From Mongolia to Australia…meet Uugaa!

As we welcome in the Mongolian Lunar New Year, we thought it would be a great chance to catch up with one of our team members – Uuganjargal Batsuuri (known to us as Uugaa). She first joined GRADONARCHITECTURE’s Mongolia Studio in Ulaanbaatar back in January 2015 as Assistant Architect and Urban designer, acting as an integral part of the team and bringing a with her a wealth of creativity and knowledge in a range of fields and particularity in her passion for sustainable design. Uugaa has built up a wealth of international experience in Architecture, she first began her architectural studies in Belgium before going on to complete a Masters in technical engineering in Krakao where she expanded on her knowledge in Urban design. Uugaa is currently based in Australia and works part time for our UK studio – she has also recently welcomed the arrival of a new baby. We caught up with Uugaa to chat about her life and how she juggles the demands of International Architecture and Motherhood!

  • How did you first get into Architecture and what areas do you particularly enjoy?

From my childhood, I dreamt of being a creative person who could turn somebody’s dream into a reality, and it was this early passion which first led me to the idea of becoming an architect. Since 2013, I have worked on many different sectors, such as housing, residential, educational, master planning and commercial projects, for both refurbishment and new works. I have enjoyed each area for different reasons, and this is partly because each sector has its own unique qualities and demands. Most importantly, I always do my best to ensure that safety is put first and a completed project complies with local standards since we design for people. Also, I have a particular interest in sustainable and Universal design solutions and in 2013 I created a Facebook page to share research and ideas within this area.

  • What do you enjoy and what are the challenges of working internationally on projects?

Working on internationally based projects in a range of diverse roles (Architect, Urban designer and technical engineer) is sometimes challenging; not only because of the diverse thinking and the need to understand local taste and procedures, but also because of the need to understand the dynamics of different teams. Moreover, understanding and respecting a company’s branding in different countries is very important to successfully integrating into different cultures, this can often take some time but is highly rewarding as it makes collaboration a more positive experience.

In addition, I would say that my educational background and knowledge gained from working with senior and experienced architects has greatly helped me overcome challenges on different sized projects in the UK, Mongolia and Australia. Having been educated in Poland and Belgium with the RIBA Part 2 accreditation by Royal Institute of British architects and gaining the highest grades, plus successfully completing the Overseas Qualification Assessment by AACA (Architects Accreditation Council of Australia) in the field of Architecture and Urban design). Having this range of cross cultural training and qualifications has enabled me to work internationally and integrate with different cultures.

Many people argue that the knowledge achieved during University does not help a lot in the working environment. However, I would dispute this, I could not imagine myself without those educational experiences gained in Poland and Belgium and I am very proud of being a graduate from Cracow University of Technology. I have learned a lot from my studies, particularly in how to balance between design and engineering as well as a fundamental understanding of Universal design.

  • How does your role in Australia support the UK GRADONARCHITECTURE team?

In Australia, I am working on several new build and refurbishment housing projects, these have been developed using Revit and have been successfully submitted for development applications to the relevant Councils. Whilst working in Australia, in addition to producing high quality design, it is also hugely important to pass the sustainable design criteria and meet levels of energy efficiency, as well as complying with the BCA (Building Code of Australia) and Council’s requirements. I have also been supporting the UK Gradon team on a number of educational projects as well as designing a high profile office fit out in Mongolia.

I have found that it’s a great combination working on small scale projects in Australia while contributing to medium and large sized projects both in the UK and Mongolia. The different scale experiences and soft skills correspond to each other perfectly as I try to use what I’ve learned into another project effectively.

  • What did you enjoy about being part of the Mongolia studio team?

It’s was a huge opportunity for me to be involved with Mongolia based projects and to be given a chance to contribute to the developments in my country using the combined British-Mongolian skills and own mother language. As it’s a developing country, I see there are huge opportunities to make a positive impact as a young person especially in Ulaanbaatar, where the ongoing large scale projects are giving young designers opportunities to develop the social living styles from nomadic to urban settlement. Working in Mongolia also enabled me to use the skills and knowledge I’d gained from my international studies on projects benefitting my own country. It encourages me and makes me immensely proud to see how the projects I worked on with Gradon have brough about such positive impacts for the people in Mongolia.

  • What are your thoughts on the Development Centres project we are currently shortlisted for in Mongolia – do you think there is a need for these types of facilities?

It’s wonderful to have been shortlisted for this huge opportunity to fulfil high social demand across Mongolia and to provide the much needed services for people with special needs. Unfortunately, these services are underdeveloped in Mongolia, therefore a greater understanding of Universal design is needed in Mongolia and throughout other areas of the world so that these types of facilities are designed to be inclusive for everybody.

When I was studying in Belgium, I learned all fundamental understanding of Universal and Sustainable design for the first time. Since then, I have been committed to spreading this knowledge through managing a Facebook page named Ants Architectural solutions and by working on energy current efficient housing projects in Australia.

Therefore, if we win this project, my dream will come true and I will be able to use my previous experience to make a positive impact to Mongolia. The Gradon team also has a lot of experience in delivering similar projects development centre projects and I believe we would be able to create a facility that would truly benefit the Mongolian people. I am personally very happy and appreciative of these upcoming projects in Mongolia and whoever wins will be involved with a highly talented and professional team because of nature of this project.

  • Are there any areas of architecture you wish to pursue in the future?

I have had some residential masterplan experience in Mongolia, however, moving forward I am looking for possibilities gain further experience and to participate in all stages in this area, from concept to construction whether this be in Australia or the UK. I would also like to provide new affordable residential schemes across Mongolia. I believe that taking every action towards my dream could lead to even bigger goals and I am keen to keep moving…