Page 1

GIRL UNINTERRUPTED THE BOSTON EXPERIMENT 2017-2018

REFLECTIONS: 3



With gratitude

To our exceptional families, who have taught us to dream big, work hard, be compassionate to everyone around us and dare to explore the world as much as possible. To our husbands. Without them, balancing work and family would be impossible. They not only support us, but they hold us accountable to our big dreams and help us achieve them. To our amazing friends—activists around the world—all with different talents and curiosities, who have collectively inspired us to keep learning, finding links between diverse subjects and bringing those into our design thinking. To our inspirational colleagues, who are mentors, collaborators and changemakers themselves.



Sponsors

We would like to give a special thank you to our sponsors without whose support we would not have been able to pursue this research. Thank you for being change-makers! - Leers Weinzapfel Associates - Sasaki Foundation - Hunter Douglas Architectural



Table of Contents

Introduction: Reflections

1

1 | Survey

5

2 | Conversation Series

35

3 | Action Tips

139

Conclusion

157


Photo Credit: Langer Hsu



Don’t be a bystander. - Carole Wedge, President of Shepley & Bulfinch


Dear Change-Makers, The Girl UNinterrupted research initiative has been an exciting journey for the two of us, and we hope this booklet will provoke thoughts and conversations and inspire more initiatives of this kind. The idea originated after an office lunch discussion at Leers Weinzapfel Associates on March 8th, 2017 when we both started wondering how emerging professionals feel about current issues in architecture. Our curiosity led to a proposal we wrote for ABX 2017, the annual architecture convention in Boston. We called the research “Girl UNinterrupted” because we are both emerging female professionals and so far, we have felt very lucky to be “uninterrupted” in our pursuits in architecture and in life. The project’s mission is to bridge the gap between emerging female designers (and designers in general) and leaders in the architecture field. It includes 3 phases: 1. Boston Designers Data Survey: The survey targeted emerging professional designers in the architecture field (0-10 years of experience, female & male) and aimed to extract issues that they are currently struggling with while testing any gender differences. The survey included 40 quantitative and qualitative questions divided in 4 categories: General Information, Self-Confidence and Negotiation, Career Growth and WorkLife Balance. It was created with the rigorous training and careful guidance of professionals in marketing from around the world. It ran for 2 months (July-August 2017) and after persistent e-mailing and with help of local collaborators, we managed to gather 533 responses. The data was analyzed with the help of professors in economics and marketing in the Boston area REFLECTIONS: 1


- Dr. Ivan Petkov at Northeastern University and Dr. Sokiente Dagogo-Jack at Boston College and is available on our website. 2. Conversation Series: The series includes 12 interviews with prominent women leaders from different generations, firm sizes, and backgrounds in the Boston area. They reveal diverse perspectives, struggles, challenges, and observations on both design field policies and emerging professionals. Each one includes unique tips that could serve well to both leaders and designers. 3. Manual with Action Tips: This is the booklet you are holding currently a deep dive into the survey data analysis, conversation series, and lessons learned. This manual’s goal is to produce transparency in the architecture field and offer practical tips for emerging designers on how to jumpstart careers as well as tips to leaders on how to tweak office culture to produce an equitable environment that maximizes and retains talent. We have been very fortunate to see an immense interest in the subjects and questions we were posing. Along the way, we have met an amazing group of inspirational collaborators, leaders, survey takers, outreach volunteers, mentors and sponsors. If we were to extract key lessons from our year-long Girl UNinterrupted journey, we would focus on the following: 1) “Don’t be a bystander.” 2) Both quantitative and qualitative data matters. 3) Transparency in the profession is key for future progress. The first point is a quote from our conversation with Carole Wedge, President of Shepley Bulfinch, that strongly resonated with us. In a charged time, we have to evaluate what core values we stand for and work together 2


to bring progress. Each one of us has a voice and should use it whenever witnessing injustices. If you notice that something is wrong, ask questions and make comments. It is our responsibility to make things better. Data has become a buzzword in contemporary culture. It is essential to collect and share data on various issues. Data is proof of current conditions. We believe that apart from quantitative data, qualitative data such as a measure of one’s feelings or personal stories should be part of the conversation. It brings out layers of information that could be subjective, but it is also mind-opening as one relates to other people’s experiences. We provide both quantitative and qualitative data mixed with comments and stories we have gathered through the survey and conversation series. Finally, bringing transparency in the profession is essential if we want to improve any policies and cultures. After analyzing our Boston Designers Data results, we were shocked at the large percentages of survey takers, who did not have an understanding of their office policies. Leaders, too, were unaware of what emerging professionals strive for. We continuously faced a desire for both parties to understand each other better. We hope that this research initiative will bridge some gaps in the profession and open up a platform for an open discussion. Let us all work together to make a change.

Best of luck! Juliet Chun & Zhanina Boyadzhieva Co-Founders of Girl UNinterrupted Project REFLECTIONS: 3


4


1 | SURVEY

SURVEY RESULTS: 5


6


533 SURVEY RESULTS: 7


8


The firm is top heavy and younger designers don’t get enough opportunities to interface with clients and consultants, thus often feel anonymous. Designer, female, 6-10 years of experience I have not been able to negotiate proper confidence in the workplace. I’m at my best when I do as I’m told. I want to be a team player and fill my role. I don’t want to distance myself from authority through disagreement. Society tells me to both “do as I’m told” while simultaneously “challenge the world around me”. It is a very tricky balance for me to negotiate. Designer, male, 6-10 years of experience When we started this project, one of the first things we wanted to do was gather data and understand the current environment for emerging professionals. What challenges do they face? What work places do they work in? Are there any gender differences they experience? How does our city compare to nation-wide statistics and does being an emerging professional change the data further? Before we could start suggesting ways to change, we needed to have specific data for Boston designers and architects. We processed 533 responses and 40 questions through filters such as gender, years of experience, and size of firm, which you can see in the following diagrams. Despite being in a progressive bubble, the following results show that change is necessary in Boston and that even within the emerging professionals group, issues of gender equity are prevalent. As nation-wide statistics have stated, the issues only grow with years of experience. We suggest tackling those from the beginning of one’s career path.

SURVEY RESULTS: 9


who took the survey?

19% 11+

21%

0-2

31% 3-5

35% 65%

29%

female

6-10

years of experience

gender

female male 10


2%

5% PM 8%

9%

other intern

12%

(0-5)

8%

(6-15)

46%

designer

associate

21%

architect

work title

15%

38%

(16-30)

(101+)

18% (31-50)

19%

(51-100)

firm size

SURVEY RESULTS: 11


are survey takers licensed?

21% haven’t 3% thought about it

not getting it

30%

haven’t 5% thought about it

yes

not getting 33% it yes

55%

46%

working on it

working on it

are you licensed?

12

7%


the biggest factor for male respondents for not getting licensed is lack of time and motivation.

66% of women don’t believe getting a license applies to their work.

does not apply to my work

too expensive n

n n

e

won’t change status

5%

14%

too expensive

9% 5% 6%

24% 66%

no

n

does not apply to my work

14% 19%

38% n

won’t change status

e

if you are not planning on getting licensed, why not?

9% 16% (11+) (0-2)

29% (6-10)

46%

14% 14% (11+) (0-2)

34% (6-10)

(3-5)

38% (3-5)

if you are, how long did it take?

women who get licensed often do it faster than their male counterparts.

female male SURVEY RESULTS: 13


what are the average salaries? people are generally unhappy about their salaries.

0-2

14% 5%

13% 7% 3%

12% 7% 3%

3-5

starting with 0-2 years of experience, men receive a higher salary. at 3-10 years, things start to level out, but at the 10+ year mark, the salary difference is noticeably big.

81K+ 67% 13% 4% 6-10

60% 50%

58%

40%

81K+

40%

70%

61K-80K

22%

salary

14

80%

61K-80K

35%

21% yrs of experience

17%

90%

22%

22%

49%

11%

22%

51K-55K

35%

15%

20%

56K-60K

46K-50K

25%

100%

3% 8%

46K-50K

3% 5%

61% 14%

86% 39% 10+

8% 6%

30% 20% 10%

female male how do you feel about your salary?


haven’t 1% thought about it

haven’t 2% thought about it

27%

45%

yes

39%

40%

i don’t know

i don’t know

27% no

yes

19% no

do you believe your office has pay equity?

more men than women believe that their office has pay equity. an even larger number of men and women don’t know if their office has pay equity indicating that there is a lack of transparency within their firms. female male SURVEY RESULTS: 15


what are some benefits offices offer? 100%

n

90%

e e ent

80% 70% 60%

n t

50%

n ne

nt n

nt i e

n e ent in

e

n

10%

e e ent

20%

n e

30%

e t in

40%

what benefits do you receive? 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

are

leed

aia

what fees does your office cover?

16

bsa

abx


100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20%

happy hour

0%

0%

10%

summer hours

design lunch

abx

e

ti

tne

t i e

e

what office perks do you get?

when asked what other office perks emerging professionals would like, many responded with items like flexible hours, more professional development opportunities, and fitness classes. generally, all aspects of life are important to EPs and they would like more opportunities to succeed in both their professional and personal lives. xs (0-5) s (6-15) m (16-30) l (31-50) xl (51-100) xxl (100+) SURVEY RESULTS: 17


what about parental leave?

haven’t thought about it

4% no

37% 59%

i don’t know

yes

does your office offer parental leave?

an alarming number of respondents did not know if their office offers parental leave, indicating that parental leave may not be a concern for EPs yet or office policies are not readily available or clear.

18


100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20%

unpaid leave

0%

0%

0%

10%

i paid leave

i

i it

i don’t know

what does your office offer?

xs (0-5) s (6-15) m (16-30) l (31-50) xl (51-100) xxl (100+) SURVEY RESULTS: 19


who has negotiated?

61% yes

39%

52%

no

48% no

yes

have you negotiated?

more women than men have negotiated

20


8%

12%

no

no

33%

33%

yes

yes

59%

55%

somewhat

somewhat

if you have negotiated, did you get what you wanted?

15%

34%

ne e to

18%

not n

29% not n

ent

19%

53% ne e to

nt no impact know how

ent

nt n

11% 21%

no impact

if you have not negotiated, why not?

more than half of men said they did not negotiate because they never had to versus women who felt they were either not confident, did not know how to, or thought negotiating would have no impact.

female male SURVEY RESULTS: 21


how do people feel at work?

100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20%

a

10%

size firm (# employees)

xs

s

(0-5)

(6-15)

m

(16-30)

l

(31-50)

xl

(51-100)

xxl

(101+)

how often do you feel challenged?

19%

6%

esigner

11+

21%

0-2

31% 3-5

more men than women feel challenged 35% in every office size.

65%

29%

female

6-10

female male 22


100% 90% 80% 70%

i e

t e

i e t

10%

n n

20%

enging e ign t

30%

e ning

40%

en

50%

in e en i n ent

60%

what motivates you?

what motivates you?

continuous learning, challenging design tasks, and having an open-minded environment were all motivating factors.

SURVEY RESULTS: 23


how do people feel at work?

100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

xs

(0-5)

s

(6-15)

m

(16-30)

l

(31-50)

xl

(51-100)

xxl

(101+)

how do you feel about asking questions?

everyone feels comfortable asking questions.

24


100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

xs

(0-5)

s

(6-15)

m

(16-30)

l

(31-50)

xl

(51-100)

xxl

(101+)

how frequently do you initiate ideas at the work place?

except at xs and s size offices, less that 50% of people are not comfortable initiating ideas.

female male SURVEY RESULTS: 25


what about overtime?

60%

50%

50%

40%

40%

30%

30%

20%

20%

10%

10%

60+

70%

60%

51-60

70%

46-50

80%

41-45

90%

80%

36-40

100%

90%

0-35

100%

how many hours do you typically work per week?

n ne

e

paid e e

e

what over time benefits does your office offer?

xs (0-5) s (6-15) m (16-30) l (31-50) xl (51-100) xxl (100+) 26

e


100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

it hasn’t

relationships have suffered

missed milestones

missed events

health has declined

has your personal life been affected?

more women claim to have had their personal lives affected by their work life.

female male SURVEY RESULTS: 27


what is the feeling on work/life balance?

5%

e

i

e

e

12%

e

e

37%

t ne

29%

16%

e

i

how do you feel about your work/ life balance?

only 53% of people are satisfied with their work/life balance.

28


39%

e in i te

e

ty

guilty

guilty

12%

il not gu

48%

ty

46%

e in i te

il not gu

40%

9%

e

2%

g it

t e

e

4%

g it

t e

e

how do you feel taking time off?

most people feel guilty about taking time off. within those numbers, more women feel guilty taking time off than men with most of that guilt being self-inflicted.

female male SURVEY RESULTS: 29


what about satisfaction at the work place?

100% 90% 2%

e

80%

n

70%

n

22%

50%

e happy

40% 30%

hap py

ne t

60%

6% 23%

46%

20% 10%

xs

(0-5)

how do you feel about your work place?

good news! most people are happy at work.

30

s

(6-15)

m

(16-30)

l

xl

xxl

(31-50) (51-100) (101+)


100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

xs

(0-5)

s

(6-15)

m

(16-30)

l

xl

xxl

(31-50) (51-100) (101+)

how likely are you to recommend your work place to others?

this question is a good indication of how happy people are at work.

xs (0-5) s (6-15) m (16-30) l (31-50) xl (51-100) xxl (100+) SURVEY RESULTS: 31


any final thoughts?

Our last question in the survey was an optional write in response, a chance to add any additional thoughts of the practice today. We extracted a few comments here that capture some insight into the field that neither quantitative nor qualitative survey questions could.

It has been made somewhat clear that advancements, promotions, and true raises are obtained by moving to another firm. This does not seem to be a very good system for improving the quality of firms and the profession. Designer, Male, 3-5 years of experience There is a big lack of proper team management throughout the office. I often feel set up to fail by my Project Managers. Designer, Male, 3-5 years of experience

I wish we could get more time off - even unpaid time off! Designer, Female, 3-5 years of experience The profession needs to address low architectural fees. Either by adapting the services provided to clients or by teaching young architects about project finances. Designer, Male, 3-5 years of experience 32


My firm suffers from a lack of female design leadership. There are plenty of individuals who should be in design leadership, but aren’t. Having to leave early to take care of children seems to hold them back, as they can’t work the 60+ hours a week to be taken seriously. My office is friendly enough, but as a vocal, outspoken women I’ve been talked over in many meetings. I want to succeed here, but I can’t imagine that happening here once I have children. They are supportive of taking care of families, but you won’t see big promotions typically if you are your child’s primary caregiver, as many women are. I’ve considered leaving the profession if I can’t get the balance I want. Designer, Female, 6-10 years of experience

Pursuing a license is not my highest priority as family + children are the priority. For them to have my full attention outside of work allows me to have better work/life balance. Pursuing ARE exams would inflict a higher stress level that’s not necessary in this stage of our growing family. Knowing that there are many other opportunities in the design and construction industry, you don’t need an architect license to be successful, although it’s nice to have. Designer, Male, 6-10 years of experience

Flex time is the most important benefit, plus working from home. Everyone doesn’t have to be in the office every day. Architect, Female, 11+ years of experience

SURVEY RESULTS: 33


34


2 | CONVERSATION SERIES



12


38


Morning Coffee with Tamara Roy We met with Tamara Roy, Principal at Stantec in Boston, on a beautiful summer morning. Voted one of Boston’s Top 50 Power Women in Real Estate, Tamara was the design team leader for the new residence tower at MassArt, described as ‘the most interesting high-rise in years’ by the Boston Globe. She was elected to be the President of the Boston Society of Architects in 2016. Nicknamed ‘the mother of the micro-unit’, Tamara became one of the earliest promoters of compact living when she advocated for changing the policy of minimum unit sizes at a 2010 Innovation District housing symposium. How did you get on the architecture path? I didn’t even know architecture existed until high school. I loved to paint and wanted to become an artist. I come from a lower middle class family and my parents, who divorced when I was 13, were very clear that they would not support me as a painter. My dad said, “What about architecture?” I got a scholarship to attend Carnegie Mellon and totally loved it, so I stayed. From then on, I was pretty much on track to become an architect, except for a brief time in my mid-twenties when I became really disappointed about how much of a maledominated profession this was. I thought about going to get a medical degree as a pediatrician

or a gynecologist so that I could work with women! Of course I didn’t have the money to return to school since I already had an enormous amount of student debt. The funniest thing that turned me off when I was dreaming about being a doctor was that I would have to work in a hospital - back then they were the most depressing architectural spaces ever. How did you get into designing affordable housing? I did a series of jobs, trying different things. In college I worked for two professors of mine, who renovated a gospel church for an African-American community in Pittsburgh. As a junior designer that was an amazing experience – the CONVERSATION SERIES: 39


40

congregation was quite poor yet they were such a close knit, loving community. Then I worked for a while doing small houses for private clients, but I found that getting to know everything about a couple or family’s private life did not quench my thirst to make a larger difference in society. I didn’t want to talk for hours about where your toasters would go - I wanted to work in a city.

I am working on is a project in Charlestown, which is ⅓ public housing and ⅔ market housing. It is taking the Bunker Hill public housing development, tearing it down and putting up 14 new blocks of housing. The reason I get up in the morning is to make a new neighborhood that is fair and equitable, one that has the best possible urban design and sustainable thinking.

