Category: Women in Architecture

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

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


Women in Architecture: Kirsten Orr

Professor Kirsten Orr, Head of School of Architecture & Design, University of Tasmania

Dr Kirsten Orr is an academic and registered architect (TAS & NSW) with extensive practice experience. Prior to joining the University of Tasmania in March 2016, she was Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Technology Sydney (1996 – 2015). Her research and teaching balance traditional academic research with contemporary practice-based investigation and are underpinned by a deep interest in Australian architecture and material culture.

ORR_1_At Work UTAS 2016_small
Kirsten Orr, photo by Ben Wild


What do you enjoy most in the practice of architecture?

I am passionate about educating the next generation of architects and my teaching seeks to strengthen the practice-based research skills and innovative mindsets that will enable my students to keep pace with, and push the boundaries of, architectural practice into the future. I regularly integrate prototyping activities into my teaching to stimulate student creativity and foster an effective learning environment by mediating between the virtual world of the computer screen and design principles, materials, fabrication processes and construction techniques. This is enhanced by research-led teaching partnerships with industry and ‘live’ projects for community organisations. My innovative teaching approaches were recognised in 2011 when I was awarded a competitive Teaching and Learning Citation by the University of Technology Sydney.


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

A long-term student project for Ku-ring-gai Council from 2009-2013 culminated in the construction of a precast concrete park structure to the students’ design at Greengate Park in Killara, Sydney. It was awarded the 2014 Parks and Leisure Australia Award for Open Space Development (NSW). The project involved partnerships with industrial fabricators and structural engineers, including Make Good Pty Ltd, a fabricator with a 5-axis CNC milling machine suitable for architectural applications; Warringah Plastics, a fabricator with 5-axis CNC milling and vacuum forming equipment; and Partridge, structural engineers.  Along the way, numerous prototypes were constructed at half- and full-scale exploring different CNC processes and innovative materials. One prototype was a shell of folded ‘Alucobond’ composite panels on a high-tech timber structure, and another comprised mass-customised vacuum formed plastic panels for a roof canopy.  An article on this project is due to be published in the Brookes eJournal of Learning and Teaching in 2016.

In 2015, I established a new partnership with Austral Bricks in a Master of Architecture design studio that spanned theoretical and practical work to explore the tectonic potentials of clay brick, one of the most ubiquitous materials in suburban Australia. In particular, it investigated new ways of assembling and detailing brick, emphasising the experimental and the applied and endeavouring to understand the complex relationships between ideas of craft, workmanship, play, discovery and innovation as they apply to a real architectural project.  Students produced a series of experimental brick assemblages to establish their own individual material languages, which were then applied in designs for a park amenities block at North Turramurra Recreation Area in a live project for Ku-ring-gai Council.  The studio questioned the status of brick in local government architecture and the emerging practices and innovative architectural approaches that may lead to its redeployment. While the utilitarian amenities block typology typically falls outside the “architectural canon,” this investigation is nevertheless important to sustaining, enhancing and innovating municipal architecture in an era of extensive redevelopment.

Collaborations such as these enrich student learning by emulating architectural practice and integrating all strands of disciplinary knowledge.  They also have the potential to introduce new synergies and mindsets within the architectural profession and construction industry.

ORR_4_With the students at Austral 2015_small
Students at Austral Bricks, 2015. Photo by Kirsten Orr


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

In 2006, there was a fundamental shift in the ethos of the Architecture Program at the University of Technology Sydney when it moved from being a practice-based, part-time course to becoming a full-time course.  This demanded the reimagining of what an architectural education at a university of “technology” could be.  I embraced the opportunity to take the UTS curriculum in new directions and embarked on a tour of Asia and Europe to benchmark best international teaching practice in both Architectural Design and Architectural Technology.  Among other places, I visited the National University of Singapore, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture – Paris Malaquais, and the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London.  What I saw had an enormous impact and shaped my new approaches to learning and teaching, including the introduction of prototyping activities integrating parametric design technologies (Rhinoceros© with Grasshopper© plug-in) and computer numerically controlled fabrication technologies.  I haven’t looked back.


What are you looking forward to in your career?

I am looking forward to bringing my diverse range of skills and experiences derived from academia and architectural practice to bear on my new role at the University of Tasmania as the Head of School of Architecture & Design.  After twenty years at the University of Technology Sydney, this will be an exciting and challenging new chapter in my career.  In particular, I am looking forward to building upon the School’s existing strengths in learning-by-making and community projects to realise the full potential of its nationally distinct workshop facilities and state-of-the-art equipment.


