Interview: Resul Şahin
Hello Ms. Yasemin. First of all, we would like to get to know you. Can you tell us about yourself?
As a 3rd generation German Turk, I was born in Germany. After Germany and France, I continue to work in Turkey with the QARA architectural office I am the founder of. I completed my school life and architectural education in Germany. I graduated from Stuttgart Technical University, Department of Architecture. While I was still a student, I started working in architectural offices in Stuttgart. After graduating, I started working in an international architecture firm in Bordeaux, France. I lived in France at that time.
I have had the opportunity to work on many large and international projects such as hotel and restaurant chains, shop and cafe designs. QARA interior as a female entrepreneur in 2017 | I founded architecture. I live in Istanbul. Under the roof of QARA, we carry out international projects in fields such as architecture, interior architecture, and architectural design, especially in Germany and Turkey. We use materials produced in Turkey in projects abroad, thus benefiting Turkish manufacturers. In this way, I try to promote our country abroad. I am married, I have three dogs.
When and how did you decide to become an architect?
On my way to primary school in the small German town of Kirchheim, where I was born, I used to cross a street between school and home. It was a street with many beautifully designed houses. There were always detached houses on the street. German families lived in general. I always looked carefully at the houses when I passed by. I used to dream back then. How would it look if it was another color? I wondered what it would be like if there were a window over there. One day I learned about the profession of architecture. I was in the 2nd grade of primary school. “This is what I want to do,” I said. At that moment, I decided to become an architect.
Years later, I took my wife to that street where I decided to become an architect. The road stood unchanged, with the same beauty: Liststrasse in the town of Kirchheim.
QARA interior, where you realize both architectural design and interior design projects | You are the founder of architecture. Can you tell us about the process of creating your brand?
I was working in an architectural firm. I wanted to do projects that I used my creativity, wholly free and own because I love freedom in design.
I started reading entrepreneurship books during my lunch breaks. I bought the computer that I would use in my designs in installments, and I invested almost half of my salary into the computer. At that time, I founded the company with my efforts, without any financial help from anyone. I was confident in myself, in my vision.
While deciding on the name QARA, I started with the black color I like very much in designs. The term “QARA”, similar to the word black, appeared before me. At that moment, I decided to buy the domain name for the website. At that time, the “.com” address was costly. I only had enough money for “.work”. And thus, www.qara.work came to life.
I prepared the website for the first time with two of my friends. They also designed my logo.
I paid the price even if they were my friends. I tried to create a reputable brand by being thrifty. At that time, I worked in my own business during the day. At night, I was working at home to build my brand. I was getting exhausted, but I still created my company’s infrastructure.
When I got my first project, I resigned from the company I was working for. I focused entirely on my project. It was a hookah cafe project in Berlin. Then my second client came. He was an international client. Even though I am a new company, they trusted my vision, talent, and experience. They gave me the design of all their stores from India to China, Australia to Mexico. In this way, the QARA brand was quickly brought to life. Still, I can say that it takes a lot of courage.
I guess it’s not enough to establish the brand. In addition, your profession requires a good understanding of customers’ requests and a strong imagination. What would you like to say about this?
It is essential to understand the wishes and dreams of my customers. Instead of showing them fashion or trending things, I help them find what they want.
Sometimes they can’t express themselves. My customers feel that I understand them when I speak; they trust me. I empathize. I quickly understand what kind of design is requested. I sense people’s styles and tastes. I’m looking at what makes them feel good. Whatever they feel lacking, I try to complete it. It is my pleasure to create spaces that express and reflect my customers.
And you are right, and a strong imagination is necessary for my profession. This is important so that ordinary things do not happen. Creativity is essential for distinctive, eye-catching designs.
Finally, after establishing the brand, it takes a lot of work to believe in it and develop it. As you said, it is not enough to establish the brand. You need to make a difference with your brand and do something new to attract attention. This is very important, especially if you are a new brand.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you have realized so far?
After founding the company, my first major project was an international chain of stores (in the construction-machinery sector). Being selected for this project as a young architectural firm brought great prestige and enabled me to reach many new clients.