Affordability was a big thing for me because my own financial insecurity drove my decisions for where and how I lived, what types of jobs I could take, and the social circles I inhabited. At various firms I tried designing schools, hotels, and retail-driven mixed use projects. At ADD Inc, designing student housing for state colleges was very fulfilling work, because the need to create communities was paramount and budgets were tight. I realized at that point, mid-career, that the combination of grass-roots community and place-making with the challenge of financial constraints was the type of project that most ignited my passion and brought out the best of my talents as a designer and leader. Working in the affordable housing sphere is that challenge times 10. The most perfect example right now that

What are your reflections on one’s career path in architecture? In my opinion, the first part of most architect’s careers should be to try many different areas of the practice and see what excites you most. Architecture is so complex and is constantly changing, and there are so many things to figure out about yourself as well as about the world you are going to work in. Do you want to work on museums, housing, commercial? Urban, suburban or rural? Do you like the conceptual or technical aspects of design? In order to make a steady climb while you are trying out all these aspects of architecture, one thing I have learned is that you have to be able to turn what you know into something of value even when transitioning into something different. You don’t want to lose


the momentum, the salary and the power. In a very steady and hard climb, I got to the position that I am in - a Principal. Now I can really be the one saying “I want to chase this project and this is how we are going to proceed”. Is there a difference being a female architect? A thing that has really benefited me being a woman is that collaboration is something that we fundamentally believe in. Everybody around the table has something to offer. The project is better if we can crowdsource not just from our team but from the client team, the consultant team, and the neighbors around the site. Most women I know don’t expect to be a leader who has all the answers or comes up with the entire vision. My goal has always been to make sure that we get to the best solution in a flexible process that allows many inputs and iterations. It is important for women to learn to be both comfortable in their own skin while having the confidence and courage to not give a quick answer but try to find the best answer. This it is not the easiest path towards promotion though. The architects who build themselves up are the clear ones to promote whereas if you are

Most of my clients in the private development world are male. I still walk into large meetings with 10-20 people where I am the only woman there. I always stop and think, “Really? This is 2017! And where are the people of color?” It is very lonely at times. giving credit to the entire team, it is harder to recognize that it is the collaborative leader stitching it all together. Are there any challenges being a female architect? Most of my clients in the private development world are male. I still walk into large meetings with 10-20 people where I am the only woman there. I always stop and think, “Really? This is CONVERSATION SERIES: 41


2017! And where are the people of color?� It is very lonely at times. Having a husband, who is doing the same kind of work in architecture, was helpful in a way. I could see through him the opportunities that he was getting and I was missing. We both would work with the same male client but when it came time for them to call us about the next project, they would inevitably call him. One aspect of unconscious bias is that we often prefer to work with people like ourselves – and that is true of developers too. I tried to bridge that gap by partnering with a male principal and it worked most of the time. We would get the work and I would do my job as well as I can. On the upside, development is starting to change and now, somewhere in that team, there is a woman. We can establish a rapport about everything about our kids, about common interests, and when you enjoy working together and do great projects, that is the key to repeat clients! Are there any challenges to being a working mom? We could do another hour long interview about what I learned being a working mom. Women 42

should go in with their eyes open and not with this false sense that all of issues between men and women have been worked out in society because it is not true. When I married my husband, I thought we would be equals, and then we had to acknowledge the fact that he made more money than I did because he was five years older and he already had more experience. Suddenly, if anyone was going on a part-time schedule, it was me because we needed the money. That meant his career could keep going and mine had to flatten out for a while. I worked between 20 and 32 hours a week as my children grew up. One of our male project managers was on a panel for work/life balance, and one thing he said was that his definition of success was that he provides for his family. That made me do some soul-searching since for me success was to be the emotional center of my family while I also lived up to my potential as an architect. It was challenging and exhausting. I cried quite often when I failed at one or the other. Men and women come to the world with those differences built into their DNA and I think society and the world of work still doesn’t accept the fact that


women need different things for our success. If we start to feel that the balance is off and that work is taking too much time, we will back off work. It is really important to us to do that, for us and for the future of our children. We should not be penalized for that!

I think that for the millennial generation that is starting to have families, it is essential to try and figure out how to make this balance work. But it is not just about having families, kids, or aging parents. You just want to have a life. What policy changes should leaders focus on? What we hear from our staff is that our flex-time policy at Stantec is super family-friendly. Childbirth is a temporary thing.

You are going to take parental leave (women and men) and then you are going to come back. If you are good at what you do, it is actually going to make you better because you will become even more organized and efficient. I think that for the millennial generation that is starting to have families, it is essential to try and figure out how to make this balance work. But it is not just about having families, kids, or aging parents. You just want to have a life. You don’t want to be in the office all the time. You want to travel; you want to do other things. Having a wellrounded life and trying to figure out how architecture firms can support that helps women, men, minorities succeed and thrive. What are some changes in the design field that you have noticed? For the baby boom generation, technology has changed many times in their career. What it does to the younger generation is it dumps all of the need to know new software in your laps. You have to be careful that you don’t get stuck in this role of being the person with the technological skills. You need to grow your social skills too. I heard a principal say last week that he went to an interview CONVERSATION SERIES: 43


and he was the oldest person in the room. The clients were 15 years younger than him. In every field there is a huge demographic shift happening. Suddenly the older generation is retiring and there are so few people in my (middle) generation to take over that the people who are really taking over are in their early 30s. This is great for you because you will grow together with your clients. I am very optimistic that issues of the environment and economic justice, which have been neglected and ignored by the baby-boomer developers, will become the center of the millennial project. How do you encourage growth within your size firm? In a bigger firm like ours, the responsibility is on the employees to advocate for themselves. We have twice a year performance reviews where you are asked what your goals are, what kinds of projects you want to work on, what you want to do and what you have learned. It is self-guided in that way. The advantage of a big firm is that we have so many different types of projects that if you decide you are tired of doing one project type, there are four other project sectors 44

Our generation was struggling with existing systems - we had to try and tweak the systems, whereas if your generation is smart, you will remake the systems. you can work on without leaving the firm. What are some of the qualities that you see in emerging professionals? At Stantec we give an award to the employee of the month. Team members get to nominate each other and you submit a paragraph about what makes them special. The qualities that a recent nominee had that were exemplary included: she came on the team knowing absolutely nothing about the typology she was going to be working on, she saw the gap in what the team didn’t know, she asked a ton of


questions to figure out how they could get the knowledge to fill that gap, and in doing so she became the expert. In addition, she came to work with a positive attitude no matter what came her way. She never sat there waiting for something to happen. I was so impressed – that is the definition of how to get promoted. Being flexible, responsible and positive means that the next project team says, “I need to have that person on my team!” Many emerging professionals have that drive. Their generation lived through the recession, realized that hard work is important, and that making a difference and changing the world is important. People come to work wanting it to be meaningful and not just pay the bills. What is some advice you would give to emerging professionals? To women Emerging Professionals especially, I’d tell them that I have always sought out women mentors. A lot of times you have to go outside your firm. I found that through my career, if I called a woman who I admired, they would meet me for lunch, tell me about their experience, and offer me advice. Our human resources staff

actively pursues policies that help emerging professionals. Let us target those who we think have potential, bring them to a meeting, get them onto an interview team so they can see what the process is and they can learn it. I am also trying to promote the idea that success is multidimensional. The world would be better off if we understood or tried to make it easier for working parents in terms of daycare, flex-time at work, and the way our teams work for other people. You should be able to construct a life where you do not have to sacrifice your work for your family or vice versa. The challenges for your generation are student loans and the housing affordability crisis - all those things make it harder for you to tackle the problem of work/life balance because there is little financial flexibility. Your generation will have to figure that out in a way that we could not. Our generation was struggling with existing systems - we had to try and tweak the systems, whereas if your generation is smart, you will remake the systems.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 45


46


Words of Wisdom from Ann Beha After a tour of her office, Ann Beha shared with us her story and her advice to emerging professionals. Founder of Ann Beha Architects, Ann has been a Trustee and past President of Historic New England, served on Visiting Committees at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and is a member of Harvard University’s Design Advisory Panel. She was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Architecture at the City College of New York, and has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Chapter of the Victorian Society in America, the Alumnae Achievement Award from Wellesley College, and the Women in Design Award of Excellence from the Boston Society of Architects. How did you begin your career in preservation & revitalization of buildings? I graduated in 1975 and the economy was poor. I started to navigate doing part-time work, advocacy work and a variety of volunteer projects. I was focused on things that had stimulated me at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - opportunities for existing buildings to cast a new light, serving their communities and various cities and institutions. My work was consulting for a while. I was on the administrative staff at MIT at the Department of Architecture for 3 years, doing research on building codes and their relationship to historic building. I

was very active as a volunteer in the city on a number of issues like preservation and demolition of buildings. During that time, I also developed a number of clients, who were interested in me helping them work on revitalizing their historic buildings. I started to also do part-time work with Shepley Bulfinch and found a wonderful mentor, who hired me to work with him on one of their large historical preservation projects. This was all over a period of 4-5 years and by year 5, I had a couple of people working with me on preservation issues. I wasn’t practicing architecture per say but preservation. Through Shepley, I was qualified CONVERSATION SERIES: 47


48

to take my exams and it became a larger initiative around a design practice that also included preservation.

throughout the country, stating very clear that we are a design office and not just a historic preservation consultant.

How do you keep a dynamic practice? I never worked for a firm in the United States, so I don’t have any background in the corporate structure of firms here. Since we practice at various scales nationally and internationally, we have exposure to firms all over this country and abroad, who are structured in different ways and have different skill sets. That has taught me a great deal about practice, procedures, and project delivery methods. We have done 5 projects with Gensler with Ann Beha Architects (ABA) as lead architect and we learned so much. We have a partner in Greece for the US Embassy project. Obviously, we learn a tremendous amount about how to work in a foreign country from them. You see other practices, sometimes indirectly because you are aligning with them, or considering aligning with them, and that is a great way to get to know how people do it differently - better or not so well. We continuously build the practice, expanding our national interest in working

Do you have a favorite project? This is like asking if you have a favorite child! I do have some favorite projects in which we overcame extraordinary challenges and had extraordinary results. I won’t go too far back. I think the work we did at University of Chicago revitalizing historic buildings and building a new building - is

When ABA’s work is attributed to a woman, I find that uneasy. First, my belief is that the work speaks for itself. It is important for women to be aligned with important, visible, and engaging work.


staggering. It was such an unbelievable undertaking. It required so much team work with community, departments, and the university and an exceptional intellectual reach associated with the program. It was very exciting. The buildings themselves are fascinating buildings because they are not the iconic buildings of Chicago and they are buildings that were too easily ignored. They are on the edge of campus, but now that they are revitalized, they actually feel more central to the campus and to the history of Hyde Park. Have you encountered any advantages or disadvantages of being a female practitioner in architecture? It is an interesting question. It is always asked, and I still don’t know quite how to sort through it. Does it exist, and where? How does it show up? We can’t be in all the rooms where it happens. We can’t be in the minds where it might be holding fort. Discrimination, if it exists, would be a subtle thing for me; I am really not aware of it as keenly as others, given my position and the peer positions of senior women in my client groups and leadership roles.

They too have gained important voices. I am on such a course trying to steer clarity, engagement and excitement about our work that the idea that if something is in the way, it would have to be a pretty big thing to keep us from doing what we believe in. If there is discrimination, I am still pushing along. Are there a million other challenges? Yes. If I start to put myself into the assumption that there is discrimination and it is holding me back, holding us back as a firm, I would spend all day trying to deal with it. I think I try to navigate all of the obstacles. When ABA’s work is attributed to a woman, I find that uneasy. First, my belief is that the work speaks for itself. It is important for women to be aligned with important, visible, and engaging work. There are numerous examples of leaders and extraordinary visionaries, who have had either discrimination or many of their own self-inflicted challenges, and ultimately all those things are set in a certain space because their contribution is so extraordinary. What I am saying to women is be known for your work. And, I think the CONVERSATION SERIES: 49


secondary thing is that people recognize that the work is done by a very diverse office and a completely engaged team. Half of our practice is women. In our office, everyone sees a very broad mix of thinking, backgrounds and different age groups. The work is the most important thing, and there is always a lot of background noise, problems and challenges. You just have got to keep going and be known for your work. I am wondering whether a lot of feelings about gender issues start a lot earlier than when we start practice. If you arrive trained in a certain way or experiencing life in a certain way, can you reevaluate your baggage at a certain point? We arrive in practice, we are in our 20s and we have had a lot of years and built up many assumptions. One analogy I use is that in any big sport, there are people on the field playing and people in the stands observing. People on the field playing don’t always see all the things that the people in the stands see. They are looking at the goal post or at the baseline or trying to serve an ace. It is important every so often to get up in the stands and look down. 50

Your relationship between your work place and your personal life - growing from your adolescence, your childhood or your current relationships, is going to have a lot of influence and power over what you are able to accomplish. It affects how you are able to manage the pressures of practice and must be true in other professions as well.


Those who are up in the stands can be saying, “Oh God, how could that guy miss that play?” But...imagine what it is like to be down in the field, and whether or not what the stands saw is really what happened. What you are doing is trying to offer that intersection of what is real and what is observed to develop the most realistic mindset. What do you think is key for a successful career? I will give you a very personal observation. When all is said and done, you need to be reconciled and happy in your emotional life. I think that the choice of partner and the relationships in your life is a critical issue, and I think that many men would say the same. I have found that there are struggles that men have managing their time and family responsibilities often as much, even more, than women. Your relationship between your work place and your personal life - growing from your adolescence, your childhood or your current relationships, is going to have a lot of influence and power over what you are able to accomplish. It affects how you are able to manage the pressures of practice and must be true in other professions as

well. You need to have someone, who is as interested in what you need as you are interested in what he or she needs. And if you cannot have that outside practice, I do not know how you have it in practice. I really hit the jackpot. I have been married to the same guy for forty-three years and have two children, I cannot remember a single time when Rob said, “No, you have to come home. You cannot do that.” It has never been that way and I think that has been extraordinary. Perhaps even more so, my mother, to whom I was very close, never said I

Architects need to be able to write about their projects and they need to be able to speak easily about them. You are not just born with that. That is a tutored thing, a practiced thing. CONVERSATION SERIES: 51


should stop or slow down or spend more time with my family. She and he accepted me as I am, (Ok maybe 80%) and their support always sustained me. Have you had to make any sacrifices because of architecture? Life is full of sacrifices. You make sacrifices because you have a child in need or because you have parents in need. I have faced both. There are all kinds of things in one’s life by the time you reach my age. There are a lot of sacrifices you make to be helpful and be there for all those people. It is not architecture that has made me make sacrifices but because you want to be a good daughter or a good mom. There is really some truth to the global aspect of the fulfillment of a complete life, whether you are male or female, and that always requires sacrifices from you and from the people around you. How does Ann Beha Architects evolve their office policies? When people need to take time off for their family and personal life, they need to be heard. You can see the concern in their eyes and they may need more than the normal policies. Not everyone who has been here, 52

male or female, can be satisfied with everything we offer. But we continue to evolve and we continue to hear them. We have made modifications in our policies to be more flexible, but we need people who are dedicated and can be here as we are so very collaborative. What we are trying to encourage above all is this open exchange between employees and the people they report to about their needs so that we can find out what the needs are and not guess at it. What is one thing emerging professionals should focus on? I think people should write and draw. I have spent the last three weeks writing and it is hard to

Creative passion makes me and my colleagues more dedicated and more thorough. You win people over with your leadership and voice.


do. Architects need to be able to write about their projects and they need to be able to speak easily about them. You are not just born with that. That is a tutored thing, a practiced thing. Being in front of your peers, taking a leadership role in your firm, speaking up, being aware that you have a voice, not just being articulate, but also speaking to people in a real down-to-earth way. There is a discipline in communication that strengthens architectural dialogue. I think we identify that too infrequently. We rarely plan how we are going to talk about the project. As to drawing, it is a muscle that has atrophied. It is a language, and a common ground, and a rooting for our work. I love it and admire those who use it so freely and effectively. Do you have any other tips for emerging professionals who are starting their careers? They should talk to people who are just a little older than they are, not so much to the upper generation! Whenever somebody says, “I have a young friend who’s in the career discovery program or she is first year at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and she really needs to talk to someone,”

I say, “Absolutely, have her come over, but I’m going to set her up with somebody who’s been here for five years.” There is a big gap otherwise. That is more of a common ground and less about the past and the scar tissue. A mentor can be someone who is much closer in age or just got registered. You also have to have passion about what you are doing and you have to be pretty single minded about it. If you do have that passion and interest, it comes through in the work. It comes through in relationships with your clients because you will stand in their shoes and work with their needs—and do anything for them! And it is going to come through to your firm and colleagues. Creative passion makes me and my colleagues more dedicated and more thorough. You win people over with your leadership and voice. I think the real struggle is to be able to move within the firm with agility to the highest challenging position you can have. Passion as well as skill get you there. Initiative and thinking outside the box–those are a winning combo for me.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 53


54


On Equity and Architecture with Carole Wedge With sense of humor and acute remarks, Carole Wedge shared with us her unique entry into the architecture world. Carole Wedge, FAIA, LEED AP, is President of Shepley Bulfinch, a national design firm with offices in Boston, Houston, and Phoenix. Over the past decade, she has led Shepley Bulfinch’s transformation and growth with an emphasis on the creation of an open culture and frank, committed work environment. As an architect she has focused on the convergence of learning and teaching and research environments, with a long-standing commitment to sustainable design. A leader and mentor, Carole is committed to making the architectural profession relevant to future generations. She is an advocate for diversity in the profession and is active in Equity By Design. In 2011 Shepley Bulfinch was one of three firms honored by the American Institute of Architects’ Diversity Recognition Program. How did you get into architecture? I graduated from college and took out a student loan to travel to Europe to see the architecture I had studied in school. When I returned home, we were in a recession. I moved back to my parents in New Jersey and started going on interviews with my portfolio. I thought I would have a job in no time, but all the firms were laying people off. I distinctly remember the day I interviewed at SOM, the company let 300 employees

go. Person after person kept leaving the building carrying a cardboard box of their belongings with T squares sticking out of the top. I ended up working on Wall Street in an entry position in trusts and estates, obtained my broker’s license and learned a lot about money. I was there for three years when I started to think about going back to school for architecture. I came to the Boston Architectural Center (BAC) because I liked the idea that I could work and go to school at the same time. CONVERSATION SERIES: 55


I started at Shepley Bulfinch with a job in the mail room. I ran prints and opened the mail. In the 80s, everything happened in the mail room. I was there for the first fax machine and the first email address. It was fantastic. I met everyone in the firm, and I knew all the principals. Eventually, I started working on library projects, collaborating with many different people: staff members, users and faculty – and it became obvious that I liked working with people and was good at it. I quickly learned I could facilitate groups making decisions, and I think that is what steered me towards a leadership path inside and outside of the firm. How did you become a President at Shepley Bulfinch? In the early 1980s, there was a wave of institutions adopting equal opportunity policies. It was a federal and state requirement, and people had to start tracking what they were doing. My career at Shepley Bulfinch started in ’86, the same era as Title IX, which was about equality and eradicating gender disparity. Many of our clients – then universities and non-profit hospitals linked to universities – were passing diversity policies, 56

saying equal opportunity was a part of who they were. Our owners, principals and leaders started paying attention to our changing clients. When I joined Shepley Bulfinch, there was only one woman principal, and I thought that was a good sign because many firms had none. I don’t know if I decided I wanted to be a principal then, but I wanted to work somewhere that was diverse. Fourteen years later, I was the next woman principal, and it is kind of strange that it took that long. Some of the barriers were: could you travel enough; were you committed enough; as well as, do you look like me, think like me, did we go to the same school, and so on. I think all professions have struggled with unconscious bias in succession planning. It is easy and comfortable for leaders to promote someone like themselves to take over their firm. It takes more insightful people to imagine new kinds of leadership and focus on abilities and performance, not personal similarities. We were lucky at Shepley Bulfinch. Around the mid-90s, the firm took a stance on the


importance of diversity. Our HR Director, Jessica Smith, was very committed and openminded. She brought different people to the table, who went to different schools, had different life experiences and had diverse academic backgrounds. This further empowered many of the firm’s like-minded principals, and we reorganized in 2000. We created a smaller board and a more strategic firm. In 2004, I was asked if I would be President. For the last 13 years, my design project has been Shepley Bulfinch, as much as staying close to clients and projects. I still love working with clients and still love seeing buildings get built. What motivated you when you were an emerging professional? I always loved projects and creating things so design was an inspiration for me from the beginning. The family legend I grew up with was that both my mothers’ grandmothers raised their families as single parents. Their husbands died in their 20s, and they each raised eight children. One ran a business and supported her family. She never married again and was the matriarch that ran a butcher store at the turn of the century.

