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AJ Women in Architecture Luncheon: the profession reacts

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Guests at the 2015 Women in Architecture Luncheon held at Claridge’s on Friday (27 February) give their reaction to the event

Jane Duncan, RIBA president elect

‘The AJ Women in Architecture lunch was a remarkable event, celebrating with a fine group of mainly women architects both what their peers have achieved and the potential amongst us for a bright future for the profession. The lecture from Sheila O’Donnell was the highlight for me: as usual charming, illuminating and poignant, capturing for all to hear the best that an architect can be, from calm clear vision and oversight to love and fixation upon the meaningful details. How I wish she had been a lecturer when I was at architecture school!

‘All the award recipients were spectacularly well selected - great praise should be lavished upon the judges choosing from such a fantastic group of nominated architects and influential clients. Christine Murray however summed it all up for me looking towards an inclusive future when such events are no longer relevant. I will be working with all my heart and strength to help that day to arrive soon.’

Simon Allford, partner, AHMM

On a good day for the Irish (their poets were much quoted) Sheila O’Donnell gave an outstanding speech reflecting on her particular experience of being an architect, partner, feminist, wife, mother and teacher: and how that particular life experience has informed her partnership with John and helped define their architecture. Grafton architects eloquently related their current projects and experiences with those of Jane Drew. Whilst a surprised but appropriately prepared (you cannot build thousands of good quality homes without being prepared!) Teresa Borsuk spoke of her role in a team.

‘All distanced themselves from tales of discrimination and spoke of the support from within the industry that they have always enjoyed. The result was a more interesting conversation about architecture and life and the importance of maintaining the two in balance. A lesson that needs to be learned by all architects, simply because it facilitates the making of ever better architecture.’

Martha Thorne, director, Pritzker Prize and Women in Architecture judge

‘Just wanted to thank you for the incredible celebration of women in architecture last Friday in London. It was an inspiring event that was both so professionally orchestrated in terms of content and flow, and at the same time it was cordial, fun and full of warmth!’

Eva Jiricna, founder, Eva Jiricna Architects and Women in Architecture judge

‘The awards are always moving but, being on the jury, you have the opportunity to make a few people happy – that is the nicest thing.

‘I was so delighted that we had the opportunity to give Jane [Priestman] an award. I remember all her activities in the 70s and 80s. She put the right architects on the right jobs and improved London by challenging very conservative organisations.

‘She shows that clients can do a wonderful job for all of us.’

Peter Rees, professor of places and city planning, The Bartlett and Women in Architecture judge

‘The awards were great and you have never seen networking before until you have been to a Women in Architecture lunch.’

Phyllis Lambert

‘Each award was absolutely deserving and the whole discourse was very interesting. The award to Grafton is further evidence that something special is going on [with architecture] in Ireland. The Women in Architecture awards have impact because everyone sees the work of these standard bearers.’

Michal Cohen, director, Walters & Cohen

‘It was interesting seeing the response from our male clients who joined us for the lunch on the inequalities found between men and women in our profession - they honestly had no idea. So maybe more exposure to the right people would be worthwhile.  I also feel that we are often “preaching to the converted” we need to somehow get to those who are practicing inequality.’

‘It is quite easy to see the success and the ethos of a practice like ours that has been set up and led by women. But starting a business is not, nor should be everyone’s ambition. It is much more difficult to gauge the impact of women in established practices. I think this year the awards managed to highlight the wonderful work and influence women have in larger practices and this should be and has been celebrated.’

Sadie Morgan, co-founder, dRMM

‘The lunch was as ever full of lively conversation, great topics and inspirational speakers. I found Sheila O’Donnell’s talk touching, thoughtful and uplifting. Phyllis Lambert a fascinating insight into her long and fascinating career.

‘Grafton Architects I have admired hugely and so delighted they have been awarded with the Jane Drew Prize, and the addition of the Ada Huxtable Prize, a long overdue recognition of those women within the profession who are, and have been, responsible for such achievements as Jane Priestman.’

Barbara Weiss, founder, Barbara Weiss Architects

‘I was particularly delighted to witness both Tatiana’s Von Preussen’s practice vPPR and Teresa Borsuk scooping their respective awards this year.  

‘I have known Tatiana since she first started practicing in London, after completing her studies at Columbia University, and then followed from afar her early travails in relation to Ott’s House. Tatiana and her partners’ determination and vision are very impressive, there is an inevitability and yet refreshing modesty in their quick rise within the London architectural scene.  I have no doubt that in the future they will be going from strength to strength.

‘Teresa Borsuk has always been a role model, supporter and friend.  From my first meeting with her in the early 90s I was struck by her professionalism, her generosity towards others, and her ability to do things differently.  Her large practice, with its weekly communal meals, and very open canal-side office, has always been inspirational;  so much careful thought has obviously gone into creating an environment where people are happy to work and to collaborate.  Teresa’s acceptance speech reflected very much her self-effacing nature, her belief in team-work, and her great leadership skills.  Many generations of women architects can count themselves lucky for having been trained by her.

‘The longer speeches are always hugely inspiring, partly because each year they have been so different, and so personal and intimate.  I find the women speakers’ “stories” very moving – and in a way, the most important aspect of these events -  benefitting from shared experiences is definitely key for me.   I love hearing how each winner or highly achieving architect or, this year, not architect (Jane P or Phyllis) has managed to carve out their success, despite all the odds we know so well.

‘Having known Sheila O’Donnell since we were in our twenties, I also found it fascinating that she mentioned that in our early years the strategy for getting ahead was to beat men at their own game, pretending that we were not different from them when dealing with our professional life;  whereas now accepting that women are actually different from men, and that difference is a good thing, rather than a bad thing;  recognising this is a hugely exciting step forward.’

Kristal Bayliss, head of career development, Aukett Swanke

‘It was brilliant. It was my first one, and I felt so very honoured to be there amongst so many inspiring women. I also have to admit wiping away a few tears especially when Sheila O’Donnell was speaking about pebbles.’

Rachel Bell, Stride Treglown

‘A huge congratulations on the awards lunch, a truly inspiring event for us all.’

Sally Lewis, founder, Stitch and finalist Emerging Woman Architect of the Year 2015

‘I haven’t met Teresa Borsuk but know that with her partners she leads an excellent team including impressive women in leadership positions. It is good that this award is not reserved for obvious stars, and recognises the important role of housing practices in shaping the streets and neighbourhoods of the future. 

‘My highlight of the AJ awards lunch was the message from  Shelia O’Donnell that it is not obligatory or necessary to divide work and life to do well in either or both worlds. What a relief to all of us who find it impossible to achieve that so-called work-life balance but are managing quite happily (most of the time) anyway.  Thanks to Sheila I also have every intention of getting out my sketch book more often. She is a real inspiration.’

Jane Priestman, winner, Ada Louise Huxtable Prize 2015

‘It was a great occasion, the lunch. and many friends from all parts of the world.’ 

Marta Pelegrin, co-founder MedioMundo and finalist Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award 2015

‘Thank you very much for the marvelous and lovely event on Friday.  We enjoyed it really very much. It was fantastically organized. Congratulations to you and the companies involved!’


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Lipton Plant Architects

    Thank you AJ and sponsors Hoare Lea. The Women in Architecture lunch was an incredible event with both inspirational speakers and simulating table talk. Congratulations to all the winners.

    Katie Knowles, Lipton Plant Architects

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