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Deborah Saunt

Women in practice profile: Director, DSDHA

WHY YOU BECAME AN ARCHITECT I wanted to build from my very earliest memories and called myself an architect from the age of 10

DESIGN ETHOS Our working ambition is to span from ‘intimacy to infrastructure’, to question preconceptions and place human experience to the fore

BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION That women ‘design differently’, prefer small-scale projects and can’t do ‘big’ architecture. It’s extraordinary how few women-led practices get a chance to design infrastructure-scale projects. Zaha Hadid proves this point magnificently. You have to be extremely able, determined and agile to be a female architect in contemporary culture, and lots of women practising today have these qualities

ADVICE TO ASPIRING FEMALE ARCHITECTS Seek the support of other architects as mentors and friends – male or female. The best support comes from those who operate in the same territory and who can inspire you

WHY WOMEN LEAVE Most women who leave architecture make the astute observation that the equation between effort and reward is unbalanced, and not acceptable. Typically, it is only those women who are madly passionate about architecture that stay the course, persisting despite it being poorly paid and undervalued as a profession. However much great architecture is often informed, influenced and commissioned by women who have studied architecture and then choose to become professional clients in both the public and private sector, educators, editors and journalists, curators and opinion-formers. They still ‘make’ architecture, but just don’t reside in a traditional architect’s studio

ON CHILDREN As able professionals, architects can juggle a number of projects simultaneously. Use this skill to organise you and your partner’s schedules and defend your precious time with your children. I’d rather work very early in the morning and very late at night than miss reading bedtime stories. Be realistic and acknowledge that if you have to take time off for your children, this will impact on others

ON SEXISM I think it will get worse if the funding of architectural education is not safeguarded. It will be more white and male unless we actively support students

INSPIRATION MJ Long and Joanna van Heyningen, as I worked with them both and they were fantastic role models

Place of study University of Edinburgh, University of Cambridge
Current projects Mixed-use project on South Molton Street, a jeweller’s studio in Southwark, large residential projects in central London, house extensions, education projects, urban design schemes such as ideas for improving the public realm around the Albert Hall and  Albert Memorial
Clients So many great clients who have all made brave choices and taken risks to work with us when we were so inexperienced and young
Featured project A gateway residential tower in the Olympic Village
Client Olympic Delivery Authority
Completed 2011
Budget £28 million
www.dsdha.co.uk

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