Francine Houben, founder of Mecanoo Architects became an architect ‘to ‘combine human, technical and aesthetical aspects’
Francine Houben’s current projects include the Birmingham City Library, Whistling Rock Golf Club in Chuncheon, South Korea, Amsterdam University College and the Dudley Municipal Centre, Boston, Massachusetts. Houben lectures across the world and has sat on the jury for a number of high-profile architecture competitions. She is a professor at Delft University of Technology and a visiting professor at Harvard University. Houben has published a number of books on architecture including her manifesto Composition, Contrast and Complexity and Dutch Mountains, which featured a range of her international projects.
Why did you become an architect?
To combine human, technical and aesthetical aspects; contribute to quality of life; create a better world.
What is your design ethos?
Architecture must appeal to all the senses. It is never purely intellectual, conceptual or visual. It is about combining all the elements into a single concept. What counts is the arrangement of form and emotion.
Which women architects inspire you?
Ray Eames who knew how, in an almost perfect way, to combine the technical with the sensorial. I visited her and Charles several times in their Eames House in Santa Monica.
What is your advice to aspiring female architects?
Follow your dreams.
Why do women leave the profession?
At Mecanoo we do not see this happening, 40 per cent of staff are female. But architecture is demanding, with strict deadlines.
What would make them stay?
It is important for my staff to have flexible working arrangements, for both genders. At Mecanoo we see that men are naturally part of home life. Above all, have a supportive partner at home who is not an architect!
What is the biggest challenge facing women in architecture?
Changing the perception of the role of architects. It is not solo work. I like to compare it to a symphony orchestra. It’s teamwork.
What is the best defence against sexism?
Do not try to copy men. Be yourself.
Any advice about having children and being successful?
Having children is not always easy. Being an architect is the easiest part.
Place of study Delft University of Technology, graduating magna cum laude in 1984
Current projects Library of Birmingham; the Wei-Wu-Ying Center for the Arts in Taiwan; a theatre for Manchester City Council; a landscaped square around new Co-op HQ , Manchester; college for post-doctoral student housing, University of Cambridge; municipal offices in Boston, Massachusetts; the campus of the National University of Science and Technology (MISiS), Moscow; Hilton Hotel at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport; City Hall and train station, Delft
Clients Birmingham City Council; the City of Boston; University of Cambridge, Manchester City Council; Co-operative Group, Council for Cultural Affairs Taiwan; Masshtab Development Moscow and Schiphol Real Estate and Rabobank in The Netherlands
Woman Architect of the Year shortlist: Francine Houben