Andreea Ion Cojocaru
Applied in the category: IT-Tech
With which digital project do you want to apply in this category?
Our main project is called NUMENA Spaces. It is a virtual reality platform and a software tool for designing buildings at real scale. NUMENA Spaces has three main goals. Firstly, it proposes a new way of designing spaces. For the first time in the history of architecture, we are able to prototype buildings at 1:1 scale using VR. This proposition is not just about visualization. In our practice, we have discovered that making embodied design decisions while standing inside the virtual building leads to different outcomes. We believe that designing inside VR will change how real buildings function and what they look like. Secondly, because immersive space is so intuitive to understand, a much wider range of shareholders are able to become involved in the design process. At NUMENA, we design together with our clients, who are able to move walls and windows themselves. Our software gives people an unprecedented degree of agency in the design process and it has a unique educational value. Thirdly, we are building a sustainability engine inside NUMENA Spaces. With the building sector responsible for 40% of all CO2 emissions in the EU, we believe we need to teach designers about passive design methods and the CO2 footprint of their decisions from the very beginning. The sustainability engine will give users real-time feedback about all these aspects.
NUMENA Space was recently selected by the German Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie to be included into its innovation program for business models and pioneer solutions (IGP) due to its economic and educational value, impact and originality. With this new financial backing, our company will continue to develop the platform and increase our network of partners and collaborators.
How does digitization shape your career?
Digitalization and technology have become such an integral part of our lives, that mastering them is required for innovation in almost any discipline. I am a licensed architect, but I am also a programmer and a virtual reality developer. My knowledge and passion for these fields has enabled me to see possibilities that can redefine many roles, workflows and mindsets. This has led to the founding of my company, NUMENA GmbH, an interdisciplinary studio comprising of coding architects that pursue both design and software projects. On the architecture side, we use our coding skills to develop our own design tools. We write software to improve our creative process and our collaboration with clients. On the software side, we use our knowledge of spatial design to create award winning virtual applications that employ principles of spatial and embodied cognition.
Along this journey, I have learned that the power of combing coding skills with another discipline is unbound. I have also faced many challenges and naysayers. The general public is still unaccustomed with dual expertise in areas traditionally seen as separate from each other. What is such a person “really” good at? I am also a woman leader active in both the construction industry and tech, fields heavily dominated by men. I am also an immigrant in Germany. So my career is dedicated to pursuing tech in an interdisciplinary context and to challenging established notions of what an architect is and does. Or a programmer, or a woman, or an immigrant.
What makes you a digital female leader?
I believe a leader is someone that has a special relationship with risk and hardship for the sake of change and emergent potential. As a society, we have developed rules, boundaries and regulations to minimize disruption and provide safety nets. This is a much-needed setup that helps us deal with stress and uncertainty. There are, however, situations in which this setup doesn’t help but hinder: in the case of individuals that do not fit in and when a paradigmatic shift, like the digital revolution, demands change. In the first case, many individuals fail to find a place for themselves in society. In the second case, society takes too long to implement change. A leader recognizes these things and decides to take action despite many impediments, initial lack of support and an unclear road towards a potential win. I fight for a redefinition of the architectural profession, for an inter-disciplinary approach, and I teach people who, like myself, do not always fit in, that it is possible to define our own path in life and that our courage will lead to a richer, more diverse, and more agile society. As the saying goes, there is no path ahead of me, but I can leave one behind.
What does leadership mean to you?
Teaching people who do not fit in how to be brave enough to go off the beaten path and, in the process, lead towards a richer, more diverse, and more agile society.