Shaping the Future of Architecture: A Conversation with Sandra Woodall, Design Principal and Company Director of tangramMENA
In the realm of architecture and design, few names resonate as profoundly as Sandra Woodall, the Design Principal and Company Director of tangramMENA. With a career spanning nearly three decades in the Middle East, Sandra has not only left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape but has also pioneered sustainable and innovative solutions that have garnered over 50 awards globally.
The Journey to the Gulf
Sandra’s journey into the world of architecture began in the heart of London, working for one of the UK’s largest organizations. However, it was her move to the UAE in the early “90’s that became a pivotal moment in her career. Tasked with the analysis, review, and development of the Al Ain City master plan, Sandra found herself in a dynamic environment, shaping the future of one of the fastest-changing cities in the Gulf.
This experience ignited her lifelong commitment to understanding and contributing to desert urbanism. Sandra’s work focuses on creating regionally significant schemes that respect the local context, blending climatic, environmental, cultural, and social sustainability needs.
tangramMENA’s Unique Approach
tangramMENA stands out as a leading architect-led design firm in the region. The company, under Sandra’s leadership, has been instrumental in delivering first-of-their-kind projects for key development programs across the Middle East and North Africa. The firm’s strengths lie in social and critical infrastructure projects that embed resilience into growing communities and cities.
What sets tangramMENA apart is its fully integrated approach, placing people and the planet at the forefront. The firm has been hailed as “a practice that pushes the boundaries of design, with sustainability at its core.” This approach has not gone unnoticed, earning tangramMENA the title of “Middle East Architecture Firm of the Year 2019” by the Middle East Economic Digest.
The company seamlessly blends traditional contextual principles with innovation, embracing heritage while maintaining a forward-looking approach. Recent initiatives, such as the founding of tangramMETA, the innovation and advanced technology group, showcase tangramMENA’s commitment to embracing and shaping new and evolving technologies for sustainable design.
Sandra believes in the transformative power of digital technologies. Under her guidance, tangramMETA utilizes Artificial Intelligence, Digital Twinning, Machine Learning, and Augmented Reality to deliver more efficient buildings, infrastructure, and services. This forward-thinking approach has led to the creation of individually tailored spaces within the metaverse, showcasing a ground-breaking shift in architectural paradigms.
Leadership, Innovation, and Well-being
For Sandra, leadership is about not being afraid to lead, listen, learn, and collaborate. She emphasizes the importance of surrounding oneself with people who excel at their work and are given the space to grow. This philosophy is reflected in tangramMENA’s agility, adaptability, and drive to tackle the unknown.
Employee well-being holds a central place in tangramMENA’s ethos. Sandra understands that a positive, productive, and sustainable work environment is built on prioritizing individual needs. Healthy, motivated employees, she believes, are the cornerstone of a company’s success.
As for the future, tangramMENA’s aspirations are as bold as its designs. Sandra envisions the company continuing to grow and thrive in diverse sectors and geographic locations, driven by transformative leadership. The company’s foray into new technologies exemplifies its agility and adaptability, showing that the spirit of exploration that defined its early years is still very much alive.
In Sandra’s words, “The greater the challenge, the higher we will rise.” This spirit of embracing challenges and pushing boundaries encapsulates tangramMENA’s journey under Sandra’s leadership—a journey that continues to shape the future of architecture in the Middle East and beyond.
This is a testament to the resilience, innovation, and transformative leadership that define both Sandra Woodall and tangramMENA.