The thinking in our family was that of course women can do that! The same thing was true on my dad’s family’s side. They were poor, working-class folks, and everyone had to work. I have reflected on these family stories, and there is something in that history that sticks with you about what is possible. What have you learned from working on some of your favorite projects? The Marquand Library at Princeton University is very special to me. I was a young principal, I got to lead the project and developed great relationships with the people working at Princeton. There was another wonderful project at Cornell, an underground library, that I worked on where the Library Director took me under his wing. I was about the same age as his daughters, and he said, “I’ll teach you what libraries are about.” Probably the best advice I received from a mentor was “when you make friends within your clients, keep those relationships alive.” Your peers and friends on the client’s side will advance in their careers just like you. Another mentor said, “Pay attention to the smart people you meet and keep in CONVERSATION SERIES: 57


touch with them.” You build a network over the course of your career and it is that network that helps you grow professionally. What changes in the architecture field have you observed? I have seen firms, projects and clients become more complex – just because of the sheer number of people involved in the process. I have seen technologies transform our world – from communication to 3d modeling to VR walkthroughs. And I have seen organizations begin to understand the power of diverse collaborative teams in design. I think the next wave will combine empathy, data and radically rethinking how organizations work. We have so many hold over behaviors from earlier times and earlier processes that there is incredible opportunity to reinvent our organizations, culture and design firms. What changes do you see in leadership within the design profession? One thing I keep saying is, “This is our firm; we get to change it.” As design leaders, let’s not assume firms, their structures and their patterns are fixed. Instead, let’s be observant and 58

The most challenging times are when you experience something that doesn’t align with your values. When a client is sexist or inappropriate or doesn’t like a certain employee for a reason that you kind of sense is that they are narrow-minded. ask ourselves, “I know we have done it this way for a long time, but should we look at it again?” It’s interesting to see the doors that the more progressive men have opened for women in this field and then find out their personal story – what does their wife, daughter or mother do? How has their personal


experience led them to believe in a variety of paths to success? I see the current generation more willing to do the work to increase the racial diversity in the profession. We need to reach into the schools and help children of all backgrounds understand how exciting and fulfilling a career in design can be. What do you think is an important role of a good leader? To be that encouraging and empowering force. You don’t have to sugar coat it, but I do think you have to take seriously your ability to have an influence on people. Every professional has the story of the person who encouraged them, who pushed them a little bit and who positioned them. I had many mentors who helped me navigate, were good resources and helped me think about my career. What are some challenging situations you have experienced? The most challenging times are when you experience something that doesn’t align with your values. When a client is sexist, inappropriate or doesn’t like a certain employee for a reason

that you sense is narrow-minded, that is challenging. As a leader, it is more important for me to help the client understand what each person brings to the table. Clients come in all stripes – demanding, easygoing, opinionated – and they often make split-second decisions based on first impressions. For me, the best way to handle these challenges is to simply start the conversation and expand the dialogue. Don’t be a bystander; your power is your voice. And if not you, who?

For me, it is important not to be a bystander. How do you prepare yourself for handling such situations as a professional? Start the conversation. Your power is your voice.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 59


What could we do better to prevent such situations from happening? Prepare for the difficult situation; think about how you might handle the challenge. I have been kicking around the idea of a mentoring workshop around the difficult conversations. I’ve been taken aback by a couple experiences this year, and had to ask myself, “Really? This kind of sexism/racism in 2017?!” What if we did a workshop where you give people different scenarios and role play how you could handle it and share our best ideas. I don’t think we role play enough, I’m not sure we prepare ourselves or our colleagues for what to do when we experience something that is not acceptable. Because of this, we are often taken aback and not always prepared to address issues when they happen. What is your position on equity in the design field today? Many people under 35 would say, “Oh, our generation doesn’t really see barriers between people; we have always been inclusive.” That is great, except that racism and sexism still exist in our society. That is great that inclusivity is your construct, but don’t be a bystander when 60

you experience something that challenges inclusion. I went to a conference recently and what I took away is that you can have the greatest impact on diversity and inclusion by hiring project managers (leaders) who believe in it. The fastest way to get the ball rolling is by hiring other people that have that already have an inclusive, equitable philosophy about their life. Then they create those equitable integrated teams who can do great things together. What are some things you have learned about women in architecture? I think my generation was trying to get away from women’s issues. The first AIA meeting that I went to, there was a woman in architecture who talked about work-life balance. My thought was, I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I wanted to talk about design. I always felt that you should ask for what you need, and if your company denies you - tell them goodbye because it’s not the right fit. I think a lot of women were working in places that were not flexible. At the same time, I’m not sure they felt solid enough about themselves to say anything or hold true to their own values. I would love


If you don’t ask, you don’t get. No one is sitting at home worrying about you. But, if you ask, they are perfectly willing to help. if they would say, “Well then, I do not want to work here because you do not share my values.” Today the conversation is much more robust. It is about design, opportunities, business management and finding mentors to learn from. The Women’s Leadership Summit that we started in Boston with AIA has led to a powerful network of professionals who are ambitious and want to lead the design profession. Any tips for emerging professionals? If you don’t ask, you don’t get. No one is sitting at home worrying about you. But, if you ask, they are perfectly willing to help. Everyone thinks there is some magic combination of what you do to advance

your career, and the answer is simple – keep working on your career - it is really a lifelong project, try different things, keep learning, and make sure you truly enjoy what you. Have the authenticity to be yourself, do the work and do it well. The world is not completely fair. Do something you are uncomfortable with. You are not supposed to be comfortable all the time. You work and grow in different layers and it is up to you to find mentors along the way. Your ambition is self-constructed. We make a big deal at Shepley that people are on a career pathway but it is really theirs to define. We are here to support it, embellish it, and understand it, but we can’t give you ambition. I can’t make you want it. A leader’s role is to open doors for people and give them opportunities – but I can’t make you walk through the door. Get ready for when the baby boomers retire. Rehearse saying, “Yes, I will take on that assignment,” or “Yes, I want to be a Principal.” Sometimes women say, “I have to think about it.” Get ready to raise your hand and to say “Yes!”.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 61


62


On Taking Risks in Architecture with Katie Faulkner In a candid morning conversation, Katie Faulkner shared with us her reflections on the design profession and her advice to future designers. Katie is a founding principal at NADAAA, overseeing firm operations, fabrication, and design on select projects. She has directed efforts to expand the firm’s prototyping facilities and portfolio. With degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Graduate School of Design, Katie has worked for over 20 years on residential, academic, institutional, and healthcare projects. After receiving an MBA from Boston University in 2010, she looked to re-focus her attention and joined Nader Tehrani and Dan Gallagher in launching NADAAA. What was the environment like when you graduated from architecture school? When I graduated, it was the early 90s and there was no work. Some friends made a t-shirt for the graduating class with the floor plan of Gund Hall (Harvard GSD), and on the back of it, was written “Got Plans?” You have a whole class of about 70 people and almost no one had a job. After graduation I moved to Seattle and I worked at 3 or 4 different part-time jobs. An office would call you if they needed help that week. This went on for 3 years – no benefits, no health insurance. A

number of my friends either did not enter in the architecture field or they did for a little while and became fed up. Things started bouncing back with the dot com era around 1996. Suddenly, there was a lot of work in various parts of the country. Whether this is statistically true or not, I feel I am part of a generation that got ‘lost’ in the profession. Of my female friends in my class, there are few that are still conventionally practicing. Some are doing interesting things in other fields. I do not know that you can attribute all of the attrition to the challenges of having a family, but if one did CONVERSATION SERIES: 63


not get a solid few years before having kids, there could be little motivation to come back – long hours, low pay. It is difficult for women, no question. How did you become Principal at NADAAA? I had been working at Shepley Bulfinch for 7 years when I finished a part-time MBA program and wanted a change. My plan was to go out on my own. At that time, Office dA was beginning to close. Nader Tehrani, whom I had been friends with from graduate school, asked me to help him start a new firm. Even before leaving Shepley, I would come by the office evenings and weekends, looking at the projects and figuring out what could be reassigned to NADAAA and what was really an Office dA project. It was an interesting time in the economy when things were starting to turn around from the 2008 crash and there was not much work to reassign. It was a pretty clean start. NADAAA needed about 24 months to become a viable office. We were lucky to have a core group of 5-6 people from Office dA who had stayed with Nader, so we had experienced, skilled designers. Firms that have a cold start don’t have that 64

luxury. At the same time, we struggled those first months. There were a number of times when the principals couldn’t take salaries, it was a bit rocky. Now, it has been almost 7 years, and I think that we are on pretty firm ground as far as our comfort range, and the different kinds of typologies that we do. I did not think I would become a permanent part of NADAAA. I assumed that this would be some kind of a bridge while I figured out how to start my own firm, but then time kept going on. I am still here. Have you had to do any sacrifices because of architecture? Yes - I have 2 children and I realized when they were babies that I was much better off in a management role than in a design role. I found management to be more predictable. I felt battle weary when they were younger, trying to multi-task. We lived in southeastern rural Connecticut and the daycare was pretty far from the house as well as far from where I worked. You never knew during the day when you are going to get the phone call that someone has a fever and you have to pick them up. I started to back off from design


roles. I do not think that was a huge sacrifice, but I did miss the experimentation. Still, I love the field. I do not think that I could have had my own firm when the kids were small. It was just too difficult and we needed a steady income. Now that I am older, I think some of the design muscles and enthusiasm of a young designer have atrophied. Was there a particular period of time in your career when you felt challenged? I had been practicing for almost fifteen years. I was not quite a Principal, but I was an Associate Principal, which meant I had not quite gotten my wings. I found myself searching for support networks to help navigate that next step in my career. What do you do now? How could I learn to bring work into the firm? Suddenly, I found a lack of support groups for middle aged women. There seemed to be Women in Design programs that focused on helping people new to the profession, particularly to find their voice. All of us really needed that as new designers, particularly women who may not have the self-confidence they should. But, at the middle age, I was without a compass. I learned an important lesson.

There were times that I would feel bruised by criticism of being bossy or aggressive, convinced that a male colleague would not have the same critique. I continue to struggle with that balance, trying to defend something that I really care about without coming off as imperious. Building a network, whether it is another group of women, peers in your generation or an intergenerational mixed gender professional association is something to nurture. It is a bit like friendship – something to be valued and not just sought when needed.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 65


What challenges do you continue to face as Principal? I always had an issue with selfconfidence - meaning I had none. Yet architecture requires a level of self-confidence. One needs to be able to take risks and argue one’s point in a voice that is both firm and constructive. There were times that I would feel bruised by criticism of being bossy or aggressive, convinced that a male colleague would not have the same critique. I continue to struggle with that balance, trying to defend something that I really care about without coming off as imperious. The older I get, the more sensitive I am to ‘bossy’ label, and now that I am in a position of leadership, I understand that it is not just about me. To pitch an idea as “my way or the highway” misses the critical input of others. I guess in summary I would say that a Principal needs to lead by allowing others to grow, and it takes a certain amount of selfconfidence to encourage that dynamic. What challenges does the profession have? In the context of a socioeconomic balance, race, and gender, the profession is having a 66

In the context of a socioeconomic balance, race, and gender, the profession is having a shake-up. The good news is that there is a lot of conversation, but I do not think anyone has cracked the code to making us more diverse, both in background and globalization. shake-up. The good news is that there is a lot of conversation, but I do not think anyone has cracked the code to making us more diverse, both in background and globalization. It is also on my mind in the wake of the recent hurricanes that we are ill equipped to mobilize our skills to rebuild those who need us.


What changes in the design field have you observed throughout the years? In some ways, I have observed huge changes while in others not so much. If we speak broadly for the profession, the way we deliver projects in architecture is relatively unchanged. I am packaging projects pretty much the same way I did 25 years ago. You may say that there are various models of integrated deliveries or fast tracking, but they are quite minor in use. At the same time, the way people work, the ability to visualize and create things, and the nimbleness with which people work through projects is startling. I am amazed by the way that interns or new graduates move across different platforms. The depth may not be there as far as knowing how to put a building together and understanding the kind of rule book that the contractor is looking for when it comes to project execution. We need to change either the project delivery method or the training so that nimble visualization leads to a shorter design and construction duration. Otherwise what you will end up with is a really amazing ability to dimensionalize projects without understanding the systems and

to design in a way that makes them optimized, cost-effective, and sustainable. On one hand, we have lightning speed of the way we can conceive the project and on the other hand, we have glacial speed as far as the way we are actually packaging it and getting it out to be built. If you could make a policy change in the design field, what would it be? I do not know if that is so much ‘policy’ as a perception. I find it frustrating in the field that it is difficult for new practitioners, designers, and even older firms to break into a new area where they don’t have a proven track record. For example, a public school comes out and it would be wonderful to have a really innovative one. The truth of the matter is you are unlikely to be able to compete for one if you have not done a public school before. That cuts out a lot of young designers. So who suffers there? The school system suffers because the community will not get an interesting, different perspective. The design profession suffers because we will end up with silos of firms organized by typology. Sometimes that is very appropriate. Having worked at CONVERSATION SERIES: 67


Shepley Bulfinch, healthcare is not a field that should be opened up to the inexperienced. There is a required depth of knowledge for healthcare planning. But other times, the barriers are unnecessary. As I look at the building boom that we have right now in Boston I am dismayed at the quality of the work. Relatively few firms have had the opportunity to make an impact on the recent transformations to our skyline. I suspect that developers are just looking for something safe; they may not be all that interested in the design, having to consider not only the return on investment but the operating income they will get when the building is occupied. Perhaps they are not thinking about the legacy they have left behind. So the current system leaves a lot of Boston’s talent out of the game. I find that incredibly frustrating - not only from our own perspective. Yes, NADAAA would be able to contribute great architecture, but looking at other firms that I also know are doing great work. And why, when this city has more talent and progressive thinking in the field per capita than any other city in the country, would we not have the skyline to prove it? I find

68

this heartbreaking. No matter how loud I scream or to whom I appeal it does not seem to resonate with the right people. So if I could change one thing, that would be to incentivize developers and the city to raise their design standards. Where are some areas that emerging designers could improve? Young designers want to understand how to deliver a project, how to speak confidently in front of a group, and how to present their ideas. We all grow

Don’t be afraid to take risks, which sounds so canned, but the truth of the matter is that the young architect is the most nimble. Later on life happens and it gets harder to change gears.


up in the critique process - we are accustomed to standing up and defending our work, but we are not used to doing it in a way that is normal. It is not very likely that you will be brought into a white room full of people, who are sitting down while you are standing before a model and drawings, describing a set of conditions that you made up yourself. More likely, you are part of a team and you are working on something particular. So, how are you prepared to put ideas out there and be articulate in a way that will help the deciders who are very likely not a part of your team? How will you convince them? I do not think that people get that experience, although some schools base curriculum around collaborative projects. I have also heard of schools moving towards a science fair model where jurors are coming to visit your project among many. All day you are answering questions and talking about your project. At the end of the day you have presented this thing about nine times – the talking points are tight down to what is truly important about the project. That is how you learn.

