Shahad Alazzaz

Founder of Azaz Architects

As a child, I was heavily exposed to culture, the arts, and to a lesser extent politics, due to the nature of my father’s work, and I grew to be ambitious as a result of my mother’s strong character, a combination that made me the person I am today.

I am the founder of architectural design firm Azaz Architects and was born and raised in Riyadh as the second of five children. My sister, Shihana, is the oldest of my siblings, then after me is Shahla, Abdullah, and the youngest Leyana. 

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I grew up in what seemed to me at the time to be an ordinary household. Both my parents were working professionals, my father, Saleh, being a journalist then pivoting to art through photography, and my mom worked in the financial services sector before moving into academia. Over time, I came to realize that it was not a typical household, but a vibrant one at that.

My father was something of a public figure and spent a lot of time away from home, but he always made sure that our time together was well spent. I saw him shine as a journalist, despite the many hurdles he had to overcome, later seeing him in an even bigger light as he became one of Saudi Arabia’s most renowned artists.

Meanwhile, my mom was the hero in disguise as she maintained an exceptional balance between her professional and maternal duties. It was not until my teenage years that I realized that my mother was my role model. 

After my father became ill and was diagnosed with cancer, she took care of us all, even after his passing, and has faced and continues to face challenges with a strength that has never wavered. She has weathered more storms than I can count. And yet, she remains standing as elegant and resilient as a desert tree. 

In 2007, I graduated from high school, ranking among the top three graduates in the Najd region of the Kingdom. I enrolled at the University of Manchester’s school of architecture then moved to Madrid, in Spain where I gained a master’s degree in architectural design and project management from IE Business School.

After graduating, I joined a Spanish firm for a summer internship and was later appointed to manage projects I was able to bring in from the Middle East, kicking off my career in the industry while gaining a lot of experience along the way. 

I found my passion through art and architecture and I was very ambitious. I was responsible for projects that were not only focused on residential spaces, but also expanded to massive judicial projects. I was an architect by passion and profession but with a new flair.

In 2017, I founded Azaz Architects, approaching my passion for design with what I described as a “new philosophy.” The boutique firm provides architectural services to projects of all sizes.

The team, internationally based between Riyadh and Madrid, tailors each project to client needs, adding to the broad portfolio of the company.

I was honored to be chosen as the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) representative in Riyadh.

I am on a mission to change the way we think about space. My practice is about design, which is where everything begins. It is about planning and predicting, which makes it challenging. However, if done well, it becomes the solution before the problem.

I believe that a lack of design has stripped away the relationship between humans and the spaces we occupy. We are no longer loyal to our homes. There is a continuous hunt for the newer, bigger home/neighborhood, which is not sustainable. We need to reconfigure ourselves and how we approach building a space and that is something I have focused on for some time. 

In doing so, my team and I have successfully grown our portfolio to include services that span interior architecture and furniture design to master planning and many things in between. 

Being a designer and entrepreneur at the same time can be as challenging as it is exciting. I am highly confident in the talent we have at the firm and I am proud to see the impact of our hard work and creativity.

I want to see Azaz Architects become the catalyst that shifts the narrative for design in the region and I think that is not too far. Our projects have become award-winning landmarks that have shined a light on our country, and I want to see more of that. I am optimistic.

Follow Shahad Alazzaz
Instagram: @azazarchitects
Website: @azazarchitects.com

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