Category: National Committee for Gender Equity

Recruitment: Honestly, transparently…apparently



20 Nov, 2017


How do you do your interview?
Do you prepare?
Do you polish your ‘self-inflation’ skills?
Do you update a CV and portfolio?

What if none of that mattered?
What if statistics suggested you weren’t going to be hired on account of bias?
What if you were seen as a potential liability because you have a family?
You’d probably be pretty upset, then frustrated and then angry.

Substantial research suggests that women face this every time they sit down to a job interview. Managers of both sexes are twice as likely to hire a man over a woman despite equal skill sets. Parlour’s fifth guide to equitable practice; Recruitment, provides advice on fair and equitable recruitment strategies and processes. There are obviously two sides to the table and things that both parties can do better. In reality though, neither party is usually conscious of the scenario playing out.

I’m an employer. I’ve been an employee. I’m male and have usually been interviewed by other males. So what opinions do I have on the status of gender bias in architectural recruitment? I’ll attempt to explain.



My life has changed completely since having my twin sleep thieves. The first three months were a productivity right off. If I wasn’t self-employed, I’m sure I would have lost my job. Luckily, I have a very understanding business partner.

22 months on, I’m still not back in the office on regular full time hours. With my wife working three days and me four days, we manage the situation fairly well with the help of some ‘bubba’ (grandmother) days. Most of the other hours are at night after kids have gone to sleep… (Sunday night as I write). Melatonin usually gets the better of me though. Through this time, I have often thought what it would be like if I had to get a position in someone else’s practice?



First of all, how many architectural practices are there looking for part-time employees? Only a few, despite the benefits.

Ok, so let’s try a full time position and negotiate some flexibility.

‘I need four days a week with the day off on Wednesday and a laptop so I can work the other day on the weekend or at night. I need to leave at 5:00pm on the dot and I can’t do overtime without at least a week’s notice’.

As a recovering long time subscriber to the ‘go hard or go home’ long hours culture, I know true flexibility is frowned upon and I know you are often seen as not committed if life comes before practice. I’d be very reluctant to even raise the topic at an interview knowing full well that there is probably someone else willing to do whatever it takes to get the job and do the job.

Next plan is to not mention anything.

Despite being fully capable of doing the work, it’s hard to sit there and say I’m going to bust a gut and prioritise the company above all else… because I know that’s not reality and it’s not priority. Instead, maybe I’ll turn the volume down, adjust the tone and go for a more modest approach. ‘Under-sell and over-deliver’. Rest assured though, there will be someone over-selling… and likely under-delivering. Who is the average manager going to employ?



Bias in recruitment impacts severely on women and particularly those with family commitments. Some of it is unconscious but there are still conscious steps that can be made to minimise its impact. This isn’t just about gender balance, it’s also about achieving a more diverse and interesting range of people within one organisation.

If like, hires like, hires like… you end up with zero diversity and a group think scenario which will flow on to client types, business structures and ultimately the success or failure of the company. Diversity can be scary for an employer though, particularly a small one. Bravery is required to invest time and money in people and scenarios that aren’t within a practice’s current consideration of ‘cultural fit’.

There needs to be considered thought when searching, shortlisting and interviewing candidates, and then again when starting employment. Understanding the Fair Work Act, Architects Award and anti-discrimination laws are also critical to making sure the process is as fair and equitable as it can be. Where possible, both men and women should be involved in all stages of the recruitment process to mitigate gender bias and provide a balance to the tone of adverts, interviews and negotiation.

With these things in place, a good employer is able to widen their search net, interview without bias and hopefully recruit a good employee. In turn, a prospective employee can be open, honest and transparent about their commitment to architecture, work and life.


See previous NCGE articles here

Creativity and Humanity: The Benefits of Part Time Employment



14 Aug, 2017

From improving staff retention to allowing for flexible resourcing, it is no secret that part-time employment makes good financial sense for all types of businesses. But in a field like architecture where creativity and social-sensitivity are crucial, the potential benefits of adaptable work practices have a much broader reach. The flexibility that part time employment affords can generate creative momentum and diversity that are of tremendous advantage to architects and their projects.  


