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Roisin Heneghan: ‘We get all our projects through competitions’

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Roisin Heneghan, Laura Lee, and Julia King spoke about what it takes to win awards and create competition-winning architecture at the AJ’s Women in Architecture talk last night (2 July)

Speaking at the Zaha Hadid-designed ROCA London Gallery, Heneghan, co-founder of Heneghan Peng, shared insights into her practice, which she said was founded on victories in design contests.

‘We launched our practice through competitions. Nobody will take a chance on an unknown architect but with an ideas competition you have more of a chance’, she said.

Heneghan, who has twice been shortlisted for the AJ Woman Architect of the Year Award, spoke not just about winning competitions, but also about losing, discussing the practice’s submission to the contest design to The London School of Economics’ (LSE) new £90m Global Centre for Social Sciences, which they lost to Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in 2013.

‘We enter a lot of competitions and we lose a lot but what keeps us going is that we learn something each time’, Heneghan added.

Sadie Morgan, director of dRMM, who chaired the event, said Heneghan Peng’s work was ‘inspirational’.

Heneghan is my nemesis

‘She is my nemesis. I have never known a practice win so many competitions. I considered industrial espionage to find out what the secret was. But I saw the Giant’s Causeway and realised there was no secret. She is just a good architect’, said Morgan.  

Maggie’s chief executive, Laura Lee, who has judged the AJ Women in Architecture awards since they were launched in 2012, stressed the importance of having faith in the architect in order to create great buildings.

Lee said: ‘We have developed hugely as a client over the years. But just because we have produced so many Maggie’s Centres doesn’t mean that every one is the same. You should never assume that how you have done it before is best.’

‘Stay with the architect. Be a critical friend. Inspire the architect to do the best building they have ever done.’

She added: ‘Working with different architects gives each community its own gem of a centre but also as a client it keeps us fresh and invigorated. ‘

AJ Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Julia King spoke about her projects and achievements since winning the award. The sole practitioner whose work is mainly focused in the developed world is currently working on 10 ‘Ikea type’ sanitation units and a project developing a business model to ‘make money from poo by turning it into fertilizer and bricks’.

  • AJ Women in Architecture programme is sponsored by Roca
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Readers' comments (1)

  • Obviously winning a competition requires some luck. Ther are many good architects around. You must loose many before winning once. Who pays the bills of the lost ones? These ladies must be quite rich to afford it. As a hobby architecture is quite expensive.

    Eugenio Aguinaga

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