María Cabanelas

María Cabanelas

About me

I’m from Ourense, Galicia and moved to Madrid in 2011 to pursue my undergraduate studies in architecture. I also completed my master’s degree in architecture there, before moving to London to pursue a work opportunity with an international architecture practice, where I worked on a wide range of projects. I moved back to Spain in 2023 and started collaborating with colleagues from my first university; we have exciting plans to establish our own practice focusing on the refurbishment of small-scale residential projects in Madrid.

María Cabanelas
Master’s student
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Master in Business for Architecture and Design
María Cabanelas

“My journey at IE University has been instrumental in shaping my entrepreneurial mindset and honing my ability to analyze the market from diverse angles.”

María Cabanelas

An international architect with an entrepreneurial mindset

María Cabanelas is an architect with big ambitions. Currently a student on the Master in Business for Architecture and Design at IE University, she already has a varied work portfolio. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from The Higher Technical School of Architecture of Madrid (ETSAM), she spent a period in London working for UHA Global, an international architecture and design studio where she had spent several stints as an intern during her summer breaks.

During her time at UHA Global, María worked on a diverse range of projects, from townhouse refurbishments in the UK to large-scale residential developments in India, Mexico and Cyprus. María describes her experience there as “transformative,” adding that it “broadened not only my professional outlook but also enriched my personal perspectives through exposure to different cultures.”

Wanting to expand her skill set, María then moved on to work with small-scale practices, primarily focusing on local refurbishments and house extensions. This experience proved to be revelatory, instilling in her a range of core values that she aspires to integrate into her work, such as a client-centric approach, social commitment, sustainable design and respect for local heritage, among others.

Now back in Spain, María has recently begun collaborating with former ETSAM classmates, with a plan to open their own architectural practice in Madrid drawing on their collective professional expertise and capabilities. Their vision, she says, is to offer a comprehensive service, guiding clients from initial counsel pre-investment to the adaptation and design of spaces according to their individual needs, as well as a dedicated project management service during the construction phase.

But their vision goes beyond the client, she explains: “Our broader mission addresses societal challenges, particularly the current housing shortage and the prevalence of aging properties in city centers. We aim to revitalize and adapt these types of properties to contemporary needs and sustainability requirements, believing that this approach is paramount to increasing the availability of housing in urban centers in the long term.”

“As architects we bear a substantial responsibility as we need to balance functionality with broader social, cultural and environmental considerations.”

The Master in Business for Architecture and Design had been on María’s radar since she completed her first master’s degree in 2017. However, she decided that she would be able to get more out of the program if she gained some professional experience first; and that’s when she decided to go to London. Seven years on, back in Madrid and about to embark on her own business venture, she knew that it was the right time to enroll. “I felt it was the right time to learn the technical and soft skills that the program offered in order to start my own business.”

Now only a few months away from graduation, María says that her journey at IE University has been instrumental in shaping her entrepreneurial mindset and honing her ability to analyze the market from diverse angles. This, she says, has been crucial, “Not only for personal fulfillment but also to envision a construction business that aligns with contemporary demands and addresses societal needs.”

Moreover, the program has equipped her with the practical tools and methodologies applicable to everyday operations. These insights, ranging from financial and marketing knowledge to strategic thinking, are essential for understanding the intricacies of making a business not only feasible but also viable. Simultaneously studying and starting her own business has given María the ability to apply her knowledge in real time, which she says has been “fascinating and immensely helpful.” She feels confident that leveraging this wealth of knowledge will expedite the entire process and prove invaluable in navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.

In addition to the expertise that she is building, María places a strong value on the network that she is developing through her program—not just among her peers but with faculty members and professionals, too. “It has been incredibly enriching to have access to different visions, knowledge and experiences.” María emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining these relationships and sees them as a continuous source of inspiration and guidance on her professional journey, even envisioning potential future collaborations and mentorships.

Reflecting on the role of architects, María believes that they can play a significant role in creative industries, bringing a variety of skills such as creativity, visionary thinking, holistic perspectives and proficiency in managing complex projects. She considers that architects bear “a substantial responsibility” with the need to balance functionality with broader social, cultural and environmental considerations. With her journey on the Master in Business for Architecture and Design almost complete, María is primed to take on that responsibility and continue making her own positive impact.