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Woman Architect of the Year shortlist: Alison Brooks

Alison Brooks, director, Alison Brooks Architects says ‘I became an architect to engage in a profession that has a cultural, social and economic role in contemporary society’

Alison Brooks Architects is the first British architectural practice to have won the Stirling Prize, the Manser Medal and the Stephen Lawrence Prize. In 2012 ABA completed two projects that represent a key moment in the practice’s approach: a radical new housing typology in Newhall ‘B’ and an innovative use of material in Lens House. Current work includes large-scale residential and regeneration projects and the practice is expanding its portfolio of higher education and arts buildings. Alison Brooks Architects is designing Exeter College Oxford’s new quad, which will be the first Oxford College to be designed by a female architect. Brooks sits on the CABE National Design Review and the RIBA Awards Group.

Why did you become an architect?
To engage in a profession that has a broad cultural, social and economic role in contemporary society. To change status quo, discover a better way of creating the built environment, and provide greater access to better quality urban life.

What is your design ethos?
Cultural research underpins our architecture; a plastic approach to space, form and light; material experimentation; integration of architecture, landscape, and iconography as a cross-disciplinary practice. An open office culture that encourages both collaboration and criticality.

Which women architects inspire you?

Denise Scott Brown, for authoring Learning from Las Vegas and showing architects how to see the world through new eyes; Zaha Hadid for her radical commitment to resolutely modern, lyrical organicism.

What is your advice to aspiring female architects?

Read widely and absorb all forms of art, don’t look at other people’s architecture, trust your instincts, be expert at 3D design and modelling, and never give up.

Why do women leave architecture?

Because cost of childcare is too high and not tax-deductible, and the myth that mothers (not fathers) need to sacrifice their careers in order to raise happy healthy children. Achievement in every art and profession demands stamina and personal sacrifice.

What would make them stay?

Being able to deduct childcare costs from taxable income and sharing childcare equitably.

Courtyard House Terrace development in Newhall, Essex by Alison Brooks Architects

Courtyard House Terrace development in Newhall, Essex by Alison Brooks Architects

Place of study University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Current projects Exeter College Oxford, North West Cambridge Urban Extension, Dollis Valley Estate Regeneration, Bath Riverside Phase 3, Windward House, Private Residence & Gallery Gloucestershire, Gateshead BIG Regeneration, The Atrium Cambridge, three shortlisted competition bids, ABA’s new office
Clients Exeter College Oxford, Countryside Properties/ L&Q, University of Cambridge, London Borough of Brent, Crest Regeneration

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