In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’ve asked our #womenwhoarchitect to share their insights on architecture and design.
On why they wanted work in architecture
I wanted to be a part of a creative world, but I also wanted it to be scientific. I knew it was [going to be] a challenge because I would be a minority as a woman and as a person of color in the profession. I gladly love the challenge. I look for it. Even though I was really discouraged in school, I wanted to do better. Being an architect challenges me all the while being creative and scientific. —Michelle Steadman, RA, LEED AP
Working in publishing and advertising prior to entering the world of architecture almost twelve years ago, it was, for me, a natural progression. The challenge of communicating the beauty and meaning of large-scale three dimensions in small, two-dimensional media or digital space never gets boring. —Martha Durke, Graphic Designer
On their voice as designers
I’m always surprised by how much people want to hear from me. I have a tendency to hold myself back with my own doubts. It’s always encouraging and surprising when people say they want to hear more from me. —Samantha Schwarze, AIA
I still feel it is very, very hard for a young woman to go out alone in architecture. The only way to get my voice heard is to speak out. Don’t be afraid to stand up and make a point in any circumstance. —Yanjing Chen
On their unique role at Overland
As Marketing Manager, I am fortunate to lead our marketing efforts through traditional and remote duties. I am accountable for elevating our brand and supporting sales through planning, creating, and monitoring marketing and media strategies. Juggling day-to-day responsibilities with long-term strategic visioning, budgeting, and industry research trends, I work closely with all roles to manage and execute internal team needs and external initiatives. Leading the team remotely and full-time while traveling across three continents for one year, I must generate and guide through a trust-centered environment, clear and consistent communication, efficient and organized systems, buzz generation, and an accessible support system. —Amanda Davila, Marketing Manager
My current role is focused on design thinking that builds community or reinvents development processes to better serve it. A “project” is first a pretext to better understanding how to grow existing cultural assets, to elucidate/ignite relationships or provide a clearer path to resources or power. In the best scenarios, the value of these things transcends even that of the final artifact, but they take just as much intention and work to unfold well. Relevance is earned or nurtured, not simply built. It’s a fascinating design problem and my personality pushes me seek innovation here. —Allison Hu, LEED AP
Ensuring our remote team is included as a part of our home office environment is key. Our IT professionals configured a computer station on wheels to give the remote team a front row seat to meetings and activities in the office. VRBOT, the mobile stations elected moniker, also allows our designers access to architectural VR technology anywhere in the office. It’s truly a completely unique, mobile, interactive computer system!
On what attracted them to join Overland
Equality. I like how the principal architects work beside me. Everyone is treated equally, whether it’s an intern or a senior architect. Everyone’s given equal work and responsibility. That teaches us and inspires me a lot. —Nikhila Ramineedi, University of Colorado Denver, Graduate
I was impressed by the plurality of Overland’s identity, the firm’s sustainable foundations, and its genuine commitment to design as a public service. —Allison Cottle, LEED Green Assoc.
What do you look for in a mentor
I think a great mentor is someone who is willing to give up their time to explain or walk me through a problem, someone who likes to share their skills and knowledge. Building good relationships through a positive attitude and availability, making it easier to communicate. Someone who motivates me through guidance and constructive feedback, as well as empowers my strengths and weaknesses. —Italia Aguilera, University of San Antonio, Graduate
Mentorship as a female architect is an interesting thing—as your career progresses, the pool of architects who share critical, similar experiences becomes noticeably, tangibly smaller. This is a pivotal dilemma in architecture, stubbornly sticking to the profession but slowly changing. I look for leadership in a mentor, someone who creates an environment for thinking, questioning, designing, and pushing boundaries, and someone who leads by example. I look for passion within architecture and outside of the office, a person I can observe successfully leading teams, and to whom I can bring questions about goals, next steps, and balancing a successful life in architecture with family. —Rebecca Sibley, AIA, LEED AP
On the state of design software
My job is primarily in sustainable design. I do a lot of work with parametric tools. Rhino and Grasshopper have provided more efficient way for design process. Right now, I think there is a huge opportunity to use those tools. When you think about Revit, one of the most used softwares in the architecture industry, the BIM software is great for collaboration among different team players like architects and structural engineers. However, there’s still a need for greater integration. When you want to transfer a parametric model in Rhino to Revit for further design, it is always painful and frustrating. —Qinheng Zhang, LEED AP, Designer
I think that the state of design software is geared towards architecture, but there are a lot of consultants that are still using AutoCAD. There needs to be something they could use that would translate into our Revit models more easily. —Tamra Collins, Designer
On the future of the industry
A disruption in the fundamental business model of architecture. Historically architects have tended to work for the very wealthy. However, with the push for greater social equity and the need for design thinking to solve very serious problems the world is currently facing, I predict a sea change in how we work and for whom we work. While I don’t think one-off custom architecture will go away by any means, I think we will see (and are already beginning to see) new business models, as well as new design and production methods, that address our unique 21st-century needs. —Ana Calhoun, Assoc. AIA, LEED Green Assoc.
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” —Theodore Roosevelt We may submit our projects for recognition, but awards or not, the work we get to pursue every day in the spirit of Overland’s mission is by far the best prize we could ever receive.
On advice for women in the field/aspiring designers
Keep a journal of what keeps you interested, what gives you that exciting butterfly feeling. I constantly go back to past journals that I wrote what I care about. Even if it’s something unrelated to architecture, it helps you be aware and intentional about those things so that you follow through on them. —Leah Ferrara, Judson University, Student
I can only speak as a Latina, a Tejana.
Be prepared to be doubted often and be ready to never know whether prejudice is rooted in your age, gender or ethnicity.
If you are a minority, know that your margin for error is smaller than others.
Remember to take credit for your successes.
Know you do not need to attend every argument that you are invited to; practice self-preservation.
Ask difficult questions and publicly acknowledge the successes of other women in your field.
Make art for yourself.
Be a mentor when you can because they are needed in this profession.
Breathe. —Siboney Díaz-Sánchez, Designer