I feel comfortable bringing our emerging professionals to interviews. I think clients like to see the younger staff; they really like to talk to them; they want to hear about their ideas. They feel like they bring a freshness to a project that the project needs. But later on, as the project can get challenging - when there are decisions that need to be made about quality vs. cost or time vs. money – then you need a bit more depth and background to articulate the essential point. What advice would you give to emerging professionals? When asked, I always say, “Don’t be afraid to take risks” which sounds so canned, but the truth of the matter is that the young architect is the most nimble. Later on life happens and it gets harder to change gears. Whether you choose to have a family, whether you choose to buy a house, whether you are caring for your parents - the older you get, the roots start to sink a little bit deeper and it becomes that much less viable to do something crazy like quitting your job and doing a competition, taking a teaching job, and trying to start your own venture.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 69


70


The Importance of Hard Work and Knowledge with Kelley Banks As Vice President of Flansburgh, Kelley Banks has been practicing architecture for twenty years. She has a wide range of experience in project types including performing arts centers, dormitories, libraries and classroom buildings and has international work in places like Lebanon, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Nepal. As busy as she is, Kelley was able to squeeze in time between traveling the country and working on award winning projects to give us insight on the importance of hard work and knowledge.

How did you get to where you are, Vice President at Flansburgh? Being hardworking, flexible and able to adjust to what clients or supervisors might ask for. Being willing to do mundane tasks as well as tasks that seem over my head. Being dependable, having a very high bar of excellence and making sure I have done everything I can possibly think of before showing something to a boss. Never using the phrase “good enough.�

What do you love about architecture? What is your favorite project? I love the combination of mathematical order with sublime beauty. I love the idea of making beautiful geometry. My highest goal is to make a building that can come as close to beautiful as something in nature. My favorite project is what I am working on now. By the time I am finished with a project, I rarely love it - seeing everything I should have done better. My favorite building in the world? Too hard of a question. The

CONVERSATION SERIES: 71


modest MIT chapel is up there, the Alhambra in Spain, jealous of the Shed in NYC. What motivates you every day? Definitely having a project type that I feel is a noble pursuit design of schools - motivates me. Have you had to make any sacrifices because of architecture? Other interests because of the time demands of the job. For the past 7 years I’ve been traveling a lot for work so I can’t really take a class if I wanted to or plan things without the possibility of having to cancel. I chose not to have kids, so I don’t consider that a sacrifice. What challenges have you faced while establishing yourself as a leader in the field and how did you overcome them? Mainly challenges of confidence - just feeling like there was so much I didn’t know for the first 10 years. I definitely remember feeling at the 10-year mark, “Ok, now I think I have a handle on this.” Then it becomes about trying to get better and better. 72

I have not experienced many blatant examples of sexism although it is notable how many times I am the only woman at a table, or certainly on a job site. And there is no question that being young and female makes it a challenge to have any sort of gravitas required to command a situation. Have you found any advantages / disadvantages of being a woman architect? I have not experienced many blatant examples of sexism although it is notable how many


times I am the only woman at a table, or certainly on a job site. And there is no question that being young and female makes it a challenge to have any sort of gravitas required to command a situation. At 43, I am only now beginning to feel I have some bit of that gravitas. I have sensed women clients not trusting me, which is a societal problem. I am not sure there is an advantage to being a woman architect, at least not at this point in our culture. I might say being able to listen is an advantage but I have many male colleagues who are very good at that too. In your years of experience, how has the culture of design changed? It seems different in every firm. In terms of non-architects, I think the value of design is at a general cultural low especially in public buildings and middle class housing, at least in America. Imagine being an architect in the 1880’s when every library, post office and bank was a beautifully designed little structure. It makes being an architect even more challenging because you have to sell the value of good design

which some people just can’t understand or bother to care about.

I really don’t like the architect-asworkaholic ethos, which starts in school. I’m a wellrounded person, I like to play sports, I like movies, books - but I haven’t been able to do nearly as much of all that as I wish, because of the culture of single-focus.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 73


74

If you are able to change any work-related policy in the architecture field, what would that be? I really don’t like the architectas-workaholic ethos, which starts in school. I am a well-rounded person, I like to play sports, I like movies and books, but I have not been able to do nearly as much of that as I wish because of the culture of single-focus. I guess that is not really a policy, more of a culture thing.

Once you start taking ownership of things and really caring about them, that’s when you get noticed.

What positive/negative qualities do you see in emerging professionals today? I see young designers being fearless, being confident which is really good. I worry about the “screen-view” limitations on designers now with very few young designers ever taking out paper and pen. I believe in a brain-hand connection and the kind of thinking and overview that can be had on paper, where you can see the whole plan in front of you at once. I myself am drawing less than I used to as well, and it is something I want to get back to. Luckily, our office uses the tool of physical models for all our projects and that allows for some of that same creative thinking.

What challenges do emerging professionals face from your perspective? External challenges of a changing future with climate change and economic uncertainty. Our profession gets hit hard with low economic periods and one has to foresee that and position themselves in a way that might minimize their chance of losing their job. Internal challenges of finding a project type that is meaningful to them and figuring out how to take ownership of even the smallest part of a design. Once you start taking ownership of things and really caring about them, that’s when you get noticed.


No amount of networking or collaborating can take the place of pure knowledge. Knowledge gives confidence, which leads to respect and value, which leads to advancing in a career. What is the relationship between more experienced staff with emerging professionals in your office? What works well? Our office is an open studio and experienced staff are available for young designers to go to at any time with questions. We are small enough that people can easily walk over and seek advice. We operate in a fairly flat way, where everyone is often working

on their own project. This gives younger designers some real opportunities for self-direction, but I think that can be also a danger, if an inexperienced designer doesn’t know what they don’t know. We do tend to have an office of fairly high experience-level, 7+ years. What practical tips would you give to Emerging Professionals? My practical tip would be to become knowledgeable at as many aspects of the profession as you can: construction detailing (notice that is first), design, marketing, proposal writing, etc. No amount of networking or collaborating can take the place of pure knowledge. Knowledge gives confidence, which leads to respect and value, which leads to advancing in a career. Also, set yourself a high bar of excellence within the time allowed for even the smallest things - everything matters.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 75


76


On Leadership with Laura Wernick With a strong passion for the relationship between space and learning, Laura Wernick, Senior Principal at HMFH Architects, shared with us her career path and observations. Laura has an extensive knowledge of the physical, social, emotional and pedagogical basis of education and a large portfolio of innovative schools. She has been a crucial member shaping the culture of HMFH Architects. In 2012 Laura was President of the Boston Society of Architects.

How did you get into architecture? When I was in high school, I was sent to a special week-long program about urban planning; students from different high schools got together with architects and urban planners and planned a city. I thought, “Wow, this is really interesting!� I got an after-school job working for a group of architects and they were very supportive. I worked there my junior and senior years after school and summers. I decided I wanted to be an architect, applied to college and got my degree. I came to Boston and I worked initially for what is now Finegold Alexander and then came to HMFH.

How did you become a Senior Principal at HMFH Architects? HMFH was run by 5 male partners at the time and they were very supportive of me individually and of women in general. I never felt any sense that men would be promoted more than women or that I was given different responsibilities from anyone else. There was nothing in the office that made me feel like I was a second-class citizen. I think my personality was such that I was able to provide glue between people, bring people together around issues, and also push new ideas both on projects and across the firm. The Principals at the time appreciated that and ultimately I was made a Principal in the firm. CONVERSATION SERIES: 77


What were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? Certainly when I was raising my kids, that was a very challenging time. Once I came back from having taken some time off for each kid, I reduced my hours to 32 hours. In reality, I was working more hours than that. Because I was not there every day, I felt guilty so I always had to get an earlier start and stay later when I was there. There was always a feeling of tension that when there was a sick child, I had to run off and run back. Should I be home, should I be at the office? That is a very common set of tensions that women in the field feel. On the one hand, there is an amount of flexibility so you can adjust your hours to some extent, but on the other hand, everybody is working endless hours and never working enough. No matter what you do, you could never do enough. There is always that sense of inadequacy and that you should be working a little bit more, a little bit harder. That is partly a female thing as well as the culture of architecture. My husband was very supportive; he had a fairly flexible schedule so that was very helpful. He traveled a lot so he was not always home, but 78

when he was home, he was often doing pick up or providing help whenever he could. But, I was certainly the prime care-taker. It was a very stressful time. And, you were never sure you were providing your kids with enough, that you were doing the best by your kids. But we made it through. We survived. What does leadership mean to you? Leadership for me has been trying to be a role model but, primarily following my interests - finding things I cared about and that also moved the office forward. One of the reasons I came to work for HMFH was because of their work in education which was always an interest of mine. How does physical space support learning? How does learning take place? That was always a particular fascination of mine. So I did a lot of research, I wrote articles, and I gave presentations. I continue to do that. I try to make sure the firm is always aware of the latest educational research out there. So that has been my entry point into leadership, having something that I cared about that had a positive impact on the firm.


Leadership for me has been trying to be a role model but, primarily following my interests finding things I cared about and that also moved the office forward. Also, I work well with others. I am a pretty good listener. Through a couple of flukes, I ended up being involved with the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), and happened to be in a position where all of a sudden they needed a Vice President of the board. Eventually I became President of the board. I had been around for a while and a lot of people knew me. That gave me the opportunity to learn how to be a different kind of leader outside of the firm. There are different types of leaderships; there is no single model for leadership. Some people have certain strengths, which make them better leaders within a non-profit, within a teaching environment, or within an architecture firm. You have

to find what your skills are that can be put to good use and what things provide energy for you to keep the excitement going. Do you have a favorite project? I get excited about a lot of the different projects we do. There is always the feeling that the next project is going to be even better. Some of them are more successful than others. I have been on a lot of projects where we did something interesting, something different, or worked in a certain way with the community that made us particularly proud of it. There is not one project. Maybe you make some special relationships over the course of a project. Everyone has its own special place in my heart in some way or another. You might have some specific design success in one and another has an innovative programmatic success or some sustainability break-through that you feel good about. What changes in the design field have you observed? One of the biggest transformations is a flip in how people work with one another in the office. It takes a lot of experience to become an architect; it takes a lot of time CONVERSATION SERIES: 79


to understand all the technical building issues. But at the same time people coming out of college have much higher flexibility, adaptability and agility with technology. All of a sudden senior people are looking to younger people for help to do things in different ways or to learn how to run different programs. That is really different from when I was coming up when there was the senior architectural people and they were God and you follow what they say. There was no questioning, that was how knowledge flowed. Now, there is a real need for young people to be leaders and for them to bring the latest to the firm. Firms rely on that influx of new energy and new skills all the time. We constantly need to understand the latest graphical ways of presenting something.

A lot of your ability to be a leader is your ability to be a rainmaker. It is hard to be a rainmaker if your clients don’t see you as their peer.

80

That is a real different structure to what was a very traditionbound profession. So that’s one. Another one has been sustainability; it has really transformed our role as architects, how we think about architecture and what we do in trying to control some limits on climate change. There is a real urgency among a lot of architects, particularly young architects, to see how we can push this, what we can do in the next building, and how we can talk to our clients so they understand. There has always been a desire to make buildings responsive to people’s needs and now there is a different language describing that. There are new materials, new technologies, and new approaches around sustainability. How about any challenges with women in the profession? Being a woman is much more difficult in certain areas of design. I am in an area of design where our clients are often women - principals, teachers - so it is much easier to be a female leader in that market sector than if you are designing office buildings downtown where the predominant client is a wealthy


white male. They are looking for other people like him with a similar background and style to work with him and build teams with. It is not even just being male, it is being a certain kind of male. Maybe that means that women tend to go to different market sectors, more residential or retail rather than office buildings. A lot of your ability to be a leader is your ability to be a rainmaker. It is hard to be a rainmaker if your clients don’t see you as their peer. So, that’s the bigger barrier. We all like to be around people who are like ourselves. We are more comfortable talking and socializing and building relationships with people who are like us. Men have to be not only open minded but fight their own natural tendencies to be around people like themselves in order to bring more women in. That is a tall order to ask of anybody. It is a leap to understand that a good team is a diverse team with different people thinking different ways. That is slowly changing but I think there are still a lot of people in leadership roles who don’t think of themselves as being prejudice

My frustrations are that we are providing a service which is not always respected or thought to be of significant value. Architects are not always valued despite the extent of education that is required and the care and passion that people bring to their work. or having anti-female feelings, but who don’t see women as natural business collaborators on their projects. If we face this barrier as women and we’re half the population, think of minority groups who don’t even have that advantage. We need to get more women into that leadership across the building and development sectors so that our clients are more like us and help everyone understand that CONVERSATION SERIES: 81


diverse leadership is a strength! That’s a couple of generations away I fear. I do think that having more women in architecture has changed the profession. It has certainly changed how things are done in Boston. You don’t stop that type of transformation. It may not be happening as rapidly as we would like. There are still firms where it is still not a great place to be a woman but it is happening; it is changing. That transformation is not going backwards. So the more we can push it, the more people understand it and see what the issues are. I think having women in the profession makes it easier to be a woman in the profession. We ultimately change how clients get the buildings built. Slow transformation is taking place but it is there. It is not going to stop. What is a policy change you want to make in the profession? The design and construction industry has been very traditionbound, and other than the impact Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology has had, we are still building buildings the same way as 100 years ago. It keeps us all in a very constrained world. My frustrations are that we are providing a service which is not 82

always respected or thought to be of significant value. Architects are not always valued despite the extent of education that is required and the care and passion that people bring to their work. Unlike other professions, the construction industry has slipped in production and efficiencies over the last 3040 years. We are in a very old fashioned industry where things are highly defined and regulated, and we need to somehow burst out. I am not quite sure what that means, but I think that there is going to be some major transformation in how buildings get built and we have to make sure that architects are integral in that transformation. We have to help create a new system that is not a crappy, cheap modular system, but that there is design happening. Maybe the key is that we integrate and embed design culture in young kids in order to have design thinking be more integral to our culture like in Copenhagen. Right now, there is a big disconnect. That is slowing everything down, limiting who we can be, and limiting our design because it is not valued. We have to embed design value in our education and understand that design is integral to moving ahead as a society.


I think we could do better to clarify what skills are and what the pathways are to advancement. From your perspective, what challenges do young designers face? The design profession is a cyclical profession. When things are busy, there are lots of opportunities, but when things are not busy, there are fewer opportunities. It is a tough profession to make a living at over the course of your professional life because there are these ups and downs. You can feel like your career is moving forward and you are getting some recognition but then the economy can stink for a while and all of that is lost. I have seen very good people filled with self-doubt and lose confidence in themselves because the greater economy has not been there to support them. That is one of the most challenging parts of being an architect. It is not a steadily growing profession. It is a profession that is very quickly influenced by the greater

economy. That is hard on individuals. That being said, I think we could, as leaders within the profession, do better to clarify what skills are and what the pathways are to advancement within our firms. I don’t think a lot of senior leaders take enough time to make those pathways clear and to help people understand that either yes, this is a good place to advance or maybe this is the wrong firm for you. Simultaneously, I think it is important for people who are looking for work and who are in a new firm to try and understand the culture of that firm. Does that culture align with their own interests? Firms are very different and if you don’t fit in here, that doesn’t mean you are not going to excel over at another firm. There should be a lot more openness, communication and opportunities for employees and employers to have those conversations. Young architects have to understand that they might not fit everywhere and that’s not necessarily a black mark on their lives. Different places have different ways of seeing and approaching problems and approaching design. CONVERSATION SERIES: 83


84


The Importance of Flexibility at the Work Place with Nina Brown Over a candid lunch conversation, Nina Brown, Principal at Brown, Richardson & Rowe shared with us how she co-founded a landscape studio with Clarissa Rowe. Nina Brown received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and her Master of Landscape Architecture degree at the University of Pennsylvania. She enjoys working on parks, waterfronts, trails, transportation, and historic preservation. Nina was Co-Chair of the Chairman’s Council of the Trustees of Reservations and President of the Arboretum Park Conservancy. She served on the Brookline Parks and Recreation Commission for seven years.

