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Julia Barfield

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Women in practice profile: principal, Marks Barfield Architects

WHY YOU BECAME AN ARCHITECT At school, I resisted the choice we were expected to make between the arts and sciences. I enjoyed both and architecture seemed a great marriage between the two

FIRST PROJECT Design of self-build housing and a community centre for Barriada in Lima, Peru. While at the Richard Rogers Partnership, the Lloyd’s Building as a model maker, and the Inmos microchip factory, Newport as an architectural assistant


ADVICE TO ASPIRING FEMALE ARCHITECTS Define your own future. Concentrate on the job in hand and being the best architect you can. Assume gender blindness

WHY WOMEN LEAVE It’s a combination of factors – inflexible/family-unfriendly working arrangements, the long-hours culture, low pay, the ‘glass ceiling’ and macho culture in some practices

WHAT WOULD MAKE THEM STAY? Many factors reflect persistent gender inequalities in society as a whole, not just the construction industry, such as the assumption that women should be the principal child carers. It would be good if architects took a lead, however I have noticed that the most innovative, forward-thinking architects are not necessary forward-thinking socially. For more than 20 years, MBA has had 50 per cent men/women without really trying. It’s not hard! It would be useful if the RIBA pooled ‘best practice’ and published advisory notes for practices

ON CHILDREN There are no easy answers; work/child balance is an impossible circle to square. When my children were young, I constantly felt I should be in the other place – the ‘child pull’ always being the stronger of the two. However, we did find that au pairs lightened the load. Good running shoes also help!

CURRENT CHALLENGE The cost of childcare in relation to salary makes it hard, and it’s not an easy profession to do part-time or take five years out and then return to

ON SEXISM There is definitely less than when I started. I remember ads with scantily clad women inexplicably reclining on fire doors and those calendars in engineers’ offices, not just on site. However, there is still a long way to go

BEST ADVICE EVER RECEIVED Embrace what you cannot avoid

Place of study AA
Current projects Special structures for a hospice in Kuwait; a mosque for Cambridge; a school in Birmingham; masterplan for Devonshire Park, Eastbourne; urban realm in Lambeth, Vauxhall and Clapham
Featured project Think Tank
Client Lincoln Council
Completed December 2008
Budget £9.15 million
£/sqm £2,198

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