The Creative Environment and the Knowledge Worker

Charged with the weighty task of delivering functional and meaningful spaces for the spectrum of life’s moments to occur in, architects are some of the original knowledge workers. From museums and institutions to our own treasured houses, architects are relied on for complex, integrated solutions. Creativity is essential to the design and delivery of these varied typologies, and it takes a diverse team of minds and a collaborative environment to achieve the most successful outcomes.

Part-time work enables a practice to employ individuals who inherently bring interest and diversity into the office by sheer fact that they are spending significant amounts of time doing other things. Consider that while many of us are sitting in air conditioned office buildings for ten hours a day, five days a week, part-time employees are out walking along beaches or streets, caring for and playing with children, or visiting art museums. They are learning, observing and processing new information that they will bring with them into the workplace to draw upon when performing creative tasks or engaging in problem-solving exercises.

Not only does the flexibility of part-time work benefit the part-time employee, but it benefits their colleagues as well. Creativity relies on lateral and associative forms of thinking; modes of operation that are enhanced by “random stimulation.”  Because of this, the more varied a person’s workday is, the more opportunities they will have to make unexpected connections and generate innovative ideas. Having colleagues coming and going from the office intermittently gives full-time employees the benefit of being stimulated by different people, perspectives and conversations. This continual source of un-choreographed interaction is an instrumental benefit to a creative design studio.


Humans designing for humans

Beyond creativity, the design of meaningful space requires a profound understanding of people and relationships. Good buildings are sensitive – they facilitate social interaction and contribute to our daily lives. It only makes sense that sympathetic buildings are designed by sympathetic people.

All architects are other things – sons, daughters, parents, teachers, makers, researchers, writers, entrepreneurs. Our experiences in these roles add value to our ability to design buildings for others to occupy. They give us perspective, and help us understand the varied ways in which people use space. Part-time work allows architects to devote a portion of their weeks to these other roles, further deepening the value of this alternative perspective. Through the experiences of raising children, caring for elders, or establishing relationships with other colleagues and students, part time employees are actively developing hard and soft skills that enhance the practice of architecture.  As Lee Hillam points out in her essay Go Hard or Go Home!, “…to be a good architect it is vitally important that you engage with the world outside architecture, that you be a broadly educated and broadly interested person, that you give yourself time and space to be inspired and to understand the communities you are designing for. “


Architecture of Inclusion

Part time employment affords our profession the ability to engage all of the talent and experience available, regardless of personal circumstances. The addition of new resources and varied skillsets has the ability to contribute greatly to the collective knowledge of our industry. Who better to design childcare facilities than parents? Who better to design universities than academics? If we continue losing members of our industry that fall outside the full time mould, we will be acting to our own disadvantage.

When our industry reflects the diversity of the general population, we will be best suited to design sensitively to every client and every user.  This means giving parents, academics, consultants, contractors, care givers, men and women equal opportunity to practice and contribute. Part time work is imperative to our ability to engage the broadest range of architects, ultimately resulting in the most creative, thoughtful and dynamic design outcomes.


See previous NCGE articles here

National Committee for Gender Equity Report 2016

The National Committee for Gender Equity is now in its second term, with the new committee members joining the committee in April 2016 for the annual face-to-face meeting in Adelaide. Emma Williamson (WA) stepped down as chair of the committee and Lee Hillam (NSW) was nominated to lead the committee through the next two-year term.

The Committee’s membership intentionally represents almost every chapter, with a mix of men and women from small, medium and large practices as well as academia. This mix has enabled the NCGE to position itself as a unified voice from a diverse background.

The following is a brief outline of the work of the NCGE as identified at the face-to-face meeting, which tables current objectives and the committee’s plans for the year ahead.

