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Emerging Woman Architect of the Year shortlist: Julia King

PhD candidate, Julia King for the 2014 AJ Women in Architecture Awards

Julia King’s work focuses on the future of urban development. She is doing a PhD at London Metropolitan University in the Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources department and is establishing a practice in New Delhi and London. King designed and built a sewer for 322 low-income houses in New Delhi and is regenerating the Taj East Drain, which runs through slum areas. She is one of nine UK practitioners engaged in a 10-day lab to explore the theme ‘Future Cities’ for UnBox, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Council, and the Science & Innovation Network.

Sewage treatment plant under construction in Savda Gherra resettlement colony

Sewage treatment plant under construction in Savda Gherra resettlement colony

Why did you choose architecture? At school I had many interests and I saw architecture as a course which offered the opportunity to explore many disciplines, from physics to art. I still very much enjoy this aspect. However, most of all I wanted to be an architect because I believed, and still do, that architecture can be used as a tool to improve lives.

What is your design ethos? Doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing. Good architecture doesn’t always result in a building. There is a difference between complicated for its own sake (particularly enabled by the computer), and something that has layers of meaning and cultural depth.

Which architects inspire you? Anna Heringer and Suzanne Hall.

What is your advice to aspiring female architects? The same as to aspiring male architects: be prepared to do a lot of boring work if you aren’t prepared to push boundaries, be scared and take risks.

Why do women leave the profession? Because it isn’t worth it to work the hours for the pay.

What would make them stay? Better pay and shorter hours. There is a culture in architecture that you have to work long hours, which is counterproductive, inefficient and a waste of money - if this could change I think more women would stay.

What is the biggest challenge facing women in architecture? An architect’s career is kicking off at a time when most women want to have children. Thus women are effectively cut off. I also think there is another challenge facing women in architecture: I call it the ‘bullshit factor’. Statistically, far more men than women apply for jobs for which they are underqualified and consistently punch above their weight. This is part of a culture which celebrates men for being gung-ho, but when a woman does this she is thought of as aggressive or cut-throat.

Prototype pre-fab core house and water kiosk at Savda Gherra resettlement colony

Prototype pre-fab core house and water kiosk at Savda Gherra resettlement colony

CV

Place of study Architectural Association and London Metropolitan University

Current projects Housing projects in Savda Ghevra; improvement of a 5km stretch of the Taj East Drain; setting up a research unit of the NGO Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence; two week-long lecture tour of India including Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Jaipur, Bhopal and Mumbai organised by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Clients Sir Dorabji Tata Trust; Agra Municipal Corporation; CURE; Mahila Housing Trust and the Savda Ghevra slum resettlement colony

Readers' comments (1)

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