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Emerging Woman Architect of the Year shortlist: Hannah Corlett

Director of Assemblage, Hannah Corlett for the 2014 AJ Women in Architecture Awards

In 2009 Hannah Corlett returned to full-time work after the birth of her two children and became director of architecture at Assemblage, the practice which she co-founded in 2003. Before founding the practice she worked on the Stirling Prize-winning Peckham Library with Will Alsop. During the past year Assemblage has won a string of major design competitions, including the international contest for the new $1 billion Iraqi parliament building. Corlett is also a teaching fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Aerial visualisation of mini-campus for University of Qatar engineering department, Doha

Aerial visualisation of mini-campus for University of Qatar engineering department, Doha

Why did you choose architecture? A love of making, solving and light.

What is your design ethos? Work up from first principles. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the brief. Be diverse in your approach both across and within individual projects. Tailor solutions individually. Keep things simple and ingenious. Avoid homogeneity; create focus. Remember every project has both an urban and an architectural consideration. Ensure your work ages well.

Which architects inspire you? Charlotte Perriand, Lina Bo Bardi, Jane Jacobs, Denise Scott Brown, Kazuyo Sejima, Ellen van Loon, Alison Brooks, Sheila O’Donnell and Benedetta Tagliabue.

What is your advice to aspiring female architects? Don’t rely on telepathy or wait to be asked.

Why do women leave the profession? The lack of flexibility and long hours make combining architecture and family life difficult. Technology now allows remote working and flexi-hours easily, so in many respects the issue is one of the attitude of employers.

What would make them stay? Equality of maternity and paternity rights. Employers would then be forced not to differentiate in attitude towards interviewees of childbearing age and when looking to promote or allocate large projects.

What is the best defence against sexism? Time. Prejudice is usually born out of ignorance. Often doing your job well is all that is required.

What is your advice on having children and being a successful architect? Having children has helped me become a better urban designer. With urbanism, like a family, you have to balance control with the fostering of growth.

Visualisation of main approach to new Iraqi Parliament building

Visualisation of main approach to new Iraqi Parliament building

CV

Place of study University College Cardiff, Bartlett School of Architecture and RIBA North West

Current projects A 15ha settlement in Iraq, the competition-winning scheme for the new Iraqi parliament and a number of social housing projects in London

Clients The Iraqi Ministry of Construction and Housing and State Commission for Housing, Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association, the West London Mission and the London boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich

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