Laura Highton, an architect at Purcell, has been shortlisted for the 2015 Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award
Laura Highton runs Purcell’s Nottingham studio, which she founded in January 2013. The studio grew considerably in 2014, recruiting three additional staff and moving to a larger, city-centre office. Since opening the studio, Highton has brought in 20 new projects, contributing significantly to Purcell’s growing body of work in the East Midlands. This was recognised by the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, which gave her its 2014 Rising Star Award. In the past year she has been working with a business coach to develop her leadership skills. She is currently developing a scheme to revitalise Nottingham Castle, which was successfully awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant in spring 2014.
Studied Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University; Oxford Brookes University
First practice Architecture PLB
First project Pimlico School
Current projects Refurbishment of a 1930s library in Leicester; a creative industries hub in Northampton; redevelopment of a Grade II-listed building in Nottingham as a wedding venue and apartments
Current clients Nottingham City Council; Leicester City Council; Northampton Borough Council; Arkwright Society; Focus Consultants
Favourite architect Richard Rogers
Favourite building Guggenheim, New York, by Frank Lloyd Wright
Why architecture I wanted to be an architect from about the age of 12. Although I’m not sure where the initial inspiration came from, I am interested in people and how they use buildings. The influence of good and bad architecture may not always be acknowledged but it can really affect people’s behaviour and how they feel. I continue to work in architecture because the job provides the perfect mix of creativity and practicality for me. Every project, site and client is different so I’m always learning and being challenged. The satisfaction of working with a group of people with similar interests and ideas is something I particularly enjoy about the industry.
Biggest challenge facing women in architecture There are many challenges that women face in the industry; each one will be unique to that individual and probably relate to age and career position. In my current practice there are a lot of emerging women getting into positions of leadership and middle management, we have one female partner at present. I hope that my generation will be the first to develop more easily into senior positions in good numbers. Something which currently presents a challenge which takes determination and tenacity: not that people are obstructive but it is not yet established as the norm.
Advice to aspiring female architects Have confidence, be yourself and go for it!