    • The NCGE is working in each state to support a Gender Equity Taskforce (GET). Already, through the work of the NCGE and off the back of the established and prolific NSW GET, we are seeing fledgling GETs in the ACT, Tasmania and Western Australia.
    • The Paula Whitman Leadership in Gender Equity prize, an initiative of the NCGE, has now been launched and the committee will continue to support this initiative through regular promotions and comms to ensure the prize reaches as wide an audience as possible.
    • The committee will continue to raise the profile of women and equity, through the Women in Architecture series which is distributed through the Institute’s National E-News and Parlour.
    • Articles on pay equity and other related topics are also scheduled to be published throughout the remainder of the year. Gender based pay inequity is a priority for the NCGE this year. An article calling for all practices to look at their pay rates as we start a new financial year was distributed in National E-news in early July.
    • The committee is also aiming to collaborate more closely with Chapters, GET groups, SONA and EmAGN, Universities and other industry bodies such as the Property Council. The committee continues to work closely with Parlour, to ensure that all Institute members benefit from the Institute’s partnership with the organisation, including assisting with their initiative Marion’s List, a public register of the women of Australian architecture designed to convey the richness and depth of involvement of women in the profession and the discipline. Read more about Marion’s List on the Parlour website.

National Committee for Gender Equity update

The Australian Institute of Architects National Committee for Gender Equity is continuing to work on issues that impact everyone in the profession. New and returning Committee members met in May to set the ongoing agenda for the next 12 months. New members to the committee include Kellie McGivern (WA), Genevieve Lilley (NSW/TAS), Michael Gay (WA) and Chris Major (NSW). For the first time, the National Committee for Gender Equity will have co-chairs. Michael Smith from Victoria and Kellie McGivern from Western Australia.

After three years of sustained work towards a more equitable profession, the NCGE has had impact both within and outside the Institute. As we continue to work towards a diverse, equitable and thriving profession, it is critical that we engage the wider profession.

Gender equity is not just a women’s issue. The damaging long hours culture that unnecessarily and unfairly burdens members of our profession, is everyone’s problem to address. The need for flexible working conditions to be available and ubiquitous, is something for both men and women in architecture.

If there is an equity or diversity issue that you would like the NCGE to address, you can reach out to any of our members across the country. You can also email the NCGE at

For updates on the progress of the committee or to read about what you can do to work towards a more equitable profession take a look at our webpage here.

National Committee for Gender Equity 2017-18

Michael Smith (Co Chair)
Atelier Red and Black, VIC

Kellie McGivern (Co Chair)
Cox, Howlett & Bailey Woodland, WA

Gill Matthewson
Monash University, VIC

Genevieve Lilley
Genevieve Lilley Architects, TAS / NSW

Sam McQueeney
Circa Morris-Nunn Architects, TAS

Jessica Hardwick
Happy Haus, QLD

Michael Gay
MSG Architecture, WA

Madeline Sewall
Breathe Architecture Pty Ltd, VIC

Chris Major
Welsh + Major Architects, NSW

Catherine Startari
GHD Architecture Pty Ltd, SA

The merits of mentoring

2 May 2017

In the third of a series of essays from the National Committee for Gender Equity, Michael Smith argues the case for mentoring programs, emphasising the benefits to mentor, mentee and the industry as a whole.

Michael Smith with Atelier Red+Black’s mentees for 2017

At first, a director of a small architecture practice may seem an unusual person to be talking about the merits of mentoring. After all, we don’t have the challenge of managing an office with 50+ staff. However, having seen firsthand the benefits of being both a mentee and a mentor over the last few years, it is somewhat baffling that our profession hasn’t yet fully embraced mentoring.

As every architect knows, the generalist nature of the profession requires the practitioner to possess a great deal of knowledge and skill. This intellectual tool kit has a variety of different components, which come from a variety of sources. Our education is acquired from universities, while our training is acquired from on-the-job learning and experience. But where do architectural ‘street smarts’ come from? Where can you get tips on wrangling complex situations, dealing with difficult individuals or negotiating towards preferred outcomes? These are the kinds of real world issues that are best addressed through mentoring.

The benefits to the mentee can be profound. Research in the United States has found those under mentorship are 20% more likely to have a pay increase and are five times more likely to have a promotion than those without a mentor. At key times in a career – such as preparing to register, returning to work after a break, or indeed setting up a small practice – mentoring can provide clarity, support and advice that is invaluable to the recipient.

Practices that don’t mentor their staff are not only letting their staff down, they are also relinquishing ground to their competitors. In 2016, a Deloitte research survey found that Millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). Architecture practices are only as good as their staff. If you have a high rate of staff turnover, or if your practice does not have a culture of continual improvement, it is far more challenging to deliver high quality architecture for your clients.

