Marina Mrdjen-Petrovic talks to CID’s Interior Designer of the Year, Agata Kurzela about her successes to date and her ambitions for the future.
With more than a decade of work in master planning, architecture and interior design, Polish-born Agata Kurzela has been delivering challenging and complex projects across the Middle East. Her hard work over the years resulted in many accolades and most recently Kurzela picked up the CID Award for the 2016 Interior Designer of the Year.
When reviewing her recent work portfolio, which ranges from residential, hospitality, commercial to government fit-outs, the judging panel had no doubts the crown was being placed on the right head, describing her style as an innate and “one that cannot be learned or studied”.
After the CID Awards, we met the designer herself to find out more about how she first got into interior design. We also shed some more light about victory at the CID Awards.
CID: You seemed a bit shocked when your name was announced at the CID Awards ceremony. Do you feel that this recognition came at the right time?
AK: It is tremendously difficult to objectively judge one’s own work and benchmark it against other people’s, and I had no real expectation to win; I was already very pleased with the nomination, I thought. To be lined up alongside so many experienced creative designers, many of whom I have a great deal of admiration for, and then to win – yes indeed that was a shock. And to have the panel consisting of so many respected industry players to deliver the verdict was slightly overwhelming.
In terms of timing – with every project I feel like I learn something new, develop and I always feel and hope that I can do better next time. I like to think this is an award for travelling well, and not for arriving, just yet.
CID: It will be interesting to see where you are heading, but we need to go back to the past first. Tell us about the moment when you decided this was the way to go with your career?
AK: I’ve been doodling with crayons from an early age: the usual stuff, houses with pitched roofs, smoke in the chimney and birds in the sky. My grandfather had his easel permanently set up on his veranda-turned-studio, so I got to dabble in oil painting as an infant. Growing up as an only child, I spent a lot of time on my own and formed a strong connection with books, which at the time seemed a source of boundless knowledge. I would indiscriminately read everything on my family’s book-filled shelves, but was particularly drawn to art atlases, mathematics treatises, descriptive geometry manuals and anything with drawings and diagrams. Someone in the family put two and two together and suggested that architecture would bridge these interests, and it kind of naturally went this way.
CID: You studied architecture and master planning at the Technical University of Gdansk in Poland. Do you feel that school prepared you well for the ‘grown-up’ world?
AK: In contrast to my very progressive high school, my university at that time still had one leg stuck in the past and unfortunately, this was frequently reflected in an outdated curriculum and attitude towards the students. That said, the strong focus on developing the ability to draw is something I still find useful today. The real thing that made a huge difference to me though was meeting my tutor, Daniel Zaluski, a master planner, who properly introduced his students to contemporary architecture through series of lectures, field trips and workshops. His very open and non-hierarchical approach created a very good and creative environment for student work to really flourish.