Anat Stern was born in Israel, where she studied architecture, and worked in Israel, Belgium and the Netherlands before meeting her British husband and moving to London. She did her Masters and worked for a small, but prestigious firm for a couple of years before an opportunity presented itself: Zaha Hadid Architects was looking for an architect to join the Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion project.
Back then Zaha Hadid did not have 950 projects in over 40 countries and employ 400 staff, yet it was already every architect’s dream to work under her creative leadership. Anat applied and got the job.
“Zaha is a true visionary and is incredibly charismatic. She works hard herself and expects high standards from the others. Everyone in our industry has an opinion of her, but from my perspective, I’m very lucky to have had the opportunities to work on some truly exciting and challenging projects.”
Indeed, Anat’s latest accomplished project is the beautiful Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Hyde Park, unveiled at the end of 2013. She was one of the lead architects who worked on the project for three years. The challenge was to preserve the existing XIX century brick structure and to create a new space in harmony with the existing building and the surrounding park.
Previously, Anat also worked on the Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion, spanning river Ebro in Spain, a project commissioned for the Zaragoza Expo in 2008. The pavilion’s structure, combining a pedestrian bridge and exhibition space, is fluid and dynamic, in tune with the Expo’s 2008 focus on water conservation and sustainable development.
Anat was also one of the lead architects who designed a private villa for a Russian oligarch but that’s another story…
But professional accomplishments is not what I find most impressive about Anat. It’s the balance she managed to create between her ambitions as an architect and her family life. Anat is married and has two children. She was, in fact, the first woman at Zaha Hadid Architects to return to work after maternity leave. Anat works four days a week, she practises yoga (almost every Wednesday), she even found time for a tapas dinner with me…
It is often thought that harmony at home must be sacrificed for an ambitious career in a high-pressure environment or vice versa. Yet some women make it work and achieve that precious balance. It is so easy to dismiss something as impossible, but it’s possible to try and maybe prove naysayers otherwise.