Ultimately, if you are not investing in your staff, you are effectively standing still. This is one of the key underlying themes of the Parlour Guide on mentoring. If employers link their mentoring efforts to the practice business strategy, there is an even greater benefit to the practice.

In 2015, our practice initiated a mentorship program for final year architecture students. Having ourselves received mentoring from several very generous leaders within our profession, we thought it only right to pay that generosity forward. Our targeted goal was to make a difference, even in a very small way, to the problem of talented women graduates leaving the profession early in disproportionate numbers. Though it is not up to us alone to fix this problem, we felt that the least we could do is play our part and contribute to a positive culture.

Now in its third year, the program has had unexpected benefits for us as mentors as well. We now have a far greater understanding of the concerns of the next generation of architects as they begin their professional journey. Our practice can demonstrate to new staff that we take their professional development seriously, making our small entity an attractive employment proposition for up-and-coming talent. For all the information you need on mentoring in the architectural context, remember to take a look at Guide 10 of Parlour’s guides to equitable practice.

Happy mentoring!

Michael Smith is Deputy Chairperson of the Australian Institute of Architects’ National Committee for Gender Equity and Director of Melbourne-based practice Atelier Red+Black.

Women in Architecture: Susan Dugdale

The National Committee for Gender Equity have been profiling some of the women that are shaping the profession of architecture. This series is working to achieve a more equitable, diverse and sustainable profession for the future.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, the National Committee for Gender Equity is releasing the first of its new style Women in Architecture column. This column aims to highlight the experiences, accomplishments and contributions of leading females within the architectural profession. This month, committee member Jessica Hardwick interviews Susan Dugdale, Director of Alice Springs practice, Susan Dugdale & Associates.


Susan Dugdale, Director of Susan Dugdale & Associates


Arriving in Alice Springs some 22 years ago ‘for two months work’, Susan Dugdale has produced a body of work whose influence is notable in the fabric of Alice Springs and beyond. A current Institute National Councillor, Sue is a highly regarded leader both within the Northern Territory and at a national level, having also contributed at a board level to Olive Pink Botanic Garden and serving as a Council Member on the Northern Territory Heritage Advisory Council.

Originally from Brisbane, Dugdale completed four years of her architectural education at the University of Queensland, completing her final year of studies at RMIT. After practicing for 10 years in Melbourne and ready for something new, she accepted an opportunity to assist with a short-term workload at Alice Springs’ Indigenous-owned firm, Tangentyere Design where she worked until 2000 when she founded her own practice.

“What I enjoy most about the practice of architecture is the diversity of activities and the range of skills you have to bring to it. A lot of it’s about people, but then you’ve got to have good technical skills, plus experience of how buildings go together and how the whole industry works, materials and their value, their detailing, the ease of use in local industry. It makes me feel like I am quite a broad person to be an architect.”

Driving into Alice for our interview, several of Susan’s built works were easily identifiable – even in passing. Susan Dugdale and Associates’ practice profile states that ‘Director Sue Dugdale has a personal passion for discovering and developing a unique regional identity based on the particular culture, climate and geography of Central Australia. The practice evolves this broader project with each commission undertaken, by embedding stories in design, manipulation of water and light, landscape design and creating a particular sense of place, and through design of form, and selection of materials and colour.’ This continuum of thought and the cultural project that underpins the work is evident in the buildings, which contribute an atmosphere of community, optimism and excitement to the public realm.


Photo credit: Brendan Chan


Reflecting on what it is that has captured her interest and caused her to build a life in Alice, Dugdale shares, ‘It’s just really interesting living in a small community. In cities, there’s generally too many people around you, so you have to edit people to select your friends and associates. Inevitably, a lot of the time you’ll go for people like you, so when I lived in Brisbane and Melbourne almost all of my friends were architects. Whereas here, almost none of my friends are architects, you just have a wider community and you connect differently… When I first came to town and walked down the mall, you hear all these different languages around you, like Japanese, French, Italian, at the same time as hearing Indigenous languages, which are from here, it’s very eye-opening.’ In perfect timing, right in this middle of discussing this point, an artist friend walks by and briefly interrupts our interview for a quick ‘hello’. Picking up where we left off, Sue shares, ‘in a small town of only 30,000 people there are four or five local architectural practices, which is higher than you’d expect.’ In recent years Sue has observed a new breed of construction company and developer emerging in the Northern Territory and notes that these younger companies ‘really value design’. According to Dugdale, ‘There are good opportunities to work closely and engage with local craftsman, materials suppliers and artists on an ongoing basis, which informs the building process, increases knowledge and it’s not adversarial which is a fantastic thing.’

