WO M E N 'S M O NTH
LILA GOUWS BOOGERTMAN + PARTNERS
RIETTE KOTZE BOOGERTMAN + PARTNERS
Lila studied at the University of Pretoria and joined Boogertman + Partners in 2012, where she is a team leader focusing on design and conceptualisation. Her passions include smaller-scale educational architecture as well as residential and cultural projects. Last year, she presented her team’s concept design for Tatu City Education Village for Crawford International at the World Architecture Festival, where it had been shortlisted in the Education: Future Project category.
Riette studied architecture at the Tshwane University of Technology and graduated in 2003. She started working at Boogertman + Partners in 2008, and now holds the position of team manager on a design-orientated team, often working on retail layout concepts, warehouses, urban design and even boutique hotels. Recently, she has been involved in a number of projects in continental Africa, including a masterplan for a mixed-use development in Gaborone.
WHO INSPIRES YOU? My biggest inspiration is not an architect, she’s a furniture designer: Ray Eames. Design wasn’t a job for her, it was an absolute passion. That’s what I’m striving towards: Waking up in the morning and thinking, which aspect of architecture I want to enhance in my work today?
WHO INSPIRES YOU? My idol at the moment is Gabriela Carrillo, a Mexican architect who won the Architects’ Journal Women in Architecture Award in 2017. She presented at the AZA conference in 2017, too. When she received the award, she questioned whether there should be an award for women architects. I find her very inspiring in terms how she approaches architecture as a woman trying to break the gender bias.
WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES DO WOMEN ARCHITECTS FACE? I have just returned from maternity leave. For the first time, I’m realising that I cannot put in as many hours anymore. I cannot compete as hard as I used to. As a new mother, you have to leave work at a certain point; you have to come in a bit later. When we actually work normal hours every day in our industry, and stick to them, rather than long hours on short deadlines, it will be much easier for women. But at the moment, for a woman it is really difficult. WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WOMEN BRING TO THE PROFESSION? There is that level of finesse in the way you interact with the building that’s more common in buildings designed by women: the smaller elements, like how you perceive space, how you touch things. Women architects seem to find it easier to put people at the centre of their designs, where the user experience and your interaction with the building is more important than the building itself. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES ARE FOR THE PROFESSION IN TERMS OF GENDER TRANSFORMATION? Luckily, things are changing. Companies are trying to make it more comfortable for women. At Boogertman + Partners we’ve got a breastfeeding room, for example. If that becomes the norm, it would facilitate meaningful transformation. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN STARTING OUT IN THE PROFESSION? Architecture is really a wonderful industry if you have a passion for it, but you cannot do it if you see it as a job. For women specifically, I would say, the most important thing is self-confidence. You can say whatever you want, if you say it with confidence, people will believe in you and respect you. Confidence comes from knowing your projects very well. If you have an answer on the back of your hand for everything, then you can easily become the go-to person on any project regardless of your gender.
14 LEADINGARCHITECTURE & DESIGN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2019
WHAT UNIQUE CHALLENGES DO WOMEN ARCHITECTS FACE? The gender pay gap was a big issue. Until recently, women in some cases were paid less than the people reporting to them. At Boogertman + Partners that has been rectified. But there is still chauvinism in the built environment. I have been to meetings where men have physically turned their backs on the women consultants and had their own little meeting. I’m also a mother, and the demands of the SA built environment mean our deadlines are ridiculous. Sometimes you have 24 hours to complete a project or a plan or a concept, which places unfair pressure on women who are mothers. WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WOMEN BRING TO THE PROFESSION? It sounds airy fairy, but I can almost see when a building has been designed by a woman. There’s a level of detail, and consideration… Maybe it’s cultural conditioning, but the importance of the architecture steps back, and the importance of the human experience comes to the fore. Also, I think women are very hard-working. Being a mother, when you’re at work, you focus on getting the job done. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES ARE FOR THE PROFESSION IN TERMS OF GENDER TRANSFORMATION? In terms of society, paternity leave is important, too. In certain Scandinavian countries, parents have almost equal parental leave. Now that both parents have to bring in the money, it should be a 50/50 thing. Yes, men can’t breastfeed, but that’s no excuse not to do your part. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN STARTING OUT IN THE PROFESSION? Stop apologising. Have confidence. That doesn’t necessarily mean challenging a guy around every corner, but it does mean respectfully saying what you need to say, and carrying your message across. Don’t ever devalue yourself and your opinion as a woman.