How did you get to where you are, Principal at Brown, Richardson & Rowe? Clarissa Rowe and I both worked at Sasaki Associates. In the spring of 1981, I had heard about a master plan project for a new Riverfront Heritage Park System in the Amoskeag Millyard on the Merrimack River in Manchester, NH. Clarissa had left Sasaki the year before and I had just given six weeks’ notice. I asked her over for tea and we decided to go up to New Hampshire for the briefing. When we got to the sign-in sheet for the firms in attendance, we said, “Oh! What is the name of our firm?” Clarissa

said that our names should be in alphabetical order so we wrote down our firm name, “Brown & Rowe.” The City selected us to do the master plan. I was 32 and she was 33 when we started the firm. Clarissa had worked at The Architects Collaborative and Sasaki. I had worked at a landscape architectural firm in Portland, Oregon, a regional planning commission in New Hampshire, and Sasaki. Neither of us were licensed. Clarissa had taken some parts of her tests, but neither of us had a stamp. When I was at Sasaki, I liked the planning section, so I had not planned to be licensed. However, CONVERSATION SERIES: 85


as Principal of a firm, I knew I had to be licensed so I took the test. That was the beginning. What drove you to start your own firm? It turned out Clarissa was pregnant when we prepared for the New Hampshire interview. We both weren’t optimistic that we could find a firm where we could balance work and motherhood. I was unmarried, with no marriage plans in sight, but we both wanted to have the option for flexible schedules. We started the firm in May 1981 and Clarissa’s baby girl was born in February of the following year. Flexibility has always been very important at our firm. I ended up getting married a year after we started Brown & Rowe and had my first child in 1985. We worked three days a week in the office when our children were little. We were always available to our clients during the days we weren’t there. It was unusual at that time to work part-time. We didn’t advertise our flexible schedules. We were committed to doing what needed to be done whenever it needed to be done. Both our oldest children went to family day care. We switched to full time babysitters 86

as our families grew to give us further flexibility with our work schedules when the children were sick. We now know that flexibility is also important to men. For a long time, the majority of our employees were women - 10 women and two men; now we have five men, and eight women. This shift has been very positive. Four of the five men have kids; two have very young boys. Some work places, when you ask for time off to go to a school play, may frown upon your request. We support our staff members’ needs to have time with their families. Children or parents sick? Absolutely, stay home to take care of them. Flexibility is an important part of our culture. One of the things I would say looking back over the past 36 years is that I wanted to have control over my time. I

We now know that flexibility is also important to men.


could only do that by starting my own firm with another woman. It did not seem as if any firm was going to give that flexibility to me. I was lucky to be able to take that risk. Many women don’t have the same opportunities. That’s not right! What challenges have you faced and how did you manage to overcome them? Our youth was our initial challenge. Our firm hadn’t been in business for very long. We were lucky that we got the first project we went after. Being young women business owners was unusual at that point. The Commonwealth’s Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise program really helped us. It was set up to increase inclusion for minorities and women in public work. Engineers and Architects had to have WBE’s on their projects. Engineers would cold call us and invite us to join their teams. Ten years later, we were working on six different segments of the Big Dig thanks to Affirmative Action. The program made it easier for us to meet new people. Getting work, having it spaced out evenly over time, and avoiding big swings in the

One of the things I would say looking back over the past 36 years is that I wanted to have control over my time. I could only do that by starting my own firm with another woman. firm’s workload are the biggest challenges. We tell ourselves during lean times that the economy will change again and we will get through this. Our biggest challenge was the 2008 recession. We had a reduced work week so that we didn’t have to lay anyone off. And we got through it. That was a time when people were scared of the present and the future. We haven’t had any lawsuits in 37 years, knock on wood! Overall, there are lots of challenges in the design world, no CONVERSATION SERIES: 87


question about it: getting your fees accepted and managing additional services requests. However, getting the work done on time has not been a big problem for us. It is something we have always been able to do in spite of our unusual schedules. We have done well with keeping projects within their construction budgets. Sometimes we have found it hard to break into a new project type. Do you have a favorite project of yours? Yes. Bremen Street Park in East Boston. It was done as part of the Big Dig. The site was an 18 acre parking lot that the Big Dig needed for laydown for construction. Through a variety of advocacy efforts by non-profits and people in the community, the Big Dig agreed to spend $20 million to turn the parking lot into a first rate park and to expand an existing park. Bremen Street Park is on one side of Airport Station, Memorial Stadium Park is on the other. As part of the Big Dig, Bremen Street Park became a completely new park, Memorial Stadium Park was expanded, and the two parks were joined. They are now part of a larger bike trail 88

Education there is a very large difference in the level of professional training at different design schools‌ I love the idea of students having the latitude to explore their creativity, but feedback should be grounded in practice and realism so that they can learn the skills they need to be hired. system that goes through East Boston. Brown, Richardson & Rowe has designed five segments of the East Boston Greenway. New open space amenities and


trails stimulated growth in this part of East Boston. Bill Rawn designed a new public library at one end of Bremen Street Park. Then behind the library, a charter school was built. Next to Memorial Stadium Park, the Goddess Bra Factory was turned into the Porter Street Lofts. There is a non-profit music group called Zumix that does great things with teenagers in the park’s amphitheater. An old Engine House in the park was transformed into a YMCA and guaranteed activity in the park. There was a ton of public participation during the design process. The project was incredibly challenging because transportation departments were not yet used to finding themselves in the position of being clients for the design of big parks, rather than highways. I like projects with substantial community benefit. It is satisfying to convert degraded urban sites into nice places for people. If you could change a policy that would influence the design field, what would it be? Selection processes are not always fair. An architect I know reminds me frequently that in public projects, the public

agencies are not supposed to ask for a fee proposal until after the firm is selected. That rule is widely ignored. The Boston Society of Architects (BSA) is making an effort to support architectural firms and push the public agencies to implement a more merit-based selection process. Having a consistent, fair selection process is important. Sometimes, firms may be a shoe-in and the outcome is predetermined even though the selection process is public. Education - there is a very large difference in the level of professional training at different design schools. Cornell, the University of Virginia, the University of Georgia and the University of Wisconsin have terrific landscape architecture programs. I went to Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania for graduate school. Occasionally, I have been a critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design for the MLA program. Some of the faculty members are not registered landscape architects and the students do not seem to have a thorough understanding of natural processes. A plan shown to our jury illustrated a wetland in the shape of a half CONVERSATION SERIES: 89


circle with no water flowing in and out of it. I love the idea of students having the latitude to explore their creativity, but feedback should be grounded in practice and realism so that they can learn the skills they need to be hired. Professional education is expensive. Students deserve to begin to learn what they need to know in the workplace. Have you seen a general shift in trends and challenges that emerging professionals are facing? I am thrilled with the young designers at our firm. They are fast and versatile. The largest change in the profession has been the shift from hand drafting to CAD and hand renderings to computer graphics. There has also been a big shift in style during my career Postmodernism was really big when I began. Now we are back to Mid-Century Modern. Making sure you can respond to changes in taste in a way that you feel good about is important. New materials, concern about sustainability and rising sea level are also shifts. The Dutch have a deep understanding of sea level management. The United States would benefit from learning from people in other 90

In the design and construction field, men are not used to working with women‌ A man once told me I needed to learn how to interrupt, otherwise I would never be heard. When someone breaths, he said, that is your moment! countries who already know how to manage rising sea level. It is important to be rigorous in our search for workable solutions. We are behind! Have you faced any advantages or disadvantages in being a woman in the field? Affirmative Action has been an advantage for us. It has been hard on some male-owned firms,


particularly during the era of the Big Dig, which lasted 15 years. Working on six different artery projects made it necessary for us to have a computer on every desk. When we began we had no computers. By 1991, we “advanced” to one computer. When we began there were no faxes or email! In the design and construction field, men were not used to working with women. Even this year, we have had men, who do not listen to women. To deal with this recurring situation, sometimes we say, “We won’t be able to stamp the drawings if we make the change you are requesting because we must

No one is going to ask you if you want to be a leader. You just have to decide and take on stuff that you feel is important to do, and do it.

meet professional standards. We won’t be able to put it out to bid”. A matter of fact, calm tone can help convey the message. Trying to get things done correctly in public jobs with low bids can be a problem for all of us. Public agencies have been more open to hiring women than private entities, even women’s colleges. A man once told me I needed to learn how to interrupt, otherwise I would never be heard. When someone breaths, he said, “That is your moment!” Once, I was on a board of an organization, and the chairman of the board said to a room full of people, “Nina loves to interrupt.” He was annoyed. Years later, he did call me the conscience of the board, but that I was a thorn in his side. I was proud. What tips do you have for the future generation of designers? No one is going to ask you if you want to be a leader. You just have to decide and take on stuff that you feel is important to do, and do it. You are choosing to be leaders by doing this study. You saw a need and you are working to address it.


92


Progressive Work Policies with Aimee Hughes Aimee Hughes, HR Senior Associate at Cannon Design, started her career in education before finding her way to the Architecture & Engineering Industry. Having lived abroad for years and being an avid world traveler, Aimee advocates for a well-rounded lifestyle. Aimee has worked at HR & Operations at Cannon Design, managing large international teams. She loves people as well as the nitty gritty business details in architecture projects.

How did you get to where you are, HR Senior Associate at Cannon Design? I have actually taken a twisty road. I did my undergraduate at Lehigh University in History and French and I got the chance to go to France after graduation to teach English for a year. I met my now husband and he was finishing his degree in the UK, so I got my Masters in the UK in International Relations and Business. Then we moved back and forth between continents and I did a combination of HR and Operations for an education company in both Cambridge and London. I love people, but I also love the nitty gritty details of the business side. We returned to

the US after a stint in London, and I came to Cannon Design. I began this job doing project coordination on a huge project in Saudi Arabia, which eventually grew into a split position between HR and Operations as the project wound down. At first, I was a little nervous - I knew nothing about architecture or engineering except what I learned from my roommates in college. I remember coming in on my first day, and the PM gave me the response to the RFP and I was like, “What’s an RFP?” I asked a million questions and ended up learning an immense amount about architecture and engineering - how projects CONVERSATION SERIES: 93


function, how integrated teams collaborate, and how individuals execute their work. We had 15 offices around the world at the time and 7 were working on this project. There were three large medical and research buildings plus a full central power plant. I became the initial point of contact for all these people contributing to different parts of the project from all over the world. All of this knowledge has been very impactful in the way I carry out my work in Human Resources. I learned to love the A&E industry. How do you balance motherhood and work? I worked on the Saudi Arabia project up until I had my son. Many times during my first maternity leave, I thought that maybe I just wanted to be a hippie Mom for a while and stay at home. However, I realized that I needed to have some connection to the outside world. I was the first woman in seven years in our office, who had a baby and came back to work. They were super flexible and allowed me to figure out what I needed to do to make it work for my family and for the firm. They understood that childcare is an 94

immensely huge cost and after I had my daughter 18 months later, that balancing home and work was challenging. They also understood that it would have been difficult to pull myself out of the industry and spend x amount of years in the wilderness and then try to come back - it is a hard thing to do. You feel like if you stay out too long or aren’t pulling long hours, you might lose the connection with what is happening and it is more difficult to be involved in a project. I felt that I could no longer be on a deadline and balance my life outside work, so I moved strictly into the HR side of things and the firm absolutely supported me in doing so. I am lucky enough that I can do a lot of what I need to do remotely. I work with our corporate team

It is really challenging to be a working parent because you are never 100% at home and never 100% at work.


on all the administration side of things and support our offices in Boston and Pittsburgh. I work part-time from home and spend 3 days a week in the office. It is really challenging to be a working parent because you are never 100% at home and never 100% at work. You constantly balance, but I work in an office that supports that balance. What are some successful office policies? We are lucky that this office is extremely flexible and supportive towards people and their families and personal obligations outside the office. We have core hours, but we also have a work/life balance program (including summer hours) for everyone – not just parents. We are in 2017. In my opinion, in today’s work environment in this industry if you do not have flexible work hours, and if you do not accommodate people for certain things, you are going to lose good people or you won’t be able to attract or retain the level of staff you might otherwise be able to. It frustrates me because I feel like there are a lot of people in the industry who aren’t quite ready to adapt to this style

I learned that people are by far our most important asset and that it is my job to support and advocate for them in any way I am able to do so. of work environment. When I interview people, I ask what the biggest draw to working at a firm is for them. Over and over again, they say it is the people, the culture and feeling truly engaged in their work. When I first started, there was less flexibility in the industry as a whole. Before we formally introduced our work/life balance program we were lucky, our office was given enough leeway to figure out what we needed on the ground for our people. I think in Boston as a whole, we are progressive, and we are ahead of some of the rest of the country. Recently, there has been a huge shift in peoples’ expectations of the firm they work for; even recent graduates have expectations of the work place that people did not have five or ten years ago. CONVERSATION SERIES: 95


What is your observation on women in the A&E profession? We have a strong female contingent in this office and across the firm, which is fantastic and that number has increased in the time that I have been here. When I started 9 years ago, I had to adapt - I had worked in education for a long time where I had many female colleagues. I was lucky to have an unbelievable mentor - Jess Smith - who brought me up in many ways in our profession. Jess has been in A&E in the city for 25 years and is a strong voice for all employees in the industry. I learned that people are by far our most important asset and that it is my job to support and advocate for them in any way I am able to do so. I know every individual and their challenges really well, so I can help to support them and figure out how to get them to the next level while balancing professional ambitions with learning goals and life outside of work. It is exciting to see a lot more women interview than when I started when it felt like a male-dominated industry. I think that the industry is definitely moving forward. It is more open to having a real honest conversation. 96

What advice would you give to leaders & HR in different architecture firms? If you don’t have a dedicated HR professional in your office, it is important to have your admin get training and/or talk to other HR people in the industry. Come to our HR roundtable at the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), for example. We are all happy to give advice and help others in small firms that don’t have a designated HR person. Then, it all starts with the people who are doing your recruiting. Make sure they know how to give a good interview and have a two-way conversation. They need to understand how to dig a little bit deeper and truly engage

I think that it is important to understand your employees and what drives them. Every 18 months, for example, we do an employee survey across the firm.


candidates. Figuring out how to make that personal connection with others is so important. Also for those offices without a specific HR Resource, it is important to establish a person who represents a “safe space” - someone employees are comfortable having a private conversation with and asking for help. In addition, if you are the HR person, establish yourself as that confidant who people don’t think twice about talking to. I think that it is important to understand your employees and what drives them. Every 18 months, for example, we do an employee survey across the firm. It is a strategic communication technique and we are able to take a temperature on how we are doing with certain initiatives, culture, communication, mentoring, professional development opportunities, etc. Mentorship and recognition are always huge for individuals. This can take many forms – from organic mentoring to a more formal process, from thank you team lunches to an acknowledgment email. We try to do social events throughout the year like monthly staff meetings, Friday bagels, Design

The industry makes you feel like you owe it something and while this is valid, in reality, the industry owes you something. Shares, bake-offs, etc. We also encourage people to get out into the industry and take part in events or organizations that present learning opportunities and that mean something to you – ACE Mentoring, Construction, local AHRAE Leadership. Small things mean the world to people, and everyone can incorporate some of them into their everyday way of working! Take the time to stop and ask what is the most important thing about the work environment? What creates loyalty to where you work? What keeps you where you are? People, culture, transparency, feeling that you are contributing to what you are working on and recognition for doing so. Whether doing red lines, designing a facade or CONVERSATION SERIES: 97


Change can be very difficult. To me, the best leaders are people who recognize that in themselves and understand that they need to push themselves and those who work for them beyond those boundaries. They are open to listening to people who come from a different point of view and from all levels within a firm. doing CA, everyone wants to be part of a team and know that others understand an individual’s worth and are grateful for his/ her contributions . There is such a human need for validation and encouragement! 98

How do you make sure firms stay progressive? The longer you spend in an industry, or doing anything in your life, the more convinced you become that your ways are the right ways of doing things, the comfortable way. Change can be very difficult. To me, the best leaders are people who recognize that in themselves and understand that they need to push themselves and those who work for them beyond those boundaries. They are open to listening to people who come from a different point of view and from all levels within a firm. I am lucky to work in a place that really embraces that. Any flaws in the A&E industry? The industry makes you feel like you owe it something and while this is valid, in reality, the industry owes you something too. The A&E industry can sometimes demand long hours and dedication, which means everyone should be able to take a break and not feel guilty about it. Life should be balanced as much as possible. You should be able to say, “You know what, I will never get these three months of parental leave back, or these two weeks of an adventurous vacation


back, or attending this family member’s wedding back.” If you are working at a place that respects that, which everybody should be able to, you should be supported in taking time off in and around deadlines. Loyalty is essential, but at the same time, you are going to find yourself burned out if you do not step back every once in a while to gain perspective and other experiences. And how about tips to emerging professionals? There is a major learning curve when you come into the industry fresh out of school. Part of me would love schools to give a little bit more of a glimpse into the real industry, to let students use REVIT. It is a bit of a rude awakening because you have worked so hard and spent so many years in architecture school, and you come out, sit down at your desk and realize you actually don’t know how to build a building. It is scary, right? One thing I always say to incoming people is, “You have to put your time in. The only way you are going to learn is by doing the work with people who are experienced and know how to do the work.” I see it as an apprenticeship in

One thing I always say to incoming people is, “You have to put your time in. The only way you are going to learn is by doing the work with people who are experienced and know how to do the work.” many ways. You need to come ready to ask questions and not be afraid to do so. Go to as many learning opportunities as you can. Get out in the industry and go to Architecture Boston Convention (ABX), go on walking tours, and go to the BSA. Make connections with others across disciplines and typologies because the more you can learn, the better off you will be.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 99


100


The Role of Mentors and Sponsors with Natasha Espada Principal and founder of Studio ENÉE architects, Natasha Espada shared with us the importance of mentorship and sponsorship in her life. Natasha spent 20 years working for Leers Weinzapfel Associates on a diversity of award-winning projects before following her intuition and opening her own practice. She is an active member of AIA, Boston Society of Architects and Women in Design Principals’ group. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Northeastern University and has co-authored a chapter for the 2014 AIA Manual of Professional Practice, focusing on national and local trends in office culture.