Of the practice’s recently completed Alice Springs ‘CBD Revitalisation’ project, Sue reflected, ‘It was a chance to express the identity of the community at a larger scale. In particular, Alice Springs is a creative hub and has a really high level arts community – particularly visual arts and painting, with internationally regarded indigenous and non-indigenous artists, as well as musicians and performance artists. [Prior to the commissioning of this work] you could walk down the mall and not know it, except for a few tourist shops… I think architecture is urban design as well, we need to tell ourselves who we are through what we look like to visitors.’

Photo credit: Pip McManus

This project was about expression of community identity and inclusion, with an indigenous cultural framework being specifically commissioned, to underpin a lot of the design work. Four artworks were commissioned as part of the project, produced in collaboration with local artists and makers. The project connected with a lot of people and stakeholders from the town and Sue recalled this as being at the core of why she found the project most satisfying.

Photo credit: Susan Dugdale

In honour of the role this project has played to the town of Alice Springs, the project was widely recognised in the Institute’s 2015 Awards program, receiving the 2015 Tracy Memorial Award (best across all categories), COLORBOND® Award for Steel Architecture and George Goyder Award for Urban Design at the Northern Territory Architecture Awards.

At this point in her career, Susan Dugdale is an active advocate for regional practitioners and women in architecture, saying that while it is currently male-dominated, ‘The men on the National Council are unbelievably proactive about gender issues, which is incredibly encouraging.’ When asked to discuss her biggest challenge as a female in architecture, Sue spoke of the ‘unintentional sexism’ and an ongoing sense of feeling marginalised that she experienced, particularly early on in her career, saying that ‘confidence’ had been her key challenge. ‘On some levels, I’ve always been a confident person and on others definitely not.’ Reflecting on the apparent confidence with which her young male colleagues seemingly leapt into practice, Sue recalled her first NT architecture award, a backyard granny flat project she entered after being encouraged by colleague Deb Fisher.

‘I’d always been kind of anti-establishment… just sort of putting myself on the fringe really, so I entered the awards and it won an award. I couldn’t believe what that meant, the affirmation from peers. I’ve totally changed my view, that I shouldn’t marginalise myself, I should be front and centre – that’s partly why I stood for National Council and got elected. I’m finding it really interesting, you get to network, be stimulated by your peers. If you let yourself be marginalised, you just miss out on so much. Jump into the middle of the pond, I reckon! Starting my own practice was a really good thing to do, I was never going to feel like I was really doing my own thing until then… But then, men and women architects probably all feel that.’

As the sole director of her practice, Sue has intentionally maintained a small team, placing high importance on continuity of authorship and close collaboration. ‘I always thought that I would [start my own practice] … I wanted to get creative opportunities for myself and to run them myself. I work collaboratively with my employees on design but I always tell my employees so they don’t have any false expectations, that I started the practice so that I have the creative opportunities… I’m not going to hand out really plum projects and walk away from them. I like working collaboratively and if you end up with a good design working relationship, that’s even better. There’s enough work in running a practice, that I feel that’s my reward.’

There’s no ‘typical day’ in Sue’s office, which she says is part of the appeal of small practice. If anything – a typical day for Sue will generally start and finish on time. Sue shared, ‘I feel strongly about that – unpaid extra time is exploitative – and also, I don’t want to – I like my life outside of work as well and I want to enjoy it… I probably could have pushed harder and got more ‘fame’ or exposure, if I wanted to spend that extra 10 hours a week for my whole life, but I didn’t. I never have, and I don’t expect or want my employees to… Time away from work brings a quality to the work, it brings the real engagement with the community back to the work. It’s not subtracting but contributing to the work.’

