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Kasia Ziolkowska of Robin Partington & Partners: ‘Women have to push harder in their careers’

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In the run-up to this year’s Women in Architecture Awards on 2 March, we asked architects to tell us about their career, inspiration and how to make the profession more welcoming to women

Where was your first Job?
At Hamilton’s Architects in 2007 where I worked on Park House in central London. I joined the practice during my gap year before completing my Part I at Greenwich University.

I decided to keep working and studying part time. In 2010 I joined Robin Partington & Partners, where I saw Park House project through to completion in November 2012 while graduating with merit for my Part 2. I qualified as an architect at the Architectural Association last year.

What inspired you to go into architecture?
My interest in design was born from an early age while growing up in Poland. I was surrounded and influenced by my family craftsmanship – they ran a carpentry business – and a culture of ‘making’. I began to engage with the processes of turning concepts into buildability and my experiences ranged from sketching to filling imperfections between bricks in my grandparents’ house.

Is there anything you would have done differently in your career so far?
I would have taken my professional exam at an earlier stage in my career. Apart from that, I’ve had all the right support from my family and workplace to make great progress.

What impact do you feel your gender has had on your career – either positive or negative? Architecture is not a 50/50 male and female profession – it is still male dominated. So, as women, we have to push harder to achieve a good level of career development and promotion. On the positive side of things, this makes us work and push harder, making us stronger, more determined, strong and experienced. As a result we often come across far better prepared than our male colleagues.

What could be done to make the architecture profession more welcoming to women?
Schools, universities and professional bodies of architecture should be the primary promoters of architecture among women. There should be programmes at primary and secondary schools allowing them to appreciate the architectural profession, and the enormous contribution to the community, society, natural and built environment that it delivers. In this way women could understand and realise the influence and contribution they could make one day as an architect. It is a fun career.

What advice would you give to any young woman who is about to start a career in architecture?
Not to be afraid of taking chances and accept new responsibilities and challenges. Believe in yourself and set clear short and long-term goals.

Choose a place to work where you feel supported and feel inspired, not underestimated and oppressed so that you can grow both professionally and intellectually.

Who is your role model or mentor?
I’ve always had great support from my husband who is also an architect. He has been a great voice in my head and advisor throughout my career path. He has always encouraged me to become a strong and focused professional and I have likewise always equally supported him.

What is the most exciting scheme you are currently working on?
One of the most exciting could be 1 Merchant Square, in Paddington, a 42-storey mixed use tower (pictured below). This building is the tallest element of the wider Merchant Square masterplan and has a sleek, curved form with vertical structural fins clad in white porcelain, a midnight blue ceramic rainscreen and a distinctive crown-like peak.

It is a scheme I am passionate about and I hope one day moves beyond the drawing board.

Kasia Ziolkowska is a project architect and partner at Robin Partington & Partners, partner practice to the Women in Architecture programme


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