For 4 years, I have designed more than a hundred stores for an internationally famous building and industrial materials company – I have designed stores in all countries such as Australia, China, India, Mexico, Italy.
The first hookah cafe I designed in Berlin became very popular. Afterward, many restaurant and hookah cafe owners called me. I have developed many hookah cafes, steak houses, and cafes in Berlin. I also did the renovation projects of restaurants.
I realized private house projects in Germany, Bodrum and Toronto.
They contact me after the projects. I became famous as the “architect lady” among Turkish entrepreneurs in Berlin. They always call me when starting projects. I am happy to have created this trust.
What are the elements that inspire you in your designs and architectural practices?
After determining a specific style/theme in projects, I like to gather information about that theme. I watch documentaries, read books, research. After an intense visual research period, I start the project.
I also do the modeling myself. I am constantly producing. I always have a notebook in my bag. Something pops into my mind in an irrelevant place, and I jot it down right away. I make sketches and hang them on the board in my study. My imagination is extensive.
My sources of inspiration are movies, art, books, fashion magazines, documentaries. Sometimes even a conversation with a friend can be a source of inspiration.
Architecture, design and painting. You have a versatile stance. What kind of drawings do you do?
I make minimalist paintings that reflect my taste in architectural design. I use light colors. I use acrylic and watercolor as materials.
I went to a calligraphy course, I also do marbling works, but I mainly work on plain and abstract acrylics. I like to work with non-figurative, light colors.
You are also a collector. I know that you have recently added the works of many artists to your collection. Can you share with us your love of art?
When including works of art in my collection, I establish a special bond with them. I make my choices by trusting my intuition, taste, and listening to my inner voice. Incorporating artwork into my life inspires me in my daily life.
For example, Melek Anqi’s work, which I added to my collection at Contemporary Istanbul, connected with me the moment I saw it. It never left me!
Also, the calligraphic works of calligraphers are very appealing to me. Whenever possible, I try to attend exhibitions of calligraphers. These days, I am researching Ottoman miniature art.
Art feeds and inspires me a lot. Therefore art is an integral part of my life.
You also love taking and editing photos. I want to talk a bit about this subject. E.g., What do you think of Ara Güler’s saying, “The best camera does not take the best picture”? Do you have a sentence to add to this?
When I take pictures, everyone asks what programs and filters I use. However, the issue is not in the programs but perspective. I like to tell a completely different story by capturing a composition in a standard image, catching a different perspective. Therefore, I wholeheartedly agree with Ara Güler’s statement.
Macro, landscape, portrait… What do you enjoy photographing the most?
I don’t have a priority. I can photograph a landscape, a street, or even a flower. I like to take pictures that are natural and not pre-edited.
What are the places or structures that affect you at home and abroad?
This question reminded me of another situation. With your permission, I would like to share an opinion. I think that Turkish architects and their works are not known enough, and we have excellent historical and contemporary works.
While I was studying architecture in Germany, I asked the teacher about “Mimar Sinan”. I was very surprised when he said he didn’t know who he was. I think that Turkish names are not mentioned among the most impressive architects in foreign publications, and in a sense, injustice is done. In this sense, there are many good buildings to be discovered in Turkey. Seljuk and Ottoman architecture attracts my attention. Mansions from the Ottoman Empire, like the Ottoman houses with a bay window.
Abroad, the Louvre Museum, Central Park in America or even a street in Washington can impress me. I don’t know which one to highlight.
Can you tell us about the projects you plan to realize in the near future?
I focused on designing furniture and decorative accessories to complement my interior design projects. Again, I plan to produce these designs with manufacturers in Turkey.
We will continue our international architectural projects (even though we cannot share their names due to the agreement with our customers).
What do you want to say as of last words?
I realized that social media is essential for architecture today. I noticed that Turkish customers are especially impressed by seeing 3D models of designs on social media. Turkish customers pay attention to 3D models and projects realized by an architectural office. Even if it is an unrealized, imaginary project, sometimes it doesn’t matter. This is an exciting situation, and it encourages me to use social media differently for Turkish customers.
I decided to share more of my realized projects and models in 2022. In this sense, you will see more of my models and designs on social media.
QARA interior | architecture