‘I feel strongly about that – unpaid extra time is exploitative – and also, I don’t want to – I like my life outside of work as well and I want to enjoy it.’

As the practice continues to evolve, Sue looks forward to continuing to explore and give form to the cultural narrative of Central Australia. The practice, and Sue herself, is deeply embedded within the community and so she looks forward to continuing to engage on significant urban-scale projects through which the regional identity of the place can be expressed. The work of the practice is quite clearly a testament to Sue’s personal commitment to the place, as well as a product of the diverse network of relationships she has cultivated over the years – the artists, fellow architects, community leaders and makers.

‘As you develop as an architect and get more experience, you develop in your creative and critical faculties, as a synthesis. As you get more experienced, you understand your ideas that have more value or potential to be productive ideas, or not. So you can be much more efficient in knowing and trusting your own gut and instincts… It’s about the ideas, they’ve got to be the right ones for the project.’

Circling back to confidence in practice, our discussion closed with a comment from Sue regarding her practice’s recent inclusion in the Venice Biennale, which she said was a ‘very affirming experience’, noting that ‘women often don’t expect to be affirmed’, she encouraged other women architects to actively look for these opportunities to participate.

Women in Architecture: Alicia Lynch

Alicia Lynch, Senior Associate at ROTHELOWMAN

Alicia Lynch (BFA Interior Design with honours) is Associate Interior Designer at Rothelowman. Alicia has over 17 years’ experience as a professional interior designer specialising in high-end hospitality projects. She is an excellent communicator in verbal and graphic mediums and focuses on the success of the entire human infrastructure that is required to successfully deliver unique projects.

What do you enjoy most in the practice of interior design?
Architecture can be disengaged at the human scale because of its magnitude: what I love about interiors is its ability to have a stronger engagement. Interior design can shift a mood. We have the capability to promote a particular experience by controlling the spatial elements of scale, colour, airflow, lighting and design. Attention to these elements is critical to enhance the overall design.

Can you tell us about a key project that you have been involved in?
Building brand identities through design is one of my favourite elements of the process. For example, when the Rosewood Hotel brand was introduced to Beijing, its interior design was a key factor in communicating its identity and brand standards to a new market. A focus on high-end food and beverage experiences assisted its success. Interior-designed restaurants within the hotel responded to the dynamic local food culture and successfully drove patronage at an international and local level.

When introducing an established brand to a new market, it was critical that we embed the hotel’s design within the existing cultural fabric, making it attractive to both international and local guests. We designed a hot pot centrepiece for the Rosewood, which is typically seen as street food, and elevated it to fine-dining in line with the hotel’s standards.

Working on this project taught me how to interpret brand standards and distil them into local culture. ROTHELOWMAN is currently involved in a project that will utilise these learnings to introduce a new hotel to the Australasian market.


What does a typical day at work involve for you?
My days are rarely typical. I’m involved at various levels in sharing, guiding, learning, designing and communicating with clients and peers to deliver the highest quality of work. Ultimately communication underpins every aspect of the day and has a critical effect on the satisfaction of clients and peers. If miscommunication occurs projects can be adversely affected. It is important to communicate effectively, guide clients or colleagues and constantly look for new opportunities. I’m spending greater portions of my working day consulting with clients in the hotel interiors sector as this area of the business has grown substantially within ROTHELOWMAN.

What are you looking forward to in your career?
I strive for great projects and collaboration – working alongside clients and peers that have innovative ideas, collaborating in partnership and turning ideas into realities.
Within the office, opportunities to add value and obtain value from clients and peers are available daily. The ability to push the boundaries within the field and inspire one another is encouraged. The company continues to grow and I am looking forward to working on international projects, new brands as they enter the market and the next wave of hospitality design. This process of refining knowledge on a continued basis can only excel my career further.

What do you see as your core strength in the practice of interior design?
The passion and love that I have for design excellence. I have the ability to enter a space and observe at a higher level than most others which is a great asset in designing a space. This hypersensitivity allows a highly detailed thought process to assess key design decisions.

