60 seconds with…Simi Mandal

Senior Architectural Technologist, Simi Mandal, has been at Woods Hardwick since 2007, working her way up and earning her chartered status four years ago. Here we find out about how she has built her career and the exciting world-class projects she is working on – including a rather special Santas Grotto!

First things first, why a career in architecture? 

My father is a Civil Engineer so growing up I was really interested in his creative geometrical design work. I joined art and painting classes where I loved creating landscapes, working with light and shadow. That, together with exposure to my family’s construction business, helped me understand the commercial side of architecture and design.

I grew up in India, visiting Palaces, Temples, Mosques, and of course the Taj Mahal – seeing buildings that were rich in architectural history. I also visited Chandigarh City to see Le Corbusier’s designed buildings. All this inspired me to choose a career in Architecture. So I did my Diploma in Architecture at Jodhpur Park Women’s Polytechnic, Kolkata.

What is your role at Woods Hardwick?

I joined Woods Hardwick as a Technician in summer 2007. Over my 12 years here I have got involved in architectural design and drawing for a wide variety of commercial projects from retail, office, industrial and commercial warehouses, education, mixed use, restaurants and heritage projects.

I get involved in all stages of architectural project from feasibility and project requirement studies, presentations to client, planning applications, tenders, construction and post construction. I became chartered in 2015 and now manage an internal team and multiple architecture projects.

What do you enjoy about working here?

It’s a great environment to work in – colleagues and clients have become friends over the years. I received so much encouragement to achieve my qualification MCIAT and the Directors have been incredibly supportive, recognising my ability and giving great support in my career progression. Woods Hardwick is particularly supportive of our professional development.

What are the stand out projects you have worked on?

A lot of people won’t know this but Woods Hardwick has worked with the world’s most famous department store, Harrods, for more than 25 years.  Our team works as Executive Architects and as part of wider design teams, overseeing many enhancements to their iconic Knightsbridge store.  Headline projects I have been involved in include the staff restaurant and offices roof development project as well men’s super brands and shoe heaven (that was fun!). Everything we do with Harrods is focused on strategic space creation, seeking to maximise the retail offer on lower floor levels, optimising customer experience. And every year I work on one the most fun design projects that Harrods is world renowned for….their Santas Grotto. This years is going to be simply spectacular – a collaboration with Swarovski. There will be lots of sparkling surprises as you can imagine! It opens this Friday (but is already sold out!).

What would you recommend to any building architects? How do they make themselves stand out?

Here’s my approach…

  • Make yourself stand out?
  • Organise and plan
  • Great attention to detail
  • Ensure commercial viability at all stages of project
  • Be open to change
  • And learn from the best! My boss, Calum Wilson, is a great mentor!
Harrods, christmas, santas grotto, retail, architect

Harrods department store at Christmas (Photo by James Healy on Unsplash)