story: legacy piece

10 Questions with Marah

Celebrating her 5 years with Adhami Pender Architecture, we asked Marah about her career highlights so far and some of her design inspirations

Marah, tell us a little bit about where you grew up – some of the countries and cities you lived in?

I grew up in Damascus, Syria, a beautiful city full of charm and character, moved to upstate New York in my teen years with my family, we lived on a large block of land in a small town called Vernon for a few years.

I moved back to Syria for University, and I studied a bachelor of business  and then I met my husband and moved to Australia from there.

When did you realise you wanted to pursue design and study it?

A few years after being in Australia, and after having my beautiful 3 children, I felt that I wanted to pursue something that I was more passionate about and drawn towards; I wanted to study something different to what I had studied previously, something meaningful to me. I started searching for  what it was that could give me joy.

After some thinking, reflection and talking to close family and friends, I decided to explore my options for a degree in design. I was always interested in spaces, both internal and external; how they perform and function, what they look like and what experiences they allow people to have in them.

I applied for a bachelor in interior architecture, and the further I went into my studying the more interested I became.  The encouragement I received from family, friends and especially from a couple of the lecturers i had at the University of Canberra, helped me decide to give it a real go.

Where do you think your main inspirations come from in design?

I find peoples lives fascinating; how different cultures, lifestyles, life stages, backgrounds, dreams, aspirations and experiences affect how they go about their everyday life, how they live and how they use space and allow it to influence their daily interactions.

This was what made me feel inspired to pursue interior architecture and really understand the process behind creating these spaces.

Are there any cities or places that have influenced how you see design?

Living between Damascus, Syria and upstate New York and that contrast really expanded my mind and ideas in design. Syria, has a lot of heritage… Damascus is a vibrant city with smaller homes and more compact spaces for families to live whereas Vernon was more suburban, very beautiful and relaxed – with large blocks of land and large homes.

Over the years we have done a good share of travelling, and there are many cities that have definitely left a pleasant mark in my memory… Madrid, is one, many towns in south Spain, Prague, Chiang Mai to name a few.

Has anyone inspired you along the way?

Yes… my inspiration comes from many… my children inspire me, my husband has always encouraged me and been their for me, my mother inspires me.  I’m always learning from our team too…. everyone of them inspires me.

Nabil [Adhami – APA Founder] offered some wonderful advice at the start of my career which was a main source of inspiration for me and really changed my perception towards design – he told me to never fall in love with the design but with the process of design.

Thinking this way really inspired me to seek beauty and find beauty in everything, to always be aware of the purpose of design and to stay open to all possibilities

You’ve been working with APA for 5 years now, wow, can you tell us a little more on how that came about (how it started)

Nabil from APA, who along with his family have been dear friends for a long time, used to be a mentor to me back when I was studying. After graduating with my Bachelors in interior architecture, I was open to any sort of experience in design but was hoping for one rich in residential design, and Nabil offered me a position and I was given he opportunity to explore, experience and learn in both interior and architecture. Over time I gravitated more and more towards architecture and I actually now prefer to work more on the architecture side of projects as opposed to interiors and that was something I was grateful to have been given the opportunity to do early in my career.

Now that APA is more than just a team of 2… and you’re a 6, can you describe the way you all work together a little more?

At APA, we take pride in the process and thoroughly enjoy each phase of every project. Design at APA is a journey that we go on as a team.

Each of us has different qualities, skills, strengths and ideas. What I love about our team is that we are all so different, yet can beautifully and respectfully work together in a way where we’re all able to contribute. It somehow all works so well together and we’re always able to learn from each other, respect each other’s opinions, and produce work and design that we are all proud of.


Is there a type of architecture that you are more drawn to?

I don’t think I have one favourite anything… and definitely not a favourite type of architecture! I think, because of my back ground, my life journey, and the fact that I have a come from a more interior background, which I perused academically as a mature age student I tend to not be too fixed on any one particular style. I can find things to appreciate in any style. I believe this way of thinking keeps me open and eager to always learn more.

So you mentioned your passion is more so in residential, specifically the way families live Can you tell us which room in the family home you feel is most sacred?

I love kitchens and open plan living/ dining! Kitchen is the most important room in the house to me. Back in Syria, kitchens were closed rooms, driven by function and I felt that they were lacking life and connection to the rest of the house.

I enjoy cooking for and with my family and friends… and always feel that kitchens and open plans can creat  a feeling of togetherness where different activities can happen at the same time but everyone feels as though they are parts of a one.

If you could describe your signature in 3 words – what words would you choose?

I would say honest, good problem solver,  responsive and open minded, and passionate…. sorry you said 3!

What are some of the things you wanted to be remembered for in your work and the work you do with your clients?

hmmm if I have to pick one thing, it will probably be that I deliver! I work hard, and I commit and then deliver. Regardless of how big or small the task is, what stage of the project I’m envolved in,  it’s important to see it to a satisfying completion.