#KAAIwomen edition: architect Stefanie Reyskens
Never give up because there is always a solution for a certain problem. If you have a no and you can get a yes, it is worth the trying.
During her studies in Architecture, it became clear that monument preservation was her only right direction in the future. Stefanie started as an intern architect by Rutger Steenmeijer. Due to her passion and drive, she has taken over this architect office in 2017. Today, she combines the function of restoration architect and manager with the motherhood of her two young children.
Where does your passion for architecture come from?
I have always had that passion. The proportions of spaces, rhythms and facades and the use of color appeal to me. And especially restoration because I think the story behind a building is very interesting. During my study of architecture, it became clear that I liked to work conceptually and therefore it is very difficult for me to work from scratch. If a story or a certain context has already been created, it is easier for me to build on that. The great thing about this is that we can add a new chapter to the story in each project.
Can you describe the most important activities of your company?
The way we work for all projects is that we first determine the correct value of a building because not all buildings have the same values and within a building, not all components are equally valuable. That as a starting point teaches us a lot in which way we should deal with the building itself. To explain this, we are always in a built context, in which we work with an existing material. You can compare this with a wardrobe: If you no longer like it, you put it away and keep the most valuable things. For us, the most valuable items are the protected monuments and they form a large part of our collective memory. The challenge is to consolidate as much as possible and yet remain functional and sustainable. My office, a refurbished 16th century building, is an ideal example of this.
What does your working day look like?
I took over the business two years ago and in a short period of time I had to make the transition from executive architect to the combination of architect and manager. The great thing about this is that I have a very varied agenda: From leading my own recruiting to joining various project architects to various meetings. The combination of all tasks within the design process and the position as manager makes it very interesting.
What were your main motives for becoming an entrepreneur?
I started in 2011 as an architect intern. At the same time, I followed my training as a restoration architect. After a two-year internship, I was able to stay with Steenmeijer Architecten. I soon realized that I am someone who takes all projects to heart as if they were my own. In that sense, I thought it would be logical to take over the business, also because the manager was retired. It was meant to be.
How did you get to where you are now?
By not giving up because there is always a solution for a certain problem. If you have a no and you can get a yes, it is worth the trying.
How did your environment respond to your plans?
On the one hand positive because they were happy that I got the chance to do it. On the other hand, somewhat critical because they wondered if it would be possible to combine it with my family since I have two children. I have to say it is not easy to monitor the balance between my work and private life. But I have a husband who understands me very well and who has recently started working for Steenmeijer Architecten to help me with the management.
What do you think is the nicest thing about doing business?
That you can make your own decisions and that you are not accountable to anyone. I think it is fascinating to create my own vision in this way. The sky is the limit, anything is possible. On the other hand, this is also confronting because you want a sounding board for certain decisions.
What challenges have you already encountered in your business?
All major projects are challenging. Now we have started the restoration of the largest tower in Antwerp, the Cathedral. To bring the entire microcosm around a specific yard to a successful result, it is quite a task. In addition, we also started this year with the execution of the Sint-Jacobskerk, both inside and outside. That is a project that will last 10 years. There, the challenge is to put it to good restoration in order to complete the coordination of this entire project with many stakeholders. In this way, legislation can change in 10 years and the continuity of the project architects must be guaranteed without loss of information. As a coordination architect in this project, this is certainly a challenge for me.
What have been your highlights during your career so far?
The first highlight was that as a trainee I got a lot of responsibility and at the end of the project I received confirmation that I had successfully completed it. Another highlight was certainly the takeover of the company. But actually, I consider every great assignment as highlight when we can realize a qualitative delivery.
What do you think are the most important characteristics that an entrepreneur must have?
A good portion of enthusiasm, ambition and no surrender mentality. I think those are the basic principles. In addition, I also believe that with little capital you can make a good flow and build a network yourself. A network that you can fall back on and that you can use for professional important input.
What do you want to achieve in the future?
My ambition, dream or work point is to monitor the ideal balance between my work and private life. At the moment, it is too much about the professional side. Another work point is to monitor the balance within the office to then dare to dream of additional challenges.
Which tip would you like to give to people who want to do business?
Just do it. Go for it and don’t hesitate because where there is a will, there is a way. And let others support and assist you in this.
In my KAAI
Do you remember what your very first handbag was?
I do not remember it. I am the youngest of five children with two older sisters from whom I inherited my handbags.
How many handbags do you have ?
About twenty. I notice that I make a difference between a week bag and a weekend bag. The weekend bag must be easy to carry and be a bit more elegant. For a week bag it is important that I am able to hang it.
Which KAAI bag did you choose and why?
I chose the Hero in cognac because it is a backpack model and I have a lot of things to carry because of my two children. I was looking for an elegant laptop bag and that is how I ended up on the KAAI website. After seeing the KAAI handbags, I didn’t look any further. My KAAI bag is even my weekend bag because it is so practical and it can carry a lot.
What could you not miss with your KAAI bag?
Functionality, elegance and actually the total package. My laptop and charger, perfume, iPhone, writing material and notebook, wallet and sunglasses are my everyday essentials and they all fit into it.
The combination of the functionality with aesthetic makes it the ideal handbag.
Who do you look up to?
To my mom. When I was seven years old, my dad died, and from then my mother had to take care of five children alone. She has always taught me to never give up. In addition, I also look up to people who have achieved something in their lives or make sacrifices with a goal in mind. Specially, women and mums, they inspire me.
And finally, can you tell the readers something that people do not know about you?
Although, I am very entrepreneurial and I have a lot of courage in that area, I am afraid of the dark. I am a control freak and when I am in the dark, I don’t have control. That makes me scary.