As the first architect to appear on The Apprentice, the newly fired Gabrielle Omar says the profession is in desperate need of a redesign
Gabrielle Omar, the first qualified architect to appear on BBC’s reality television programme The Apprentice, has called for a ‘brand overhaul’ of the profession after being booted off the show last week.
The owner of London-based practice Lolli & Square, told the AJ that the public still didn’t know what architects did and that common misconceptions had
to be addressed.
The 29-year-old entrepreneur made it to week 10 before she was fired by the show’s ringmaster Alan Sugar, who described her as a ‘nice girl who talks a bit too fast’ with creative flair but a lack of ‘business savvy’.
She said: ‘I wanted to bring attention to my practice and the profession. Since going on the show the profile of the firm has sky-rocketed.
There are so many people who don’t realise what we do
‘But there are so many people who don’t realise what we, as architects, do. ‘I once told somebody I was an architect and they said ‘What, you clean bones?
Omar, who also runs a creative agency and an online sweet retail business, said: ‘We need a design overhaul of the whole profession and I want to approach the RIBA about how we could do that.
‘We need to be seen as essential to the process of construction. We need to work on becoming sexy’.
She added: ‘People are bypassing us. I’ve got some new clients who, until they’d seen the show, admitted they’d never have thought of using an architect.’
In response to Sugar’s remarks about her commercial sense, Omar – the ‘top seller’ four times during her 10-week stretch on the programme – said: ‘In his uneducated opinion artists, architects and those people in the construction industry have no idea about business.
‘Getting so far in the process should prove otherwise. The fact I also have three businesses, which are all doing very well, should also be proof.’
Omar, who will be talking at a special AJ event at the NLA on 12 June with AJ Woman Architect of the Year award winners Cindy Walters and Michál Cohen, said she also hoped to change perceptions about women in the profession.
She recalled ‘When bidding for work, I had to pretend I was working for somebody else. I was seen as a young female. I had to create an illusion I represented a group, headed by an old man sitting behind a desk. I’d love to champion women architects.’
Omar says architects have got to be adaptable to changing circumstances. She said: ‘I was made redundant in 2008, but while colleagues remained unemployed for more than a year, I was doing graphics and designing flyers.
‘I’m working on a high-end residential scheme and restaurant in Kensington, where I’m also doing the menus and logos. I’m creating the whole package.
Being nice is seen as a weakness. I was an easy target
The former University of Westminster student said ultimate her demise on the show was down to exhaustion, having flagged in the final task of negotiating discounts for a daily deals website.
She said: ‘I just got tired. It was non-stop for two months, some days up at 4am. As an architect I’m used to working all hours, but they were very long days.
On her performance in the boardroom, she said: ‘Being “nice” is seen as a weakness, alongside being “creative”. I was an easy target.’
See Omar with Walters & Cohen at the free AJ Women in Architecture: Taking care of business event at the NLA, 26 Store Street, London, 12 June, 5:30-8pm
For more details and to register click here.
The Apprentice's Gabrielle Omar: 'Architects need a brand overhaul’