When deciding on design elements consideration about more than the physical is required. Understanding the impact a design element has in a space like the sound and reflection of light has a strong impact on human senses. Being aware and understanding all elements of a decision are integral in developing the overall atmosphere of an interior.


Women in Architecture: Catherine Startari

Catherine Startari, architect at GHD Woodhead

Catherine Startari

Catherine studied at the University of South Australia and is a registered architect. She has developed as an architect by working in Australia and internationally, including seven years in the Middle East. Catherine enjoys traveling with her family and the opportunity to discover new architecture along the way.


What do you enjoy most in the practice of architecture?

I love the universal language of this profession; my training and experience has allowed me to work overseas, and further develop professionally in a culture far removed from the one I knew growing up. I now appreciate that the design process, and practice of architecture is the same no matter where you are.

Working in this field allows you to interact with clients from different disciplines and industries to and learn how their business operates. It is satisfying to observe how well-considered design can help your clients achieve their business objectives. Quite often projects are commercially driven, so I most enjoy the challenge of integrating good design within the constraints of budget and time.


Can you tell us about a key project that you have been involved in?

In 2009 I moved to the Middle East with GHD’s architecture practice. I had the opportunity to work on a range of projects, including a residential development located on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. The island is home to the iconic Louvre Museum designed by Jean Nouvel with plans for the Guggenheim to also reside there. The client is developer Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), who is developing a new neighbourhood that will respond to the region’s changing housing demand. Typically, the residential model in United Arab Emirates is either a high rise apartment building or large villas, with not much range in between.

GHD’s Middle East architecture practice designed the Masterplan for Saadiyat Lagoons consisting of housing, schools and community centres with facilities. The masterplan is broken into various phases and I was responsible for designing five townhouse types that are arranged in various configurations for Phase 1, which comprises 820 townhouses in total.

TDIC was looking to provide customers with a contemporary designed townhouse, with either two or three bedrooms. It was critical that the design accommodate the extreme weather conditions of Abu Dhabi, with a careful balance of insulated blockwork and glazing, yet still achieve a modern appearance.

The project was presented at this year’s Cityscape, a real estate exhibition where developers can showcase their projects to local and regional real estate investors. Phase 1 of the development was received very well by the public and the client is preparing the project for sales.

Lagoons Masterplan
Lagoons Masterplan, produced by GHD Woodhead


What are you looking forward to in your career?

After living away from Australia for many years I’m especially looking forward to further developing my career in Adelaide. Adelaide is home, where my family is, where I grew up and first learnt about architecture. When I completed my studies it was common for architectural graduates to migrate to the eastern states where it was perceived that there was more opportunity in the architecture scene. South Australia has a lot to offer in terms of exposure to architecture and the city is evolving in many positive ways. I’m delighted to now be able to contribute to the development of the built environment in the city that I am so fond of.


What do you see as your core strength in the practice of architecture?

I’m proud of my ability to develop relationships with my clients and colleagues through this profession. Architecture is about people and creating spaces that respond to their functional requirement. To do this you must engage with your client to draw out an understanding of what is needed. I like to think of myself as fairly personable – this helps to develop a positive relationship with the client, and leads to a freedom in conversation to reach the most suitable solution for the project.


What do you hope to achieve by being on NCGE

I wish to contribute to the strong progress the NCGE has made over the past few years in bringing together peers to form new ideas for our profession.

As an architect and a mother I hope to bring my personal experiences to the group, to discuss issues such a pay equity, flexible working arrangements, and opportunities for development for both men and women architects.

Through the committee, I would like to be able to highlight the business benefits of promoting female architects who are role models. Our aim is to develop a network of support for female architects to develop their careers without boundaries. Some female architects may feel extra pressure to demonstrate their work performance is not suffering as they balance their career and parental responsibilities, despite the fact they are probably over delivering. This is a pressure that transcends many industries, and all parents, male and female feel when they have to sacrifice time at work due to a sick child or school activities.

Lagoons Streetview
Lagoons Streetview, produced by GHD Woodhead

Introducing the 2016-2017 National Committee for Gender Equity

It has been two years since the formation of the Australian Institute of Architects, National Committee for Gender Equity. With the passing of this milestone, the committee has recruited some new members to continue the push for a more equitable profession. Chairing the committee for the 2016 – 2017 year will be Lee Hillam who takes over from the inaugural chairperson, Emma Williamson. Here is a snapshot of the new look team.


