SOFIA HAGEN: Solving Problems with Creativity

Have you ever met someone with so much energy and creativity that every interaction is like an immersive experience? That was Sofia for me. I felt like every chat was a a burst of laughs, power and inspiration. Interactions were like a punch of creativity. She has such energy about her work. Her creativity and perspective on design has a way of shifting your view of the world around you. Her talent is obvious in her work, but learning more about her gave me a visceral and vulnerable connection to her work and passion for impact art.

Sofia Hagen

Sofia is a co-founder and director at HagenHinderdael, known for pairing product design with art, HagenHinderdael are an award-winning London duo who pursue a design approach that explores the relationship of lighting and large scale installations in immersive environments. Creating statement pieces that resemble architectural jewelry and spatial interventions that raise awareness on global issues, each product and installation has its own journey that is sustainably sourced and locally manufactured.

Hagen has a background in architecture and interior design, and her focus is the creative conception of HagenHinderdael’s interactive installations. An avid public speaker with an engaging personality, she is responsible for the company’s business development and marketing strategy. Sofia regularly represents the studio at international design fairs and events. Prior to launching HagenHinderdael, Sofia was Design Partner at Design Haus Liberty. She was responsible for the design development of numerous interior architecture and installation projects in the UK and Europe.

Her entrepreneurial spirit was key for establishing the firm’s presence in the Chinese market by overseeing a 1.5 million sqft interior architecture project for a leading fashion company in Guangzhou. Before joining Design Haus Liberty, Sofia gained interdisciplinary experience in architecture, interior, exhibition and graphic design at Zaha Hadid Architects, Acme Space and Make, designing commercial, cultural and residential projects in the UK, the Middle East and China.

Sofia trained in architectural design under the aegis of Zaha Hadid at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, where she graduated with a Masters in Architecture in 2008, followed by a traineeship as interior designer at Odile Decq Architects, Paris.


Where’s your favorite place in the world and why?

Depends when you ask – In 2020 this ranged from my mountains back home to London’s culture hubs, both places I realized to which extent I love them once I couldn’t access them anymore.

What are you passionate about?

New projects. No matter what size or brief, every project excites me in the same way, as they all have their unique features and challenges to sink ones teeth into. And then seeing them being realized and how people react to them is just the biggest satisfaction of all times.

What’s the last thing you read in a book or watched on TV? How was it?

I read “A Burglar’s Guide to the City” by Geoff Manaugh. It offers insight into how any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it, drawing on the expertise of reformed bank robbers, FBI Special Agents, private security consultants, the L.A.P.D. Air Support Division, and architects past and present. I last watched “Blade Runner” (The original ’82). It’s a timeless Classic of the most epic set design.

What is an interesting problem you wish you could solve?

It used to be how to be in two places at once – however I feel like technology has solved this problem, as was proven throughout 2020! Generally, design for me is a problem solving tool. Every product and project we develop deals with current issues across sustainability, technology, and well-being. If we can contribute to solving at least one of each with every design we produce, we’re on the right path.

What’s the coolest thing you are working on right now?

The World’s Largest Tea Pot

How do you best learn?

By doing; and I best solve problems in my sleep. (I always need to make sure I have a notepad and pen nearby, otherwise, it’s gone in the morning).

Tell us about starting a business during a global pandemic.

Well, I’ve never started a business without a pandemic, so I can’t really compare. Other than that: obviously it’s hard, things move slower, but it does have its advantages too. As everyone had to stay put, there was more time to develop a strategy, a narrative, and no pressure to rush.

Tell me about a time you had difficulty working with a group. What were the dynamics that made it difficult and how did you solve the problem?

Working in the right group can be immensely inspiring, however the challenges in a group are usually miscommunication, ignorance, and dishonesty. When working in a group communication and balance are key.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Senseless Humor

How do you prioritize your time and projects?

My time management is linked to knowing my own boundaries, what I can achieve helps define what needs to be done and when.

If you could go back and give yourself advice in college, what would it be?

Get some sleep. (Although I do admit, it’s hard to sleep when you love what you do!)

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? What did you learn?

I always loved taking the plunge – from one-way tickets without knowing when and if I would return, to quitting jobs / moving countries without having an actual safety net. Risk-taking generates opportunities.

What’s your favorite quote?

“Don’t take no for an answer” by Zaha Hadid


Interview conducted by Anna Sirmeyer.