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Alison Brooks

Women in practice profile: founder/director, Alison Brooks Architects

WHY YOU BECAME AN ARCHITECT From a young age I was driven around by my mother to look at beautiful, rural 19th-century farmhouses or college buildings in Toronto. But what clinched it was an architectural design and draughting course at 16. From the minute I sat down and started drawing, I loved it. I thought, I could do this all day, every day! And that’s pretty much what I’ve done since

FIRST PROJECT Marsham Street Urban Design Competition. But my first real commission was the £3 million Atoll Hotel in Helgoland. It started my practice and kept it going for nearly three years

SECTORS YOU WORK IN Housing and regeneration, higher education, the arts

ADVICE TO ASPIRING FEMALE ARCHITECTS Get all your digital skills to the very top now and don’t drop out when you have children

WHY WOMEN LEAVE Because the government does not support women going back to work full-time after having children; the cost of childcare is a huge financial burden – it should be a tax deductable expense. Also, part-time working in an architectural practice doesn’t work. It relies on teamwork and teams need full-time commitment

WHAT WOULD MAKE THEM STAY? The RIBA should kickstart a programme to instate a standard architect’s fee schedule similar to the HOAI fee schedule in Germany, and legislate against unpaid competition work

ON CHILDREN Childcare is a 50:50 shared responsibility and cost between both parents. Too many women architects justify dropping out because ‘their salary doesn’t justify the cost of childcare’. If the cost is split in half and weighed against each partner’s salary, it paints a completely different, more affordable picture. Nanny share is a great way to start with very young children; babies like the company, it makes a nanny affordable and it’s more flexible than a nursery

ON SEXISM I’ve never really encountered it, but maybe I’m a victim and don’t know it. Would I be 10 times more successful if I was male? I’ll never know! Male architects have a greater tendency to ‘bond’ with their (largely) male clients at after-hours booze-ups. It’s OK for male colleagues to get plastered together, but that just doesn’t work for women. Is this an underlying form of sexism?

BEST DEFENCE AGAINST SEXISM Ignoring its existence and standing your ground

Place of study University of Waterloo
Current projects Exeter College Quad; Bath Riverside; University of Northampton masterplan
Clients Countryside Properties, L&Q, Audi AG, Brent Council
Featured project Folkestone Quarterhouse
Client The Creative Foundation
Completed May 2009
Budget £3.8 million
£/sqm £2,533

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