Kathryn Findlay, director of Ushida Findlay Architects advises aspiring female architects to ‘focus and be open to possibilities’
Ushida Findlay Architects was first established in Japan and later in the UK. The practice recently won a competition to refurbish and remodel York Art Gallery. In 2012, the practice completed the ArcelorMittal Orbit on the Olympic Park, for which it was the delivery architect responsible for working with artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond. Findlay has judged a number of high-profile architecture competitions, including the Royal Academy Summer Show Architecture Prize. Findlay is actively involved in teaching and lecturing, and was a professor at both the universities of Tokyo and Dundee.
Why did you become an architect?
To mix poetry and pragmatism.
What is your design ethos?
Balance in the design team. Honesty in the drivers. Make the most of what’s available.
Which women architects inspire you?
Christine Hawley, a brilliant teacher; Zaha Hadid’s extraordinary imagination; Farshid Moussavi’s self-confident ideas; Jane Wernick’s inspired insight; Eva Jiřičná’s ability to create jewels; Cany Ash’s forthright outspokenness; Fionn Stevenson’s depth of humanity.
What is your advice to aspiring female architects?
Focus and be open to possibilities – don’t be put off by the aggression of others. Think things through, quietly get things done and communicate clearly, always taking into account the position of the other parties. The advantage we have as women is we are natural mediators between people and man and nature.
Why do women leave the profession?
It’s very gruelling and not as financially rewarding as it should be, given the time put in. Maybe women work that out faster than men.
What would make them stay?
RIBA committees that are more accessible to a wider range of the industry and formal professional fee scales to minimise undercutting. Bargain-basement bidding puts additional pressure for diminished returns and pay.
What is the biggest challenge facing women in architecture?
Everyone in architecture is facing financial fallout. Stamina and determination pay, as long as you have the design talent to see your work through.
Place of study Architectural Association and University of Tokyo
Current projects York Art Gallery, private residences
Clients ArcelorMittal, York Museums Trust
Woman Architect of the Year shortlist: Kathryn Findlay