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B8 Architecture has established itself as an industry leader in the architecture and interior design space, with numerous international awards to its name and a substantial portfolio of properties in major cities like Miami, Madrid, and Dubai. The luxury architecture and design firm recently became a winner with Luxury Lifestyle Awards, securing a coveted spot in their Top 100 Architects and Designers. We sat down with the founder and CEO Kristina Bråteng to learn a bit more about what it takes to make it in such a rapidly growing industry, and the secret to the company’s incredible success.
Luxury Lifestyle Awards: Please tell us a bit about your professional journey and what inspired you to start your own architecture and design company.
Kristina Bråteng: I´d say that ever since I was a teenager, designing homes was my passion, but it all started even earlier when I was just a kid. My mom works in real estate (so did my dad), and I always loved to go with her to visit her property listings. Thirty years ago, there weren’t as many real estate agents on the Costa del Sol (Marbella), and I believe she was showing some of the nicest villas available at the time. I remember always asking my mom “why this” and “why that” and I was curious about all the details; like analyzing the space planning, designing, zoning, views, and orientation of each space and even giving my own “recommendations” (not sure how accurate they were at that time!). I visited so many luxury properties in my childhood, that I always felt that luxury residential design was in my blood, but I really decided I wanted to become an Architect when we renovated our family home. I was so interested in Architecture and Design and got super involved in my own project, my master bedroom, closet, and bathroom design. My mom allowed me to even “design and sketch” our pool and landscape, which was so exciting!
LLA: How would you describe the B8 style of design, and what makes a property from B8 Architecture stand out from the rest?
KB: At B8 we design homes that are modern and contemporary, but at the same time warm and cozy. We shape the spaces where family life happens, and designing a place where the family will gather, sleep, eat, work, and relax is the greatest challenge of them all, as you need to combine so many functional factors while caring about every single design detail. It is their refuge, and it has to be a reflection of our client’s soul. Each of our Projects is 100% customized and tailored to our clients. Designed from scratch and based on their requests while giving answers and a solution to all their needs, from an aesthetic and functional point of view, by incorporating cutting-edge technologies and materials from an environmentally friendly perspective.
LLA: Please tell us a bit about your process, from the moment you receive a brief from your clients to the moment the first brick is laid.
KB: B8 Architecture is an International urban planning, architecture, engineering, and interior design consultancy firm based in Dubai and Spain, with headquarters in Madrid and Marbella. Our process is therefore very different depending on each project’s scope and location. When the Projects are located in Spain or UAE, we are involved in the entire life of the project, starting from the initial sketches and pre-concept proposal to the full set of drawings required for approvals & construction/tender packages for all disciplines (architecture, interiors, structure & MEP design, landscape, etc.) and we also offer our services of project management and site supervision during the construction stage. For concept architectural design I am the lead designer architect for all our projects, meaning I am involved during the entire life of the project, from the very first sketch on all our designs. I have an amazing team of talented interior designers, architects, engineers, etc. that support me in all further stages and help to make the B8 dream possible; to complete, from concept to reality, all our creations in the most cost-efficient way, but to the highest quality.
LLA: How would you describe your leadership style?
KB: I am not completely sure what to answer here, or whether I am the right person to answer this question. Maybe my team should do that, but if I have to describe my goal as a leader, it would be “to generate in all my employees the same passion for their work that I have in mine”. I do have a strong passion for my job, and it is only thanks to that that I reached to be where I am today. It requires a lot of effort, time, patience, and love for both your work and for those you share your work with. I always try to show love, care and respect for the team. I also try to lead with the idea that I am creating “a B8 Family”, but at t the same time, you need confidence, positivity, vision, and commitment to achieve your goals.
LLA: B8 Architecture is based in Dubai and Spain, but you have clients from all over the world. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced on projects in other countries?
KB: I would say the biggest challenges are the cultural differences, but at the same time it’s so important and enriching for the final result of every project, and we do learn a lot from it.