How did you become Founder & Principal at Studio ENÉE? Starting a firm was not my ambition. I was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Miami, and I arrived in Boston after graduate school. My parents moved to Tokyo when I was in college and I spent any time away from school commuting to Tokyo. Through a graduate school connection, I was able to work for an Architect, Kazuyoshi Ishigura, during one summer in Tokyo. I studied and visited projects by Ando, Maki, Tange, Izozaki, and many other Japanese architects. Japanese architecture and culture has had

a profound influence in my life and work. I ended up in Boston because I had three cousins here in school and I wanted to work in a large city. By chance, I went to the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) when they were having a portfolio review; Robert Silver from Schwartz Silver saw my portfolio and used it as an example. I gave him my resume and I worked with them on a competition for the summer. We were coming out of a recession and they didn’t have enough work to keep me on, so they called Andrea Leers and Jane Weinzapfel on my behalf. I started at Leers Weinzapfel CONVERSATION SERIES: 101


Associates Architects in 1993 and I was there until 2014. I was very fortunate to never know what it is like to be a woman in a male-dominated firm. I worked very hard and LWA gave me every opportunity I could imagine. I started as an intern, I became an Architect, then a Senior Architect, an Associate, a Senior Associate, and an Associate Principal. Once I had children, I worked part-time but I always managed to meet my deadlines and contributed to the administrative aspects of the firm. I am not convinced that work-life balance exists, but I was able to figure out how to have both. One day, I woke up and realized that my kids were growing older and, although they did not need me as much as they did when they were younger, they needed

Being a wellrounded architect and understanding the financial and business aspects of the firm is very important. 102

me around for support. I wanted to have the flexibility to be closer to home to see what they were doing outside of school. At this time, I was also doing research on project teams, firm culture and award-winning design for a chapter I co-wrote for the AIA Manual for Professional Practice. In a conversation with Billie Tsien, she mentioned that an architect’s career is very long, but your children are only around for a short amount of time and if you miss parts of their life, you can’t turn back time. This coincided with thinking about my career and where I was heading. I did a lot of research on firms and connected with a range of mentors. Each mentor had different strengths so depending upon my issues at the moment, I knew whom to reach out to. At that time, I had never really questioned my career as I felt that I had growth opportunities all along. This time, my heart told me that I needed to see what I could do on my own. It had nothing to do with my happiness at work; it was more about my personal journey. It took me 3 years to decide what would come next. Then came the day when I woke up and I knew that I was ready to start my own firm


and to see where it would take me. I realized that it was a big risk to leave a very established award-winning firm. But it was a good time in my personal and professional life to try something new and my family was very supportive. I was assured that there was a future for me in the firm, but in my heart I thought, if I do not try it on my own, I will regret it. I took the plunge. The first week that I left, I would call LWA and say “What are you working on?” I had been at LWA for over 20 years of my life - they were my colleagues and my family. They continue to be my mentors and I still call Andrea and Jane for advice. I don’t regret leaving the firm but I do miss the people. When I first started my firm, I quickly moved into an office space to try to create a firm culture similar to the culture I had left but with a new spin. Regarding work, I thought I would have to take 20 steps back because the type of work I was doing was so high profile - it takes a career to build those types of clients and projects. Surprisingly, I was able to reconnect with my clients and

gather new clients who focused on the type of work I had been doing but on a smaller scale. We have a range of projects with several colleges and universities and public entities such as the City of Boston, Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), and Massport. In the end, I know I made the right decision. You never know how things will connect later in the future, but for now I am challenging myself in different ways. I am creating a practice that is nimble and it allows me to experiment with design at a different scale and in a different way. Starting a firm from scratch is really difficult but it has been very rewarding. I was fortunate that LWA had exposed me to every aspect of the business and it served me well when starting my firm. Being a well-rounded architect and understanding the financial and business aspects of the firm is very important. For me, running the business was not an issue; the issue was trying to find meaningful work. I had the best preparation and foundation as an architect and I knew that I would only make it to the next level if I used those tools wisely. CONVERSATION SERIES: 103


How did you find your mentors? The good thing about working in a firm such as LWA (with highly respected people) is that they have a lot of connections. There are people who mentor you; you can talk to them about your concerns and receive advice. There are also people who sponsor you and say, “I am recommending this person for this particular role�. I was in an unusual situation where Andrea Leers and Jane Weinzapfel have been both my mentors and sponsors. Outside of the office, Andrea invited me to her juries at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and recommended groups and affiliations for involvement and Jane nominated me for a BSA elected committee. This led to being involved with Women in Design, which led to being a member of the Women Principals’ Group and an elected position on the BSA board. I feel it is important to have mentors that are more experienced than me, but I also have peer mentors, who are just as important. Several years ago, a former BSA President connected a small group of us who were in mid-career. We are a close-knit group. We support each other, 104

Having a flexible working environment and encouraging and allowing employees to have time to develop their interests and strengths. This will make your practice more productive and more diverse. but we also compete for work. They are colleagues to lean on during tough times and who celebrate your successes with admiration and respect. Do you have a favorite project? I do not have a favorite project. I feel like all of them have given back in different ways. They are all like my children - they all have different qualities. Some projects are more challenging than others. The best projects are the ones that are unexpected. The ones that seem to be the most successful


are the ones with the most challenges because they force you to think outside of the box. What motivates you? Finding opportunities to create interesting and creative projects and to continue to grow intellectually and professionally. I am motivated by having the opportunity to create impact in cities, communities, and campuses - to create good space and architecture and to contribute and give back to my profession. I am always thinking and questioning where we are and where we are going - what kind of projects do we want to do and how do we want to push ourselves to be better? It is a feeling inside that you want to explore and find new things find opportunities in tangible or intangible things and question things all the time. I am also inspired by beautiful art and architecture. If there is any policy in the design field that you would like to change, what would it be? Having a flexible working environment and encouraging and allowing employees to have time to develop their

interests and strengths. This will make your practice more productive and more diverse. It will also encourage emerging and mid-career professionals to be inspired and remain in the profession. I also believe all employees need to be exposed

I believe that in order to be a successful architect, you need to have interests outside of architecture. No one wants to hear you talk only about architecture - they want to hear you talk about your ideas, your, philosophy, your life, and how it all intertwines.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 105


to every aspect of the firm. It will give them the experience to understand how decisions are made comprehensively throughout a project. Even if later on in their career they only focus on the part they are most interested in, they will need to develop many skills in order to be a well-rounded architect. And not only wellrounded at work, but also as an individual. I believe that in order

I am Latina and a woman so I cover a couple of bases. I feel a responsibility to mentor young women to help them define their passion and to give them the confidence and support in finding leadership opportunities in their field. 106

to be a successful architect, you need to have interests outside of architecture. For example, traveling, reading, an interest in music, or whatever makes you unique to the situation brings other layers of ideas into the creative process and your work. These interests will inform your design in different ways. No one wants to hear you talk only about architecture - they want to hear you talk about your ideas, your, philosophy, your life, and how it all intertwines. That is how you link into other people and you start to create change in promoting the value of design and architecture. What is your position on women in the architecture field? I am Latina and a woman so I cover a couple of bases. I feel a responsibility to mentor young women to help them define their passion and to give them the confidence and support in finding leadership opportunities in their field. This begins at an early age. For 5 years, I was the co-leader of a Girl Scout troop. My goal was to expose girls at an early age to the many possibilities available to them in the future. For young women in architecture, I feel a


responsibility to mentor them because their path in a firm is most likely not as traditional as it would be for a man. I find that as children, girls are not taught the same skills as boys. They are not usually exposed to manual labor, construction, and the built environment. I always encourage women to push themselves in learning the technical skills as well as design. Men seem to have a leg up on the technical aspects of architecture when they start working in a firm. However, if given the chance and encouraged to do construction administration, women learn fast and can achieve the same level of technical expertise as our male counterparts.

If you only focus on one aspect of your practice, you are not going to have the confidence to step it up in any situation and your credibility may be questioned.

I also think that women need to “lean in” and learn how to be confident about presenting and communicating their ideas clearly. If you are not clear, you are not going to be heard. Part of the clarity is having the confidence to have the foundation of all the information behind you - in programming, concept, design, and construction. If you only focus on one aspect of your practice, you are not going to have the confidence to step it up in any

Another important aspect is the need to include more men in the conversation about equity. If you do not invite them to the conversation, it is not going to progress. It needs to be a true partnership amongst all involved. When I first led the Women in Design exhibit at the BSA, women had to submit their work and compete with other women because they weren’t being given the proper recognition within their firms. Several years later, we had to transform the

situation and your credibility may be questioned.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 107


exhibit because women were not submitting work; they had outgrown the original mission of the exhibit. In 2013, I curated an exhibit about women working in urban environments and I received positive feedback about the exhibit. Most of the positive feedback was from our male colleagues, who were inspired by the work from the women leaders exhibited. This year I attended the Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS) in DC. Carl Elefante, the 2018 AIA President, mentioned to me that if more men knew what he heard at the Women’s Leadership Summit this year, we would see a change. What are your observations and advice to emerging professionals? Due to advances in technology, social media, and the early successes of emerging professionals in other industries, young professionals in architecture feel like anything is possible and they are in a rush for leadership. They want quick results because everything can be done with a click of a mouse. For me, architecture is about building in layers and processes. I encourage emerging professionals to give themselves 108

As an emerging professional, your goal is to learn in order to develop the experience to guide the future of your career. I am still learning every day and I do not expect to ever stop learning. Take your time, have ambition, but look for leadership opportunities. time to develop a good foundation. If you are a prodigy and you have success early – you win your first design competition right out of school - you have a non-traditional path. For most of us, an architectural career takes time to develop. You need to give yourself a strong foundation as an intern because you don’t want to make unnecessary mistakes early in your career. This may


discourage you and set you up for failure. Although you learn more from your failures than your successes, you do not want to be put in a situation where you are set to fail too quickly. You want to fail at things that are manageable so that you can get up, brush it off, and keep on going. As an emerging professional, your goal is to learn in order to develop the experience to guide the future of your career. I am still learning every day and I do not expect to ever stop learning. Take your time, have ambition, but look for leadership opportunities that are appropriate at your level. You are going to do yourself a disservice if you are a Principal two years out of school and you are not prepared for it. Find mentors that will support and encourage you, but take your time and enjoy what you are doing as you will most likely have a long career. If you are a natural leader, leadership opportunities will present themselves. It is also important to surround yourself with people who will support you as an individual and see you for the qualities that you bring into a situation. Push the critics aside as

It is also important to surround yourself with people who will support you as an individual and see you for the qualities that you bring into a situation. success comes in many forms. What makes you and your work important is that you bring your own personal perspective to it. If you hide behind what you think is your perspective, your work is not going to be meaningful and it will show. Don’t be afraid to fail, seek out mentors and sponsors, find your passion and your voice, collaborate with others, set high standards for your work, pay it forward, and you will find success.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 109


110


Pushing the Envelope on Office Policies with Diana Nicklaus In a candid early morning conversation, Diana Nicklaus, President and CEO of SAAM, shared with us her story of how she founded her own firm. Diana has practiced architecture in USA and Italy and her portfolio includes high-profile, large-scale institutional projects. Having worked in a diversity of architecture firms across the country, Diana has collected acute observations on the state of the design field. She is continuously pushing the envelope on office policies that are progressive towards flexibility and motherhood.

How did you get into architecture and how did you start SAAM? My mother thought I should be an architect, which was not ultimately why I became one, but I did follow her advice to get a Liberal Arts degree before I chose a profession. I was fortunate to meet architectural historian Margaret Henderson Floyd while at Tufts University, who created a wonderful prearchitecture track. I received an Art History degree but fulfilled the credit requirement through architectural history classes and minored in Urban Studies. I then went back to my home state of Texas to study architecture at the University of Texas in Austin.

Following graduation, I moved to New York City and started at Pei Cobb Freed, which gave me first-hand experience with the culture of traditional high-design firms. After two years of a very static environment, I transitioned to Gensler when its New York office had 400 people. I was again fortunate to be under the leadership of a very bright woman, Maddy Burke. Maddy was a critical role model for me, as she ran a studio with high-profile clients, worked a non-traditional schedule in order to spend time with her young son, and engendered a strong studio culture. Following my time at Gensler, I moved to Italy for two years and worked for a

CONVERSATION SERIES: 111


Venetian architect as well as the Architectural Biennale. Returning to the United States, I spent five years in Cleveland, working for two very good firms that bolstered my technical knowledge and provided some leadership opportunities. It was during this time that I also started a family. When I moved to Boston, now 9 years ago, I had two small children and interviewed with seven firms. It was early 2008 and the job market was strong. While interviewing with some of the larger firms, I inquired about the potential of working remotely. This was consistently a fascinating topic, because most firms were hesitant to trust a new employee with this type of access. Finally, I interviewed at Burt Hill and Koos Louw – now my partner said, “Everyone here is given a laptop and VPN access.” He also explained the concept of flexible schedules, which appealed to me as it made the challenges of a long commute and young children much easier within the context of my career. After a few years at Burt Hill, the firm was acquired by Stantec, where I was promoted to Senior Associate and then a Principal. The lack of women in Stantec leadership presented an opportunity – but I realized that this opportunity was limited in 112

a firm that continuously acquires new firms and leaders. Koos and I left Stantec in 2014 and started SAAM. What were your biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them? Within the architectural profession, there are many obstacles to advancing one’s career, notably the fact that traditional architectural culture does not support the concept of selfdirected advancement. I have best navigated this specific obstacle by leaving entrenched environments for those that provided growth opportunities working with leaders whom I respected. What type of changes have you observed in the architecture field? For my generation of architects, the changes in technology have been substantial. When I worked at Pei Cobb Freed, five people in the firm of 120 had an email address, and I was not one of them. The way we communicate about design and the supporting technologies are radically different. By the time I finish my career, I predict we will all be well versed in augmented realities and similar technologies. In addition to that, I feel like the value of an architect has been reduced. We do not


have the same voice in the design or construction process that we once did. If you could change a policy in design, what would it be? I think the way architects are compensated could be revisited. As I said before, I believe we are not valued, and in some ways it is our own fault because of our desire to design and redesign and redesign. The owner does not want to pay for a process that is perceived as being nonproductive. All of us in the profession need to advocate for each other because the profession is becoming diminished in ways that it does not need to be. Have you experienced any challenges being a woman architect? I think that is a loaded question. Clearly the profession still presents challenges for women. While great strides have been made, the statistics in our profession are nowhere near where they should be. I am referencing retention, promotion, and compensation equity for women and minorities – as a start. Personally, I have worked in firms with a male-dominated hierarchical culture, and women simply were not viewed as equal

When we started SAAM, we wanted to push the envelope on the whole idea of flexibility and that’s when we looked at unlimited vacation. The reality is, we are all really blending our personal and work lives. partners. Fortunately, those experiences were balanced with other environments where gender was not a consideration. How about any advantages? I was the first female Principal within the New England region at Stantec, and I felt that being a woman helped me get into that position. Having since started a WBE firm and seen it grow so quickly, I acknowledge that some project awards are due to the fact that we are a WBE firm. We must obviously have the qualifications to do the work, but sometimes it does open doors for the firm. We have mixed feelings about that.

CONVERSATION SERIES: 113


You have a unique policy on flexibility and unlimited vacation days at SAAM. Could you tell us more about it? If you are really curious, our entire employee manual is on our website. I have to give my partner much of the credit because he had explored some of these concepts while at Burt Hill. When we started SAAM, we wanted to push the envelope on the whole idea of flexibility and that’s when we looked at unlimited vacation. The reality is, we are all really blending our personal and work lives. We tell people when we hire them that their cell phone is also their business phone—and that number goes on their business card. Most people see the clear benefit of that, but it’s not for everyone. Communication is key, and we have several tactics to assist with that. Monday mornings we have staff meetings - a time when we review all the projects, marketing pursuits, and design processes. We also want people to work when they are at their best, which might be at 5 am or 10 pm. Everyone has life issues to balance, whether it’s children, aging parents, or other commitments. Unlimited vacation goes hand in hand with the flexibility because it is all about maintaining responsibility and ownership of the work. 114

It is so unfortunate that children are viewed as a liability by some employers. You also have a progressive understanding of motherhood. Could you tell us more? It is so unfortunate that children are viewed as a liability by some employers. We have many success stories of working mothers: one mother left a traditional firm, joined us with a 32-hour week schedule, became a Project Manager for the first time on a $15 million project, and does an amazing job. Another architect left the profession for six years to be with her children, and has returned to practice at SAAM. It is as if she never missed a beat. One of our new Principals, Diana Ostberg, is expecting her fourth child. Why should motherhood slow us down or prevent us from doing the work? For mothers and everyone at SAAM, flexibility works both ways. If you want to go to soccer practice on Tuesday afternoon, go to soccer practice. Take your phone with you, check your e-mail, answer your phone if someone calls you, and if we have a client meeting on a Tuesday afternoon, make sure somebody else can go to soccer practice. We have


that expectation and our team understands that. What do you have to say to other leaders about such policies? The level of trust between leaders and the rest of the team needs to change. It is really engraved in the culture to not trust people, to assume they don’t know enough, and that they don’t know where to find the answers. It takes effort from leadership to change that. But I would also say to other leaders who think this is not possible – they are missing out on some serious talent. From your perspective, what challenges are emerging professionals facing today? I think the biggest challenge for a young designer today is understanding how to navigate the profession and recognize what aspects of architecture are just noise. Another challenge is the industry trend to force people into specific sectors. I think it is a disservice to the profession and the individual because one should never have to limit design thinking to a certain project type. What tips would you give emerging professionals? Ask questions. I asked many questions when I started out

and I always felt bad about it, but I now recognize how valuable it was. In addition, I recommend that young designers find a career sponsor. To clarify, a mentor is someone that may or may not be a colleague, who can share their own experience, give advice, and point one in the direction of opportunities. A sponsor can actually create those opportunities. That is probably someone you work with because they are in a position to advocate for your advancement and understand exactly what value you bring to the table. It is someone who really wants to bring you up the ladder with them.

