally enjoy the creating beautiful architecture. With that said, I lately have been experimenting with furniture/products design. I found this to be very pleasing. In fact, I have designed many furniture pieces for my home in Riyadh.


9. How would you describe the development of the design industry in Saudi Arabia?

I must say, back when I was in Spain, I was somewhat worried about the development of the design industry in Saudi Arabia. When I decided to move back home and establish Azaz Architects if felt like a risky gamble. The remarkable development taking place within the domestic design industry is unprecedented. I think there is a long way to go for us in Saudi Arabia, but one must give credit where credit is due. I am proud to be designing from Saudi for Saudi.


10. From all the works that you have executed, what is one that you feel most connected to?

Although the firm has grown considerably since its establishment, I am still very much connected to the design process of all our projects. I have been involved in all projects designed by Azaz Architects and therefore it is hard for me to choose a favorite. I will say that a few of our projects, currently under construction, are one-of-a-kind and I cannot wait to witness their completion.