The Journey of a Female Architect

10 Nov 2020

ANNA DULNIKOWSKA-PRZYSTALSKA is the inspiration and drive behind MarbleAir Architects.

With her own unique preferences and instinctive style, she has developed an intriguing ethos of collaboration, professionalism, and a thoughtful approach to her clients’ needs.

We’d like to share a little of MarbleAir’s history and ethos with you.

Inspirational Anna of MarbleAir Architects

Anna is a highly creative and driven person, and her journey has not been a conventional one.

Having spent three years working for developers, a further three years in a conservation practice, and seven years as a business partner for a small architectural practice, Anna made the exciting leap in 2017 and now heads up MarbleAir Architects in Oxford.

Certainly, wearing varied hats within these different architectural genres has given Anna both a unique insight and a practical perspective of the various stakeholders in building and design projects.

However, it’s not all about clocked hours and industry experience. No, Anna’s motivation stems from deep within and forms the basis for her decision to go it alone.

She explains, “I choose to lead a life that inspires, motivates, develops, and keeps me in contact with other people. One that researches the deeper meaning of life and existence, and provokes a bespoke original, creative adventurous lifestyle.”

Having the independence to focus on her love of design and to share her experience and knowledge in a fun and engaging way is a true motivation for Anna.

She adds, “I love to research the original lifestyle, in tune with your likes and balances with yourself. There are many exciting ways to achieve the same goal, with the result of a beautiful, tangible deliverable within the built space.”

The goal in establishing MarbleAir Architects has been to create a professional brand which serves as a one-stop-shop for architecture, luxury design, and project management with personal and transparent service.

Who inspired Anna?

“I would have to say, Zaha Hadid. She was a creative architect who could choose to work for leading architects at the time but chose not to. She succeeded in creating her own brand and prize-winning style.
“Personally, I’m still defining my style. I feel that architecture is for people – as in, the user – and therefore I focus on understanding their needs during my design process.”

Specialist Areas of Interest

Far from operating in a one-dimensional space, Anna enjoys working within several niche areas.

“I love working with historic fabric and work extensively with Grade II listed buildings. We are always mindful of a structure’s origins and design enhancements to improve the function whilst retaining or improving the aesthetic.

“I’ve always been interested in community projects too, which allow us to be part of something bigger and different. There is always the challenge in understanding the needs of not just one, but perhaps ten families.”
Property investment is an ongoing learning curve for Anna, and as she develops as a business professional, she is seeking exciting investment opportunities.

Anna is frequently approached to design or refurbish private residences.

Most of these projects are intensely personal or emotive which require a specific set of skills.

Anna lists these as follows:

1. Primarily, we listen.
2. Secondly, we ask for insight.
3. Thirdly, we do what we can to accommodate.
4. Regarding project management – we observe, analyse, and react. Our projects are run in an orderly manner.

Challenges and Changes

Anna speaks frankly about being a woman in a male-dominated space.
“There has always been an unwritten banter between architects/designers and builders. This being between a creative but light-hearted designer and a trustworthy and practical builder who solves all of the problems the designer overlooked.

“Gender interactions add a spin on this because “men are from Mars and women from Venus” and so a mutual understanding and clear communication are the key aspects of a successful project team.

“The world of business or the industry never restricted my development, so when I ask myself what I can be grateful for, it is having accomplished people around me, who always trusted and supported me in achieving my goals.
“The world is evolving and I think it is us women who form our personal glass ceilings. I did! Some chose family over career, but there is no written rule that we cannot be successful having a family around us. Maybe it is down to the way we express our needs… I sometimes wonder?

“My strength and optimism are founded on experience and looking on the bright side of life. The latter provokes fresh, creative ideas which often resolve those troublesome business situations.”

Certainly, Anna’s strength and determination to create magical spaces for her clients has overcome any obstacles which may have arisen during her journey.

MarbleAir?

As a final thought, you may be puzzled by the choice of the name of this extraordinary architectural company.

Marble has an ageless, timeless strength and a unique beauty. Air, by contrast, is a light, ethereal element, flowing and giving life to all that it touches.

To Anna and her team, MarbleAir means ying and yang and speaks to the balance between design, practicality, flow, and beauty.