To clarify, a mentor is someone that may or may not be a colleague, who can share their own experience, give advice, and point one in the direction of opportunities. A sponsor can actually create those opportunities. CONVERSATION SERIES: 115


116


Observations on Women Architects with Andrea Leers Andrea Leers, Principal at Leers Weinzapfel Associates shares how she and Jane Weinzapfel created an award-winning women-lead studio. Andrea’s design work has earned her the recognition from of the BSA Award of Honor. She is a Commissioner for the Mayor’s Boston Civic Design Commission and a member of the University of Washington Architectural Commission. In parallel to practice, Andrea has had an extensive teaching career. She is the former Director of the Master in Urban Design Program at Harvard GSD and previous appointments were at Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Virginia, Tokyo Institute of Technology, National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, and University of Paris, Sorbonne. How did you get to where you are - Founder & Principal at Leers Weinzapfel Associates? I was always interested in art and painting; I took classes with local artists In Springfield, MA where I grew up. My mom would often take me to MOMA in NY. I was one of those kids that was always drawing things. When I went to Wellesley, instead of a Fine Arts program, I found a wonderful Art History program. Toward the end of college though I thought, “This is really interesting, but I want to create art, not study it.” I considered graphic design and architecture, but I really had no idea what architecture

was about and I thought of it as big sculpture. So I went for a semester to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to try it out. Maurice Smith, my professor, was a very difficult and intimidating person. However, at the end of that semester, he said to me begrudgingly, “You know, you could do this.” That lead me to think about it more seriously. I then went to UPenn where I had an extraordinary education. It was the time of Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi, B.V. Doshi, Tim Vreeland, Denise Scott Brown – an amazing group. I felt especially fortunate that I had two kinds of introductions to CONVERSATION SERIES: 117


architectural education - the MIT approach and the Penn approach. From the beginning, I knew that there was more than one way to think about architecture. When I finished graduate school, I was very eager to get to work and joined my advisor from Wellesley, Earl Flansburgh. There, I met Jane and we immediately became friends. Earl was a very forward-thinking generous person, and he respected and valued us both. I worked there just long enough to get registered. In the beginning, I didn’t think I needed to be registered; I imagined I would always work for someone else who was. I didn’t have a big picture. I worked very briefly for another firm, now Arrowstreet, who presented me with the opportunity to do a small house project on my own. It was 1970, I was married to Hugh Browning, and we tried to make this the beginning of a practice. We did small projects together - kitchen renovations, back porches, a few college renovations and feasibility studies for public facilities in cities and towns. In 1975 I also started teaching. I had not been interested in teaching because I wanted to 118

gain skill in design. But Dolores Hayden, then a student, was pushing Harvard to hire women, looking under every rock for the few of us that were out there. One day I got a call, “Would you like to come teach?” I said, “I don’t know. Teaching is a whole skill in itself. I am not a teacher, and I am learning my craft.” They replied, “Oh no, you will be fine, you will be a great teacher.” They saw something I did not. I began teaching then and continued until 5 years ago. In the beginning it was very challenging; I felt that I needed to figure out what I had to teach. Gradually, I did and that was very stimulating; I really enjoyed working with students and always learned a great deal from them. Hugh and I parted in 1978 and I took over our small firm. I thought that was going to be a make it or break it year. Jane was, by then, working for a big architecture and planning firm. We had a mutual friend - Marilyn Tobey, a very strong feminist, working for Massport. She had a little project and wanted a woman to do it. That was my very first project - the Tobin Bridge Project. It was really fun and exciting. By the end of the year I realized that not only


were I going to make it, but I was overwhelmed with a lot of work. In 1982, with my office barely under way, I had the opportunity to go to Japan for a year-long fellowship. I threw caution to the winds and asked Jane, who had just had her daughter Eve, to oversee the firm for the time I was away. We would both then think about whether we wanted to join. She and I had very different experiences by then. I had a lot of smaller institutional and public sector projects, and she had been working on complex big projects for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and others. We had very different connections and clients and coming together seemed very promising. My year in Japan was inspiring, and led me into several research projects. Now that my interests were spread over 3 areas (practice, teaching and research), it became very clear to me that forming a partnership with Jane was going to be essential for me to continue that many dimensions in my life. So the decision to work together made itself by the end of that year. When I returned, we formalized our partnership and we began

We gave a lot of thought to whether we would threaten our friendship by working together and to whether the idea of two women partners was going to be more than the world was ready for.

putting our different experiences and client base to work. We had already known each other for more than 10 years; we were friends first. We gave a lot of thought to whether we would threaten our friendship by working together and to whether the idea of two women partners was going to be more than the world was ready for. It was a leap CONVERSATION SERIES: 119


into the unknown and a great adventure. We had very gradual steady growth in staff and in the complexity and interest of our projects. After many years as Principals, we are now looking toward a time when new Principals take a stronger lead in the firm. What are your observations on women in the architecture field throughout the years? It sounds strange to say today, but for many years, we did not think of ourselves as women architects at all. We thought of ourselves as architects. And we were appalled when people proposed magazine issues of women architects or exhibits of women architects. It was only many years later that we began to understand that the perception of us as women was real, that we needed to face it squarely, and that we needed to make the most of it where we could. But for many years, there were so few of us that we were oblivious to our “otherness.” We were always 1 or 2 in school - the exception. I discovered through teaching that the exceptionalism persisted. The women students were always outstanding because they had crossed so many barriers to get 120

there in the first place. It was no surprise that in the end of the year exhibits, many of the best projects were by women. Frankly, the gender inequity hits young women hardest because there is the uncertainty of not knowing everything you need to know yet. There is a feeling of insecurity because it takes a long time to build knowledge. There is also the confusion about how you are treated. Is it because I am a woman or is it because I don’t know enough yet? In a lot of ways for women of your age,

Frankly, the gender inequity hits young women hardest because there is the uncertainty of not knowing everything you need to know yet. There is a feeling of insecurity because it takes a long time to build knowledge.


There were other moments in which, for government contracts, the participation of women on a team was an advantage. We always thought that might help to get to the table but certainly was not a decisive factor. it is harder than it was for us because it was not conscious for us. When there is a critical mass of women, who are sharing the same experience, then you begin to notice inequalities. It is really quite amazing looking back at it now how unconscious we were. We just put our heads down and kept going. If something didn’t work out, you just tried harder and figured that is how it had to be. Teaching younger women, I see that these issues arise for a time, then ebb, then arise again in waves. So, this is your wave.

Any advantages / disadvantages of being a woman architect? Jane and I would chat with mentors of different kinds: Joan Goody, Jim Polshek among others. At some point, we consulted Cesar Pelli as we did periodically about how to practice and design well. He said, “You need to be aware that people perceive you as women in the field. And there are times when that can be an advantage.� We talked about this a little, and he said that there were certain moments for certain universities where being seen as forward thinking and engaging women leaders was a plus. He advised us to put that agenda forward gracefully and sensitively where it might be an asset and a value. He was the first one who urged us to be explicit about that. He was right too, and we found that there were specific clients for whom it was the right fit. We also learned that for a very long time we were seen as a risky choice among lots of good architects with similar experience. What was risky about us? We think of ourselves as exceedingly sensible and responsible. But there is a perception among some clients that you are taking a risk to hire women architects. CONVERSATION SERIES: 121


There were other moments in which, for government contracts, the participation of women on a team was an advantage. We always thought that might help to get to the table but certainly was not a decisive factor. We did encounter some resistance among competition, who felt that we were unfairly advantaged and I often replied, “Maybe it sometimes levels the field, but certainly never puts us ahead.” We always felt as though we had to prove ourselves extra capable, and I think that that

We also learned that for a very long time we were seen as a risky choice among lots of good architects with similar experience. What was risky about us? We think of ourselves as exceedingly sensible and responsible. 122

reality still exists. Although it has diminished, it is still in the background. And it depends on where you practice. In big urban centers in this country, it is less or no issue at all. Outside the two coasts and big cities, it is very much alive as an issue. What is the biggest professional challenge that you have encountered? The first challenge for me was gaining mastery over the craft of architecture. Then it was coming to know what I care deeply about in architecture and how to realize it. That is a life time work. Even creating a practice and sustaining it isn’t the biggest challenge. That was hard, but gaining a certain knowledge base and idea flow is the biggest challenge and the one that keeps you going. Creating a practice takes two things beyond talent: it takes motivation - fire in the belly - and determination - sitting in your seat longer than anybody else. The difference between people with talent, who make a successful practice and those who don’t is determination; it is patience and persistence and the willingness to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The biggest challenge is to continue to learn and nourish your mind and your aspirations.


What changes have you observed in the design field? A couple of major changes have shaped design as we know it today. First is technology. The use of computers for exploration, representation, and documentation has absolutely changed the way we create design concepts and realize them. Second is the awareness and attention to the larger issues of sustainable design. Those are dimensions that are outside what we think of as the first set of skills – the form making, context responding, and program fulfilling activities of design. The means of production has really changed how we do design. When computer-aided design first appeared, we all wondered how it would affect us. For a long time, I thought it was just a better tool, a better pencil. Now I think that design thinking has been fundamentally altered. As for the issue of sustainable design, I think that while natural forces, materials, and climate consideration were always part of design in my education and in all years subsequent, something fundamental has changed. The integration of thinking about the natural world and its resources, how you apply them in building, how you make architecture and

The difference between people with talent, who make a successful practice and those who don’t is determination; it is patience and persistence and the willingness to do whatever it takes to make it happen. urban places in the world is very different from when we started. There was a short while in the 70s when solar energy was explored, but comprehensive environmental thinking didn’t really come back until recently as integral, as inspirational, and generative as opposed to applied. Those two dimensions really altered the way we do what we do and think about what we do. CONVERSATION SERIES: 123


If you could change any policy in the design field, what would it be? I think of policies as organizational guidelines set up by an entity to enable or inhibit activity. Federal policy (or the lack thereof) of housing, of environmental awareness and controls, of infrastructure - these kinds of policies to me are terribly important for what we do. When I began practice there was actually federal money for public and senior housing. Everybody wanted to do housing because we believed that it was very important for society. Today there is no public funding for housing, developers build housing according to market demand and people live where they can. If the federal or state governments would make a public housing policy as they do in EU, South America and elsewhere, a lot of creative energy would go into better affordable housing design. Similarly, if federal policy provided very strong environmental protection, it would significantly affect what we do. I think policies that support better quality of life for people are important, and that might be infrastructure improvements, parks, city streets, 124

I think of policies as organizational guidelines set up by an entity to enable or inhibit activity. Federal policy (or the lack thereof) of housing, of environmental awareness and controls, of infrastructure these kinds of policies to me are terribly important for what we do. sidewalks, etc. We are lucky here in Boston as we have a high awareness for making a good city. A lot of places are proud of their lack of policy, so Boston is quite enlightened in that way. That is the kind of policy that matters to me and the profession as a whole.


What strengths and weaknesses do you observe in emerging professionals? Any tips? I am really hopeful about this young generation. I am energized because I think you all are a group that is very optimistic about the possibilities of doing better in the world, and the social responsibility of design. I haven’t seen that since the 60s, frankly. I have heard generations come and go saying, “What is better for me? How do I rise up?� But I see in your generation a desire to use design to make a better life for people in whatever way you can. That is tremendously hopeful. You also want to make a more satisfying life for yourself and redefine that in ways that are new. There is a sense of human contribution not only artistic exploration. I recognize that you are enabled with the skills of being digital natives and that gives you a lot of facility and agility. I do worry some about your breadth of knowledge. I think that your generation tends to go deep into what interests you and be utterly ignorant and blind about a whole other realms of knowledge, history, and culture. That is a danger of easy information access. But life will fill in a lot of those gaps and hopefully you

will discover what else there is in the world other than what already interests you and is immediately available. I am very hopeful that this generation is going to work to make life better, make places more beautiful, make environments healthier. Those are at least on the table as discussions. I was educated to see architecture as a great balancing act - that design be useful, that it be valuable, that it be sound, and that it be beautiful. I see that balance returning in your generation and I am delighted.

I was educated to see architecture as a great balancing act - that design be useful, that it be valuable, that it be sound, and that it be beautiful. I see that balance returning in your generation and I am delighted. CONVERSATION SERIES: 125


126


The Importance of Diversity with Jane Weinzapfel During a pleasant afternoon over tea, we had an inspirational chat with Jane Weinzapfel, Principal at Leers Weinzapfel Associates and role model for the Girl UNinterrupted team. Jane is an award-winning design leader, dedicated to craft and technology. She has been a visiting faculty member at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning and at the University of Arizona College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. She was also a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. Jane is a board member for various organizations such as the Boston Society of Architects, the Boston Architectural College, and Boston by Foot. She has served on the Mayor’s Boston Transportation Advisory Committee, the Mayor’s Government Center Plaza Task Force in Boston and on the Massachusetts Executive Office of Community Development Designer Selection Board.

How did you get into architecture? In high school, I transferred from a kind of girls’ convent school to a public high school when my parents moved across town in Tuscon, Arizona. I was asked, “What is it that you want to do?” I said, “Well, I can’t decide between science and art. I really love both. But I think that I would want to be an architect.” That seemed a blend of science and art from my viewpoint at that point. I was also comfortable with the idea of architecture because my Dad had been a

builder and land developer and had taken me to many building job sites. Upon graduation, I went to architecture school. There had not been a woman graduate; there had been women, who were in the program and then out of the program. I came in as a freshman and all looked fine to me - all the faces were men. I didn’t see what it looked like from the other side that there were many men and one woman. Two years later a woman joined the program. It was so wonderful because I could see what it was like to see a woman CONVERSATION SERIES: 127


128

in a linen dress at a drafting board – and we could share and reflect on the studio experience together. Women on campus at that time needed to be in their dorms by 10 o’clock, so there was no working in the studio late at night. I worked alone on my project in the dining hall. It was a little creepy because I was working alone when the night wind would blow against the windows. But I always had my projects submitted on time.

with many men. I had great relationships with the guys there - they were accepting, and there was no language I hadn’t heard before. But it was just a richer environment with Andrea working there as well. Subsequently we had increasing numbers of women at the firm. Earl was great supporter of women as a teacher and as a firm leader. He mentored many women architects including Zibby Ericson and Ann Beha.

How did you become a Principal at Leers Weinzapfel Associates? Andrea (Leers) and I had different woven paths. Immediately upon graduation, we both started work with Earl Flansburgh in Cambridge. I was the first woman there. Earl was very worried that I would be offended by the foul language that he anticipated in the studio. I reassured him that I expected no problems. Andrea had also just graduated and soon after she became an intern at Earl’s also. We were his first two women employees who had been trained as architects. It is surprising how much different working with at least two women is than being the only woman in an office

Andrea and I became long term friends. After working several years at Earl’s, we each went different professional directions. I worked with a large planning and architecture firm and was an Associate there, interested in being a Principal. I went away to Ann Arbor (Michigan) when our daughter was born. At that time, I had no idea whether I would want to be away from work for 3 months, 3 years, 6 weeks or 6 years. I was fine with doing small projects for friends but remained in contact with my firm back in Boston, and even did some marketing with them. However, while I was away, the firm bifurcated. When I returned to Boston, each of the two new firms asked me to join them, and one firm asked


me to join as a Principal. I was very torn because I had a young child, and I was not certain that I would be on equal footing with them as I couldn’t expect to be working 60-hour weeks as they might, or perhaps not even 40-hour weeks with a young child. I said I was going to wait for a year and they were quite understanding. All through this time period, Andrea and I had remained good friends. When Andrea and I began working together soon after, I was working about half-time and Andrea also had teaching commitments. Early on, we had decided that you didn’t have to be at the office all the time. We could schedule individual and joint appointments and overlapping coordination time, and it was totally fine to have a shorter than usual work schedule in the office. It felt more balanced working together with Andrea. During the first year, we discussed and evaluated the benefits of working together. We had started with the understanding that our friendship was quite important to us, and we wanted to make certain that working together

didn’t change that. Meanwhile, we were each dedicated to the work and our varied clients; and although an architectural practice has many challenges, we have supported each other by talking through the tough parts. Our practice has evolved to be remarkably interesting and satisfying because we continue to challenge ourselves and each other. Andrea and I came from totally different parts of the country and educational formats. We shared basic values and architecturally, we were each influenced by Kahn so there was a common vocabulary. It may sound odd but it was actually very good to start my

Our practice has evolved to be remarkably interesting and satisfying because we continue to challenge ourselves and each other. CONVERSATION SERIES: 129


practice with Andrea and with my small child, because Andrea and I each needed flexible schedules. I would say that being proactive and trusting my heart is how I got here along with basis of very good friendship with Andrea. Could you share with us a challenge you faced? How did you overcome it? One challenge was teaching in an architecture program at a time when there were almost no women faculty. I went together with a fine male colleague to a luncheon and was introduced to a famous international architect who looked at the colleague and said, “Good luck.” It was not, let’s say, welcoming. However, teaching with Ed Allen and Lawrence Anderson was a welcome and broadening experience. Within the program there was a group that was very committed to a singular pedagogical direction. It seemed to be an ingrown group with some very influential faculty, and with students that subsequently became faculty with whom they shared a single world view. I was asked to participate in a curriculum review for the first 130

It is good to make ourselves aware of our bubbles and lift ourselves beyond them. I think that there is a strength of being a little bit different. Everyone is a little bit different some way or another, but I didn’t have the choice to NOT see that, both as a student and in academia. year introductory class with this group. We individually prepared thoughts about what students needed to be introduced to initially. That group shared a long discussion of facets of architecture in terms of binary opposites – strong/weak, light/ dark etc. The discussion was enjoyable and developed a long


list. Meanwhile, I put forward that it was also important for students to experience and build threads of connections - organic, spatial, proportional etc in addition to the contrast of opposites being listed. But it seemed the group had no interest in incorporating difference or nuance within what seemed an academic bubble that was committed to a singular expression (and that seemed to me to result in rigid

The uniqueness early on of being a woman in architecture was an advantage. People looked twice even if they didn’t like what they saw. The advantages then helped us to deal with the disadvantages.

and formulaic student work). I found that really fascinating. And I thought, “Well, I am not going to be heard much here, but I can participate in both orientations to a degree, I can be bilingual.” Fortunately, there were many other faculty who were not of this clique as well. I learned a tremendous amount from them, and I gravitated towards people coming at architecture from different ways. That has always been of interest to me. It is good to make ourselves aware of our bubbles and lift ourselves beyond them. I think that there is a strength of being a little bit different. Everyone is a little bit different some way or another, but I didn’t have the choice to NOT see that, both as a student and in academia. Have you experienced any advantages being a woman architect? We would be silly to leave our advantages at the door, wouldn’t we? Right now there are many women in architecture and there are still advantages and disadvantages. The uniqueness early on of being a woman in architecture was an advantage. People looked twice even if they didn’t like CONVERSATION SERIES: 131


what they saw. The advantages then helped us to deal with the disadvantages. A very humorous anecdote - I was working on big architectural/engineering project for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Red Line expansion, and there was a powerful client and engineering group. All were distinguished men from the military or from many mostly male organizations. Occasionally a man who came to speak about the project team wouldn’t know quite how to behave because there was a woman in the room. It was often a case of winning over people to understand that difference can be okay, which I think women are very good at. Women are very good at listening, understanding and making people comfortable (or uncomfortable if need be).

