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Denise Bennetts

Women in practice profile: director, Bennetts Associates

WHY YOU BECAME AN ARCHITECT To be involved in influencing and developing the built environment

FIRST PROJECT Social housing at the Greater London Council

DESIGN ETHOS Analysis first, collaboration, visual clarity, a sense of space, hopefully flair and enjoy the process

SECTORS YOU WORK IN As many as possible!

BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION That there are few women architects and that women working in architecture is a recent phenomenon. I have a friend whose architect grandmother graduated in 1914

ADVICE TO ASPIRING FEMALE ARCHITECTS Exactly what I would tell an aspiring architect of either sex: it’s hard work and can be frustrating, but it is absolutely worth it

WHY WOMEN LEAVE Probably to find a balance between personal and professional commitments, although most women I know have continued in the profession

WHAT WOULD MAKE THEM STAY? This really isn’t about the RIBA, but about attitudes from practices and individuals. Respect and acknowledgment that others have different priorities in their lives is a good starting point. The culture will change as more fathers take extended paternity or parental leave and childcare responsibility is explicitly shared

HOW TO MAKE IT WORK Work hard, plan your career and, if you have children, decide what works best for you, your partner and the child in terms of working hours. Accept that you won’t be able to do everything – the only imperative is having no regrets, so don’t miss one-offs such as your child in a school concert or play!

ON CHILDREN Circumstances change – our children are in their twenties and it seems incredible now that we were able to afford a live-in nanny. Try to live near to the office if you can and develop a support network with friends and your child’s friends’ parents

CURRENT CHALLENGE For women, the economy. For mothers, I think it is the early starts and travel time often associated with going to site

ON SEXISM I’ve rarely experienced any

BEST DEFENCE AGAINST SEXISM Ability and humour

INSPIRATION The women in the 19th century who ensured a woman’s right to education and self-determination, and broke down the first barrier to our pursuing a profession

BEST ADVICE EVER RECEIVED If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. Don’t pretend otherwise

Place of study Edinburgh College of Art, Heriot Watt University
Current projects New-build commercial projects, London; an animal welfare building for the Dogs Trust
Clients PowerGen, BT, BAA, John Menzies
Featured projects Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres
Client RSC
Completed 2010
Budget £60 million
www.bennettsassociates.com

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