Until 2007, Yvonne Colacion had never set foot in Kuwait. Or any Arab country for that matter. The next three years, however, saw her shuttling between her home base in Los Angeles and the outskirts of Kuwait's capital almost 25 times to design a headquarters for the Tamdeen Group, arguably the country's largest real-estate developer.
As for the fact that it was a woman spearheading a 55,000-square-foot construction project in a nation that had introduced female suffrage only a year before? Well, there's quite a backstory.
The project started out under the aegis of RTKL Associates, which had lured Colacion away from Gensler to build an interiors group, and that's precisely what she was doing when Tamdeen hired RTKL to design a freestanding luxury shopping mall topped by two levels of offices. Included was the plum interiors commission. "I flew to the Middle East for an intensive charrette, and the CEO and I discovered we had professional chemistry," she says. Then the global recession hit. In 2009, after RTKL shuttered its L.A. corporate interiors division, Tamdeen asked her if she'd like to go it alone. In a heartbeat.
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