design careers

Natasha Gill on becoming a Senior Architect at Zaha Hadid Architects

Sanjana Aggarwal

Writer at Oneistox

August 22

5 mins read

Natasha Gill is a senior architect working at Zaha Hadid Architects, London. She completed her architectural education at the BMS School of Architecture, Bangalore. We spoke to her about her journey after graduating college to becoming a senior designer at one of the best architecture firms in the world!

I do believe that architecture didn’t need to be a five-year course! Everything I learnt into college could have easily been condensed into a three year program.

Natasha Gill, Senior designer at Zaha Hadid Architects

Q1. What was your experience studying and working as an architect in India?

I pursued my undergraduate architecture degree in Bangalore. The design faculty in my college was flexible and open to ideas, which helped me nurture my creativity.

They let me experiment with ideas and I was allowed to do what I wanted. However, I do believe that architecture didn’t need to be a five-year course! Everything I learnt into college could have easily been condensed into a three year program.

After graduating,I worked at inFORM Architects in Bangalore. Again, I had a great experience and learnt a lot while working there. I had a great boss and was encouraged to experiment with my designs

After working there for over a year, I got accepted in a Master’s program at the Architectural Association in London.

Natasha has worked on some very interesting projects during her time at ZHA! One of the most notable ones is the proposed Mandrain Oriental hotel tower in Melbourne.

Q2. Where did you work after graduating from AA? How was it different from working in India?

I worked at Populous, London after completing my master’s degree. The biggest difference I found was that the work environment was very well-structured. I wasn’t used to people leaving the office at 6 pm everyday! There was a very healthy work-life balance at Populous, which is absent in most architecture offices.

ZHA on the other hand is a more intensive design studio. When I joined at a junior position, I used to work for long hours everyday because I felt like I had a lot to learn. Now that I a senior designer, I have begun to streamline my work hours.

When I joined at a junior position at ZHA, I used to work for long hours everyday because I felt like I had a lot to learn

Q3. What is the best career strategy for someone who wants to work at ZHA?

I think the most usual and effective way to get hired at ZHA is to pursue your Master’s in Architecture from AA. Since Patrick Schumaker teaches a class at AA, he often directly hires students to work at the firm. If you want to specifically work at Zaha, you can choose to enroll into the course taught by him. If you put your best into your assignments, you could be offered a job right out of college.

Along with my Master’s degree and my portfolio, the work I did in an internship at SPARK Architects in Singapore also helped me in my application.

[Read about an alternate ideology to design: Why is Chris Precht One of the Most Popular Young Architects Today?]

[Read: 10 Respected Parametric Design Firms in India to Look Out For ]

A nature-immersed residential development is another one of the cool projects she has been part of!

Q4. Are there other ways to get hired into the firm?

I understand that studying at AA is not an option for everybody because it can be a little expensive. I would advise against taking a loan to pay for your education at AA because your salary in the initial years after graduating won’t be very high, and it might take a while before you prosper financially.

The best way to get hired in Zaha is to network with people who work there or have previously worked there. This will give you a chance to gain visibility for your portfolio, which is arguably the most difficult task of the process! You can look for people you know from your college/ professional network who are working at the firm and ask them to take a look at your portfolio.

Also, there are many architects who have opened their own studios around the world after working at ZHA, who follow the same design philosophies and have incredible work. If you are interested in designing organic and innovative forms, you can start by working with them. This will help you build a portfolio, learn and even network. Summer school and other workshops at AA also help you stand out in your application.

[Read: Choose the right thesis topic to enhance your portfolio and application! 7 tips on Choosing the Perfect Architecture Thesis Topic For You ]

I would advise against taking a loan to pay for your education at AA because your salary in the initial years after graduating won’t be very high

Q5. If applying directly, what are the best softwares to know and the ways to make your portfolio stand out?

Like I said, since we get hundreds of applicants everyday, it becomes difficult to get the recruiting team to even look at your application. However, if there’s a requirement and they are looking at your application, the one of best ways to stand out is to have striking 3D visuals. The projects in your portfolio should reflect the design philosophies of the firm- they should look like something the studio would design, as they are always on the lookout for creativity. Knowledge of sophisticated 3D softwares such as Rhino and Maya is also a plus.

Currently, we are also expanding our BIM team. Applicants who are proficient with Revit are being preferred over the others, even for remote jobs.

(While ZHA is hiring for remote roles, they still only offer jobs to applicants who are qualified to work in London.)

She was also part of the team behind the concept for Mayfair Residential Tower in Melbourne. The design was inspired by the fluidity within Australia’s landscapes and seascapes.

Q6. Describe your experience working at ZHA for the last six years!

Zaha is a rigorous design studio with tight deadlines and a lot of work, but full of passionate and talented people! I love that the designs here are very organic and innovative. The clients who come to Zaha also know what kind of design to expect, so they are very flexible and open to ideas.

Since we are more of a design firm, we don’t look very deeply into the construction aspect, which makes the project timelines very exciting and dynamic. Once we have the conceptual design ready, we also look into coordinating with the consulting engineers and delivering a well-rounded design!

Sanjana Aggarwal

Sanjana is a practising architect with a curiosity for knowledge beyond the traditional boundaries of architecture. She is constantly exploring new avenues as she finds it hard to settle on just one thing at a time! Interested in all things design, she would like her design career to be an exciting multidisciplinary journey.

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