The conflict that many young professionals face when we leave the walls of our universities is: how do you feed both your mind and your soul simultaneously? How can you find the balance between doing work that challenges you professionally and also makes your spirit feel like your time and efforts were worthwhile? Many times society will encourage us to only focus on what is challenging professionally, or even just focus on what paycheck we will receive at the end of the day. The problem is that this philosophy can eventually catch up with you. Your work environment can make or break you. When your spirit, your being, your soul— whatever you wish to call your “essence”— is only fed with things of this world, or this world or dunya, we tend to feel drained and unfulfilled. By the grace of God, I have been blessed with an amazing opportunity to work as part of the MIIM Designs team in a job that makes me feel like I am able to balance feeding my mind and feeding my spirit.
Since June, I have had the pleasure of being part of the wonderful architecture firm that is MIIM Designs. The MIIM team is a group of architects, researchers and designers who are passionate about art and architecture, with a unique lens inspired by Islamic architecture. Through my summer internship with MIIM, I have been given the opportunity to experience architecture from a completely new perspective, both in regards to the method and types of projects.
Logistically this internship was both challenging and accommodating: to hire interns who live and work remotely, we have been working from home (or really anywhere I had access to Wi-Fi), through a virtual workspace through Google. Besides Google hangout, I got to use some really awesome Google apps like concept board, lucid chart and AutoCAD 360 (an app that allowed me and my fellow design interns to collaboratively work in AutoCAD and gave our mentor Maryam Eskandari the ability to oversee our progress as we were working).
Working within a virtual workspace had several pros: I could work at a pace that suited my productivity, I could travel (as long as I had Wi-Fi and was cognizant of what time zone I was in), and I didn’t have to factor in a long commute into my work day (phew!).
On the other hand, working from home meant that I had to force myself to be VERY organized. I didn’t necessarily have a 9-5 schedule, which meant that I had to create and implement my own structure. Besides our weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly) Google hangout meetings, I had to plan ahead how much I needed to work each day to ensure that the work would get finished. I did miss the culture of working in a studio from time to time. Working in a studio gives you the opportunity to bounce around ideas with your colleagues and get feedback instantly and everyone feeds off of everyone’s creative energy.
One of the many reasons why the decision was made to have the interns work virtually was because the holy month of Ramadan was going to fall during the summer months, and instead of having a studio filled with several of the team listless and caffeine deprived, MIIM gave me the option to work in a way that suited my productivity the best. During Ramadan I remember I would conserve most of my energy during the day and then within fifteen minutes of breaking my fast at iftaar, I would be completely reenergized and literally work until dawn. MIIM gave me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds: I could still enjoy my Ramadan and spend time with my family and community and at the same time exercise my design capabilities with MIIM.
Even though working from home was great, the main reason why I love being a part of the MIIM Designs team is that the firm has such a great philosophy of how they work and what they pour their heart and soul into. Working here meant I had such a diverse group of individuals from so many different backgrounds that I could interact with and get feedback from. Many times interns can typically become pigeonholed into one and only one task throughout their internship (heard of the term CAD Monkey?). This summer I have been able to work in all aspects of design from research to schematic design to interacting with clients from all over the world.
I had the opportunity to learn about the Mmofra Foundationand to help them get closer to their goal of creating “Playtime in Africa”, a play space where children can learn and create and grow within a safe environment. I got to do really amazing research on emergency disaster relief/refugee shelters for UN Habitat and look into possible architectural solutions to affordable housing issues in Haiti, The Gaza Strip and Nepal. I even got to contribute a small part of The International Museum of Women exhibition Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices.
MIIM Designs allowed to me to be a part of projects that I not only found compelling on a design point of view but from the point of view of my soul. They are a great example merging spirituality and architecture, a theme that I will continue to elaborate on in the future.
Butool Jafri is a Intern Interior Designer at MIIM Designs LLC. She studied Interior Design at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (Hook ‘em!). She loves letting her mind grow through travel experiences and meeting new people.