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Tanvir Hasan of Donald Insall Associates: ‘Do not be put off by the men’

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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 and where are you now?
My first job was as assistant in a firm of architects in Alexandria, Egypt – a city full of historic fabric but unaware at the time of what it had. I am now deputy chairman of Donald Insall Associates and based in London.

What inspired you to go into architecture?
Love of building.

Is there anything you would have done differently in your career?
Yes, I would have paid more attention to social anthropology.

What impact do you feel your gender has had on your career – either positive or negative?
Being a woman in the construction industry is difficult. When I was working in Pakistan I was asked to demonstrate a brick bond which I had specified; as the mason had suddenly ‘forgotten’ how to do this.

They asked me this as they did not believe a woman could do a man’s job – although on the same site many women were working and accepted as manual labourers. So you have to fight for your place.

You have to fight for your place

What could be done to make the architecture profession more welcoming to women?
I believe we have come a long way. We need to work towards more equality in pay as this is a recognition of our skills. In my practice we have a very good gender balance and provide flexible working for young mothers – we have a 100 per cent return to work rate after maternity leave.

What advice would you give to any young woman who is about to start a career in architecture?
Do not be put off by the men.

Who is your role model or mentor?
I do not have a role model – but I do admire the architecture of Geoffrey Bawa.

What is the most exciting scheme you are currently working on?
Just starting work on a small building in Bury St Edmunds and nearing completion on one for Grosvenor Estates in North Audley Street, London – both exciting.

Tanvir Hasan is deputy chairman of Donald Insall Associates 

North Audley Street, London - a scheme by Donald Insall Associates for Grosvenor Estates

North Audley Street, London - a scheme by Donald Insall Associates for Grosvenor Estates

North Audley Street, London – a scheme by Donald Insall Associates for Grosvenor Estates 

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