The National Committee for Gender Equity was established by the National Council in December 2013 to implement the Institute’s Gender Equity Policy and to recommend actions, initiatives and programs required to give practical effect to that policy. See the more information on the policy and the work of the NCGE committee on the website.

Women in Architecture: Daphne Cheong

Daphne Cheong, architect at GHD Woodhead

Daphne Cheong 1


As an alumnus of the University of New South Wales, Daphne graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree and a Masters in Architectural Design.

After graduation, Daphne spent four years with GHD’s architecture practice, followed by a two and a half year stint with Billard Leece Partnership as a Graduate Architect.

In 2014, Daphne became a Registered Architect and later that year returned to GHD Woodhead where she currently holds the role of Project Architect, responsible for managing multidisciplinary teams.

RMS Parramatta workplace by Intrec
RMS Parramatta workplace by Intrec


What do you enjoy most in the practice of architecture?

Every new project brings with it a unique set of challenges which require innovative solutions. The opportunity to demonstrate my resourcefulness, knowledge and creativity in overcoming such challenges is extremely rewarding.

I have always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the collaboration and teamwork involved in a big project—that feeling of being part of a group of passionate individuals working towards a shared goal. A successful piece of architecture does not begin and end with the architect, but rather the collaborative efforts of the architect, consultants, clients and stakeholders.


Can you tell us about a key project that you have been involved in?

During my time at GHD Woodhead, I have worked on a number of major projects such as the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) workplace in Parramatta and a number of ANSTO projects.
RMS is revitalising its office accommodation across the state in line with its vision to be the leader in the management and delivery of safe, efficient and high-quality services and infrastructure to NSW. RMS is seeking to attract and retain high-quality staff who are agile and collaborative. In line with this strategy, office accommodation is changing to support Activity Based Workforce (ABW) The floor planning comprises neighbourhoods of varied work settings, enclosed meeting rooms, semi-enclosed collaborative areas, quiet nooks and open plazas, with each of the nine floors having its own feeling with the use of colour and geometry.


RMS Parramatta workplace by Intrec
RMS Parramatta workplace by Intrec



What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman in architecture and how did you overcome it?

I am delighted to say that wherever I have worked there has always been a professional respect for women and have had the privilege to have worked with some highly accomplished women in senior positions.

Where I have experienced challenges as a woman in architecture is when dealing with external consultants. It is not unusual to attend site meetings only to find myself marginalised in favour of a male counterpart when discussing a project.

My approach in dealing with such situations is to be thoroughly prepared, speak with the authority that comes from my knowledge and experience, and above all else deliver on the project.


Who do you look up to in the architecture profession?

Allan Miller is the principal architect at GHD Woodhead, with 35 years of industry experience under his belt. Whilst his architectural knowledge is profound, it is his willingness to share this knowledge which I find inspiring. Allan’s generosity and patience with all his colleagues are traits I hope to emulate as I progress in my career. Elena Bullo, GHD Woodhead’s architecturalteam leader, is another individual I look up to for her integrity and resilience. She seamlessly balances her professional responsibilities with her role as a devoted mother. Tara Veldman,director at Billard Leece Partnership is an exemplary professional recognised as an industry leader in healthcare design. Working with Tara served as a constant motivation to push me professionally, a reminder that what you achieve in the industry is limited only by your ambition and dedication to the job.

RMS Parramatta workplace by Intrec
RMS Parramatta workplace by Intrec


What are you looking forward to in your career?

Having eight years of professional experience and having recently registered as an architect, I feel I am now finding my place in the industry. GHD Woodhead has supported my development through career resiliency training which has helped me zone in on what motivates me professionally. Acting as a technical sounding board for the junior members in the practice is a role I have found extremely rewarding. I see myself thriving in a managerial role within the team and aspire to be an inspirational leader. A lofty aspiration but one I believe can be achieved through a combination of self-initiative and continual learning on the job.


RMS Parramatta workplace by Intrec
RMS Parramatta workplace by Intrec