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8 Questions with Architect Dasha Tarasova

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Dasha Tarasova is a Senior Project Architect at Ignite Architects in Auckland. With a Masters of Architecture Degree, she has spent over 7 years working on residential and commercial projects. 

1. How did it come about that you chose a career in Architecture?

I never thought about doing Architecture until late one evening at the end of my schooling. I was waiting to get on a late plane back to boarding school and my mum asked what subjects I enjoyed, I answered "Math, Art and Economics". She replied, “Well you should do Architecture then.” It was a moment of eureka when I realised that, this was the perfect career for me. Excitedly, we went to tell my stepfather that I have chosen my career path! His first response was "how much is the course?!" I was an international student in Auckland, so it was quite an expensive career choice, but one which I am very grateful to my parents for supporting and funding me through it. When I look back at the way I played and the things I drew as a kid, it is obvious that Architecture was always the path for me. I mostly chose to build Lego houses for the Barbies, rather than play with them and I loved to draw plans of family apartments as gifts to the family members. My highest achievement as an 8 year old architect came when I drew a floor plan of a large doll ‘mansion’ on the floor of my bedroom in order to arrange play furniture in the ‘rooms’, with permanent marker of course.

2. Which architect do you draw inspiration from?

Frank Gehry’s architecture was a big influence during my University years. I particularly love the unexpected and unintentional spaces that the complexity of his Architecture creates. It invites you to wonder around his buildings and discover beautiful details and spaces. Of course at this time Zaha Hadid has to be mentioned. Her achievements as a female Architect will have a huge influence on careers of all female Architects and she has always been my role model. Her uncompromising attitude towards pushing engineering and structural boundaries to achieve iconic architecture is truly inspiring.

3. You are currently working in the Commercial Retail space, what do you enjoy most about this sector?

I love the speed of projects within the Retail Commercial sector. Being able to start a project from scratch and see it get built within half a year is very rewarding. It helps assess quickly if your design intention has translated through paper to reality as you intended. It also allows you to constantly learn from any mistakes and improve your skills.  Retail and hospitality also allows you to be highly creative and push the design boundaries.  

4. As a Senior Project Architect, what do you find to be the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your job?

I love dealing with clients and being on the front line of the projects, I love being hands on on site during construction. The downside of retail being a high paced environment, is the constant intensity and time pressure that we work under. There has never has been a project that has evolved slowly and deadlines are usually in weeks. Once I became more senior, I had less time to draw and had to rely more on team members to complete drawings. That was a bit of a challenge, since I had spent the first 6 years of my career designing through drawing and now I had to quickly learn to express design intent verbally.  

5. What would you say is the biggest design influences in the commercial and retail sector?

I am very impressed with the burst of very creative and high-end design in the retail and hospitality spaces in Auckland, particularly since the Rugby World Cup. I think the push in a higher design standard in the Auckland CBD has now influenced store and commercial design across Auckland and we are seeing some very high quality interior design that is on par with the international design levels. It is very exciting to be involved in the industry at this time and witness the blossoming of Auckland.

6. There is a lot of focus on environmental and social sustainability, what role does green buildings play in your work?

This is a challenging topic in commercial design space as often budgets and client requirements dictate the extent of sustainable design employed within a building. I think this is a real shame. In future, I look forward to being able to lead projects and be able to push clients and consultants towards having sustainable design techniques becoming a normal and standard part of any construction.

7. There are many architectural graduates today trying to make their mark, what advice can you give them?

I know that a lot of my friends and I found the first 2-3 years after finishing an Architectural Degree quite challenging, especially when you see your peers that completed other degrees, 2 years earlier, getting well paid jobs and travelling or starting families, and you are still in a relatively junior position. I know a few people who quit Architecture during this time. However, once I pushed through this period and became a Registered Architect, it was all worth it. The change in career opportunities and the type of projects you are exposed to is immense and highly satisfying. I love my career path now and find it really rewarding and positively challenging. So I would advise any Graduate Architect to persevere and achieve Registration. It was not as scary as everyone thinks!

8. What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?

My ultimate goal is to create spaces that have had a positive effect on people. I am confident that the overall feel and perception of a well-designed space has a positive influence on people’s mood and daily lives, even if they are not directly aware of it. And I would only like to hope that the spaces I design add to the positive well-being of its patrons.

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