LLA: Each property you design seems to have a unique interior theme. Where does the team get their inspiration to create such stunning spaces?
KB: Nature itself is the greatest designer of all. When designing, I always get inspired by my experiences with nature – the woods, trees, mountains, the sea – and we always integrate earth, water, and fire elements, combined with natural stone, wood elements, and an integration of the outdoor and indoor spaces; so, the project location and direct environment influence the design. The materiality of the project and the color palette also play a big role. The design process is always based on the client’s preferences, but I’d say that for each project we always have an approach to the design theme that starts with a deep understanding of the traditions, culture, preferences, and lifestyle of our clients.
LLA: What changes have you seen in the architecture and interior design industries over the last 5-10 years?
KB: I can say that the biggest change in our field (luxury residential architectural and interior design) in the last years is after Covid-19. The pandemic has already re-shaped Client’s requests. As Architects now we need to be more conscious and thoughtful about how to make families’ lives better in the place they live. Design is now much more personal and functional, as now people use their homes for work, school, playgrounds, gym, and beyond. Modern open-plan is more and more popular compared with the “old” more traditional floor plan style, where the spaces were clearly defined by separate rooms. The majority of the houses we designed after Cov-19 feature their private cinema, salon, barber room, bowling area, private office, men’s cave, spa, kids playground…and a long, etc!
LLA: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in a historically male-dominated industry and are you seeing significant progress for all genders in the field?
KB: To be honest I have never felt I had fewer chances or opportunities in the architectural/interior design industry because of my gender. Reaching the point of becoming an internationally awarded firm with projects around the globe at only 32-33 years old requires clearly set priorities. The biggest challenge I find is to balance work with family time, as work will take 90% of it. So, if as a woman, you have to reduce your working hours to take care of a child, limit your availability to travel for the same reason, or even quit your job at some point for family reasons, it will be difficult to succeed in achieving significant progress in your career.
LLA: Sustainability has become increasingly important in most industries today. What measures or practices do you have in place to conserve the environment?
KB: We as architects have the responsibility to the future, by looking carefully at the design of a building, and the proper choice of materials used, to reduce the amount of energy and resources consumed during construction.
Some ways of achieving this include protecting as much as we can of our surrounding nature, planting trees and creating a landscape that is suited to the local weather conditions, and opting to rather use sustainable materials to reduce our carbon footprint.
LLA: Everyone is talking about the Metaverse, but you seem to be a step ahead of the curve. Please tell us a bit about the B8 Architecture ‘VR Experience’.
KB: Our clients always say that our 3D renderings are one of the best on the market and that the design quality and functionality of each of our designs are unique. As our slogan says, there are no limits, and our main goal is to exceed our client’s expectations. We strive to be more than up-to-date. Before any other architects were doing extremely real 3D virtual experiences, we created our very own virtual reality and metaverse and got our license for a unique VR App with the latest oculus. This allows our clients to enter their homes a long time before the construction starts. It is so realistic that when they try it, they want to touch objects, open windows, sit on sofas, etc. We have now begun to allow some interactions (cars moving, etc.) We must always know what our competitors are doing and think of ways to be better, more Avant-Garde, and more cutting-edge.
LLA: What does this Top 100 win mean to you and the team?
KB: The acknowledgment of a job well done and the appreciation for our hard work makes everyone in B8 feel so happy. It has improved our morale and given us even more motivation to keep exceeding our clients’ and our expectations.
LLA: What can we expect to see in the future Kristina Brateng?
KB: Perhaps in another lifetime I’ll do skyscrapers and super huge scale projects, but right now I prefer to keep enjoying the process of designing exclusive family homes. I think I am living my dream now and if anything, I would just like to make this dream bigger. I plan to continue to grow B8, with more team members and more opportunities for unique projects. I would like to continue doing what we do, to the maximum of what we can achieve. I am already doing what I love.
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