I would steer young architects, men and women, away from any practice that didn’t have a lot women in it. 132

Our strong client leader (a former naval officer, possibly a Commander) smoked a cigar at morning meetings. I frankly don’t mind a cigar, but I would bring in a fresh gardenia from home to most meetings for the table. If he was going to have his cigar, I was going to have my gardenia. It made everyone chuckle, but I was definitely accepted at the table and listened to there. Acknowledging the differences between us with a bit of humor sometimes can help make everyone more comfortable – a different type of confident, trusting team. What changes in the design field have you observed throughout the years? There are the architectural changes and there are changes in the work environment. The global influence is huge. There is a more vibrant interchange of ideas than when we mainly compared our ideas to those in Britain. Now there is quite an infusion of diverse ideas and fluidity of approaches. Even in our work environment now we have much more exposure to many different continents than we did not long ago. The explosion of formal idea differences and emphasis on


new technologies makes this a very rich time right now; it makes us able to step out of our bubbles hopefully. The other difference is that there are many more women leaders now, including a global diversity of women architects moving around the world and sharing their influences. I would steer young architects, men and women, away from any practice that didn’t have a lot women in it. What would it mean if you didn’t have at least that kind of difference of ideas and approach? I wouldn’t want to be there. I would want to be where it’s jumping, where there are many different ideas and they are in collision, where not all ideas are predetermined, where the design is going to evolve but we don’t know all the influences that will direct our path at the outset – but I am confident that we will fairly quickly find that path. I love that. If you could change a policy in design, what would it be? The national AIA and its local chapters are currently reviewing its Code of Ethics. A Boston Society of Architects’ (BSA) Task Force is reviewing the AIA Code for adequacy and completeness, including the issue of Sexual

Misconduct (including Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, Retaliation, and Bullying). Our profession deserves better than glossing over these important issues that are at the heart of our expectation of ethical professional behavior, especially toward interns, who must work under an architect’s supervision in order to apply for degrees, registration and licensure. Yet Sexual Misconduct by powerful architects with subordinates seems to have been known and condoned in firms and in academe. The BSA can offer a strong, clear and informed voice to AIA national on this issue. We all, men and women, should require them to do so.

Yet Sexual Misconduct by powerful architects with subordinates seems to have been known and condoned in firms and in academe. CONVERSATION SERIES: 133


Diversity in architecture has always been important. We can’t serve the communities of the world without looking more like the world around us. Architecture still seems a luxury in terms of equity in many minority communities. I think there is an aspirational disparity as well: if there are opportunities out there for more financial reward, architecture certainly isn’t the field that is going to compete with international finance or law. How to have more diversity in architecture has not been answered over several decades. There are certainly fabulous firms of color that are doing great work and that are absolutely terrific at inspiring others. There are educational programs that are more accessible to diverse populations and that are more equitable. The Boston Architectural College (BAC) is one of those. It has a spirit of welcome, accessibility and encouragement that for American kids is quite different than some of our standard and perhaps more prestigious ways of getting to be an architect. Another important avenue is to strengthen the state Bachelor of Architecture programs and 134

Diversity in architecture has always been important, we can’t serve the communities of world without looking more like the world around us. support them in that mission of accessibility; UMASS Amherst is a good example. We don’t yet have the solution, but it is important to make visible the diverse energies and opportunities in architecture to more communities. The BSA has that opportunity. When I was President of the BSA some years ago, that was one of my interests - diversity and inclusion of our international crowd, our under-involved groups, our women, and our young people from many communities that don’t know much about architecture or even the building trades as a career. I think working with the City


of Boston is very attractive to diverse groups, and they can make a real difference within the public environment. We can take leadership in programs that support the interest and development of more minority architects. It is a great loss to not have more minority architects. We should ask and individually pay attention to what more we can be doing. What positive / negative qualities do you see in emerging professionals? We are so lucky here that we have talented emerging professionals with many skills. We attract a focused group who want to participate and learn. I see similar evolving challenges for young people. I think that there is just as much energy and interest in the challenges that we face together as there ever has been with young recent graduates. There is so much that you learn in your first couple of years of practice - with spongelike interests filling up in many different areas. Certainly, the digital skills continue to expand architectural design. On the negative side, doing digital plans and sections without a sense of scale to me is a great loss. When I was teaching,

I think that we have to be aware of how people’s individual growth can interweave with the needs of projects and the types of projects that are available at a certain moment. Employee reviews are important to articulate what interests and disinterests exist and also to get a flavor of the individual’s as well as the larger cohort’s needs. we used to go into different spaces and imagine their size, document what we imagined in CONVERSATION SERIES: 135


plan and section and then go and measure the actuality. The digital reality and its connection to physical reality gets refined very quickly in the first years of practice. There was a not too distant time period, when people felt they were ‘CAD monkeys’ – as if early experience in practice was divorced from learning and exploration. I think that we have to be aware of how people’s individual growth can interweave with the needs of projects and the types of projects that are available at a certain moment. Employee reviews are important to articulate what interests and disinterests exist and also to get a flavor of the individual’s as well as the larger cohort’s needs. I am not sure that we do enough discussion about that. We would hope that all interns and emerging professionals are getting their objectives met and a wide range of experience under their belts as they move forward. I don’t know that we have a formal policy for having that happen so much as trying to listen to people, what their objectives are and trying to find a match as we go forward. That’s an ambition that always 136

Leaders must be aware of individual objectives and not just have immediate needs and the project availability of the moment guide them exclusively of everything else. could be enhanced, so that people continue to grow. Leaders must be aware of individual objectives and not just have immediate needs and the project availability of the moment guide them exclusively of everything else. In my mind, young people coming into the office are brilliant and sometimes surprisingly limited in certain ways. That is what you find out fairly quickly, and then you work to help them take the next steps in responsibility and to broaden their experiences so


that you encourage and expand their abilities. What advice would you give to emerging professionals? Really think about the direction you want to go and what you want to accomplish in the next year or years. Be flexible about how you get there. There are many ways forward. For empowerment, annually think about three other things you could be doing. There are organizations where you can hit a dead end or you are pushed in directions with limited opportunities. If people give you too many limits, you can go and do these other things. Tell yourself, “I am empowered and I am taking my ideas to the table.� I think an annual appraisal of what you want to be doing next is important - it keeps you empowered. We try to do it in our annual reviews and try to have people think about that. Another empowerment is to get licensed as an Architect. Also, if you find yourself for example, in the suburbs as the only woman in an office, try something else. You can look elsewhere. Look at the profile of an office and if that is too uniform, ask some questions. It is more real and rewarding to work in an

environment that is more mixed and diverse. And it certainly lets you have a richer experience whether you are a woman or a man. And take an opportunity each day to be bolder than your comfort level would normally allow.

Look at the profile of an office and if that is too uniform, ask some questions. It is more real and rewarding to work in an environment that is more mixed and diverse. And take an opportunity each day to be bolder than your comfort level would normally allow. CONVERSATION SERIES: 137


138


3 | ACTION TIPS

ACTION TIPS: 139


140


ACTION TIPS: 141


142


The problem is not my capacity to speak up or contribute ideas – but the fact that no one responds or is interested so there is less incentive to do so in future. As a young female, it’s very frustrating to be excluded from meetings which are full of middle aged white males. My largest complaint though, is that everyone is so busy, that we fail to invest in each other’s learning. Designer, female, 0-2 years of experience

designer

leader

One of the major issues we have heard and observed consistently is the lack of communication between members of an office. There is often a major disconnect between younger and more experienced staff. Why does this happen and how can we solve this? Often times, both parties believe and assume the other knows exactly what is going on and what the issues are. This is almost always false. More knowledge, more communication, and more transparency: these are the things that can resolve some of these struggles. On the following pages are some action tips we have generated based on survey results, our conversation series, and from listening to people. We address them to both emerging professionals and top leaders, hoping to bridge any gaps of understanding. But, as our profession evolves, so should these tips. Let’s make changes together.

ACTION TIPS: 143


FINDING THE RIGHT FIT Consider job interviews as a 2-way conversation. An office would like to see if you are a good fit for them. You need to understand if the office culture will be a good fit for you too since you will spend a long time there. You want to find a place that shares the same values as you, where you not only see yourself contributing as an essential part of the team, but also see yourself developing and growing as a designer. If after the interview, you do not feel that it is a right fit, it is ok to pass up a job offer - you will be doing both parties a favor in the long run.

Understand the overall offer of an office. It is not only the wage you are given but also a package of benefits: health and dental insurance, vacation and sick days, retirement packages, family leave, flexible working hours, and many others. Aside from benefits with monetary value, look at the quality of work and firm culture. Consider what is important for you and make sure you ask questions and negotiate what your individual preferences are.

tips to designer

144

leader


Be clear about roles and responsibilities. If employers are upfront about expected roles and responsibilities, potential staff can be given the opportunity to be honest about their experience and whether their skills can assist with the firm’s needs. Designers can go through appropriate training if necessary and be prepared for their role within the office.

Be upfront and clear about office expectations. Not everyone will be a good fit for every firm, and being clear about office expectations can help filter through many qualified candidates. Different from defining one’s responsibilities, what an office expects from its employees can show other important aspects of the office such as studio culture, work-life balance, and career growth. It’s important to be honest with those characteristics of an office to make sure you hire an appropriate person.

tips to designer

leader

ACTION TIPS: 145


OFFICE POLICIES

Read and understand office policies and manuals. Change can only happen if have all of the information first. It is important to understand what the policies are at your office to know if it is meeting your needs and priorities. If it is not, do not be afraid to ask. Sometimes offices do not realize what is important to their staff.

Don’t be afraid to talk to others. Your peers are your biggest resource. Talk to them about their office policies, salaries and benefits, and firm culture. The more we know about how other offices are run, the more you know about what opportunities are out there for you and ways in which you can improve your own office and situation.

tips to designer

146

leader


Analyze office policies and make them clear to all employees periodically. Transparency and communication are crucial for all employees. Architecture is constantly evolving, so it makes sense that office policies evolve too.

Create regular 2-way conversations to help build a relationship of mutual respect and understanding. Set up regular self-assessment at the office such as anonymous internal surveys. Get genuine feedback from employees that would help you understand the internal struggles and what to work on to improve the culture and moral within the firm. Know your employees and their personal aspirations and struggles.

tips to designer

leader

ACTION TIPS: 147


EQUITABLE ENVIRONMENT

Know nation-wide statistics. Data from the American Institute of Architects, NCARB, EquityXDesign, the Living Building Just certification, and others are available to everyone. It is important to be aware of the issues within the field today and understand that these issues do not just affect some, but affect all.

Don’t be a bystander. Consider your values and ask questions if put in a situation where you are or someone else is made uncomfortable.

tips to designer

148

leader


Know nation-wide statistics. Data from the American Institute of Architects, NCARB, EquityXDesign, the Living Building Just certification, and others are available to everyone. Bring awareness within your team, and make topics like equity, unconscious biases, and sexual harassment part of the discussion.

Reflect on the make-up and diversity of the office at all levels. Analyze and implement workshops for unconscious biases. Put in place open-minded people who are responsible for hiring. Studies have shown that more diverse teams yield better, more interesting projects.

Understand the difference between equality and equity. As EQxD explains, equality gives everyone the same opportunities regardless of their differences. Equity takes into account people’s differences, giving opportunities to enable similar outcomes. Regardless of gender or race, everyone wants to be given the same chance to succeed in both their professional and personal lives.

tips to designer

leader

ACTION TIPS: 149


CAREER GROWTH Ask for opportunities to develop various skills. Skills other than design such as public speaking, writing, teaching, and participating in community projects are essential for a well-rounded architect. Submit ideas for articles you could write or workshops you could lead at various conferences. Join local AIA groups and committees. There is a plethora of opportunities to expand your personal interests in architecture and meet people with similar ones. Create networks for mentors and sponsors. Mentors can be peers as well as project managers, associates, principals, and others at your workplace or outside the workplace, who give you guidance throughout your career. Sponsors tend to be people at your workplace or professional organizations, who provide platforms for you to grow such as project leadership or conference speaking engagements. You need a diversity of experts in your life that you could rely on when you are stuck and have a question. Start building such networks from early on and don’t feel afraid to reach out to people you haven’t met before.

tips to designer

150

leader


Offer opportunities for continuous learning and exchange of ideas within the firm. Experienced people can lead internal design lunches on various subjects such as project management, specifications, and construction administration. Junior staff can share recent school projects, precedents they admire, sustainability features of interest, and technology tips. Encourage participation in conferences and workshops outside of the office.

Allow emerging professionals to participate in not just project-related items, but firm-related items. There are many facets to a successful architecture practice. Most designers and architects come from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets that can prove useful in other areas of practice such as marketing and business development. It also allows them to develop into well-rounded architects.

tips to designer

leader

ACTION TIPS: 151


CAREER GROWTH Ask for a diversity of design related tasks. Regularly assess the tasks you have been given at the workplace and feel free to ask for additional or different ones. You want to make sure you are exposed to the complexity of the architecture profession.

Set times for self-reflection. It is very important to take a pause and reflect on what you have learned at your workplace, what you have enjoyed doing and what you have not. Ask questions such as: Where do I want to be in 1, 5, or 10 years? What is my plan to follow my goals? Don’t be afraid to share your goals during reviews at the workplace. If your workplace does not have an official policy for such reviews, ask your project managers and principals to have a performance review where you address those goals.

tips to designer

152

leader


Offer equal opportunities for all to participate in diverse design tasks. Assess whether every employee has been given equal opportunities to participate in the diverse issues of design and avoid “pigeonholing.” Do not assign the same tasks of work to the same people but allow for growth of each member of the design team.

Offer regular performance reviews at the work place. Reviews are a chance for you to understand what your employees have enjoyed working on, what their professional goals are, and what their struggles are. It is a time to also receive feedback on the office’s performance and tips on what you could do better to boost the culture and morale of the firm.

tips to designer

leader

ACTION TIPS: 153


FIRM CULTURE Ask more questions. Despite the fact that most emerging professionals in Boston area are comfortable with asking questions, many are still worried about asking too many questions. If you do not know something, do a little research on it. If you still need more information, ask different people in your office. They will be able to answer your question more efficiently and in a less confusing way. Initiate ideas. You will never feel comfortable sharing your ideas unless you start. It is an important skill set to be able to clearly state your opinion, whether it is project or firm related. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will feel expressing your thoughts.

tips to designer

154

leader


Show appreciation and give credit to all. Architecture is a collaborative effort and a result of hard work. A regular “thank you� for all efforts build a sense of good morale within the team. After crucial deadlines, consider a celebratory lunch to demonstrate care.

Give opportunities for equitable office socializing. Things like happy hour, holiday celebrations, office retreats, sports teams and office lunches give staff the opportunity to get together outside of meetings and deadlines. It also allows them to connect with others outside of their project team.

tips to designer

leader

ACTION TIPS: 155


156


Moving forward

We hope that this research experiment will provoke discussions within other cities and communities. We were encouraged to expand the initative in several other cities: New York, Chicago, Washington DC and Los Angeles. We recently closed down Designers Data Surveys in those cities and in a few months, we hope to have comparative data. Stay tuned for more outcomes.

CONCLUSION: 157


highlights 2017-2018

AIA WIELD (Washington, DC Sept. 2017)

158


ABX’18 Convention (Boston, MA Nov. 2017)

CONCLUSION: 159


Next Gen Arch: Designing Towards an Equitable, Divers, and Inclusive Profession (New York, NY February. 2018)

Women in Design Panel Boston Architectural College (Boston, MA October. 2017)

AIAS Women in Architecture Panel Northeastern University (Boston, MA March 2018)

160

Women in Design Series Harvard GSD (Cambridge, MA March 2018)


TAG Group Discussion (Boston, MA October, 2017)

Boston Society of Architects & WID Collaboration (Boston, MA Winter 2018)

ARCHITECT Magazine May issue 2018

Sasaki Foundation Launch Event (Watertown, MA April 2018)

CONCLUSION: 161


Special thanks to our collaborators Leers Weinzapfel Associates AIA Chicago Women in Architecture AIANY Equity, Diversity & Inclusion AIA NOVA AIA Orange County’s Women in Architecture Committee AIA WIELD Boston Society of Architects BSA Women in Design BSA Emerging Professionals Network VOW Venesa Alicea (AIANY Diversity & Inclusion Committee) Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (Arrowstreet) Eman Bermani Allison Burrell (HOK Chicago) Dr. Sokiente Dagogo-Jack (Boston College) Diana Danova Maggie Georgieva (Hubspot) Emily Grandstaff-Rice (Arrowstreet) Jennifer Hardy (LWA) Stephanie Herring (Cambridge 7 associates) Natalie Hicks (Chicago Women in Architecture) Jenny Hong (ARO) Langer Hsu (LWA) Caroline Amory James (VOW) Meghana Joshi (Women in Architecture AIA Orange County) Aminah McNutly (USGBC) Christine Obnial (Architects Orange) Anna Pavlova Tessa Peart (Hubspot) Dr. Ivan Petkov (Northeastern University) Paloma Riego (AIA WIELD) Daniel Rogers (Peakon) Yiselle Santos (AIA WIELD) Rosa Sheng (EquityXDesign) Abby Suckle (CultureNOW) Anna Tucker (Interior Architects Chicago) Youngsoo Yang (LWA) 162



WWW.GIRLUNINTERRUPTEDPROJECT.COM @GrlUNinterrupt 2


Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.