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

As a registered architect who also has PhD, I am able to bring unique perspectives that straddle the demands of the architecture professional and Australian university context. My comprehensive understanding of the complex interrelationships between the university sector, the architectural profession and the workings of State and Federal Government allow me to provide substantial professional leadership and I have held appointments to all of the major Australian government and professional bodies regulating the practice of architecture, the education of architecture students, and the accreditation of Australian architecture programs.  I am currently

  • Chair, National Education Committee, Australian Institute of Architects
  • Chair, Australian Architectural Education and Competency Framework Project, a joint project of the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA), Institute, Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia (AASA), and Australian Deans of Built Environment & Design (ADBED)
  • Executive Member and Incoming President, Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia (AASA)
  • Member, National Panel to review the Australia and New Zealand Accreditation Procedure (ANZ APAP), a joint project of the AACA and Institute
  • Member, 2016 Awards Jury for the Tasmanian Chapter Architecture Awards, Australian Institute of Architects

Women in Architecture: Clare Kwok

Clare Kwok, Associate at ClarkeHopkinsClarke (CHC)

Clare became a registered architect in 2011 and joined the CHC team in 2012. Originally working solely on retail projects, she has recently also joined the multi-residential sector of the practice. Her most prominent projects to date include design work on the Coburg North Shopping Centre that features a  ‘future’ Green Star Coles store (being used an example Australia-wide), the South Morang Central Shopping Centre and commercial offices at York St, South Melbourne.


Clarke Hopkins Clarke Staff Portraits
Clare Kwok, photo by Rachael Dere


What do you enjoy most in the practice of architecture?

Growing up I was constantly rearranging my bedroom and playing with Lego blocks; I felt the possibilities of design were endless. Today, through this industry I get to experience this on a much bigger scale.

I enjoy starting with a blank page and eventually being able to experience my design in a three dimension built form. I particularly enjoy the challenge of working with a team of different consultants to find solutions and ensure that a project’s social, commercial and financial conditions are met.

I feel architecture is one of few industries that allows professionals to be heavily involved in multiple disciplines at the same time, such as the retail and multi-residential sectors that I specialise in. It’s perfect for someone like me who grew up wanting to do everything!


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

I think communication and understanding other perspectives is always a constant challenge, whether that refers to understanding cultural issues, language barriers or being a woman in a male-dominated industry. I have always taken the approach to try and meet these challenges head-on.

I think it is particularly important to ensure you have adequate support both at home and in the office.

Like all aspects of life, there will undoubtedly be situations at work where topics of conversation arise that you may have no interest (or understanding) in. I think the key is to take this in your stride and treat each experience as a potential opportunity to broaden your horizons. You never know, you might actually come to pick up a few things and it does help when your team is going pretty well (go the Hawks!!).

South Morang Central Shopping Centre by CHC Architects, photo by Emily Bartlett


Who do you look up to in the architecture profession?

Les Clarke, one of CHC’s founders who still works in the practice today. It’s great having him in the office, seeing the way he carries himself, and observing how he just gets on with the work every day.

Les always reminds me to keep things simple and not to rely too heavily on technology. Good architecture always speaks for itself!


What are you looking forward to in your career?

Quite a lot! 2015 was a big year for me both personally and professionally and 2016 is shaping up to be even bigger.

I am looking forward to moving into a more senior role within the firm and broadening my experience into a new specialisation and sector (multi-residential).
As a new associate at CHC, I look back on all the support I received when I first started my career and think it is critical that we (and I) continue to develop and support the younger members of the firm. I look forward to being able to mentor and develop our junior staff and pass on all the knowledge I have gained over the years.

Similarly, I believe creating work-life balance is critical for a long career. I look forward to balancing my career with family life in the future and think as an industry we have an exciting opportunity to better support a growing number of working mums. I think we are experiencing an exciting time for women in architecture, with a lot more women (and mothers) achieving senior positions. I believe the opportunities are there if you take the initiative and establish what works for yourself and your office. Remember, flexibility is a two-way street.


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

I believe my key strength is putting ideas into action and not waiting for someone else to fix the problem. I think having ‘can-do’ attitude as well as having a curious mind is an attribute that allows me to better experience all that the industry has to offer.




Images (top to bottom): South Morang Central Shopping Centre by CHC Architects, photos by Emily Bartlett

Women in Architecture: Melinda Dodson

Melinda Dodson, Director and Principal Architect, Melinda Dodson Architects (MDa)

Melinda is the Principal of Melinda Dodson Architects (MDa), a design and research practice of experienced architects, landscape and urban designers undertaking commercial, mixed use, residential and education projects.

She is past Australian Institute of Architects ACT and National President, where her primary focus was on sustainable cities and architecture advocacy.  Awards include the NEAT Housing Competition 2014, NAWIC Outstanding Achievement in Construction Award ACT in 2013, University of Canberra PhD scholarship 2012, Instyle Design Award 2010, and the Australian Institute of Architects ACT Young Architect Prize in 2005.

Melinda believes passionately that sustainable cities and architecture holds the key to solving many of the frustrations of our cities, and these values — along with her PhD research on sustainability, house size and user satisfaction — underpin her practice.



What do you enjoy most in the practice of architecture?

I’ve always enjoyed architecture but think it takes a while to mature as an architect, to find your place and the contribution you wish to make. In the last 5 years (since starting my own business MDa) I have renewed my 3D modelling skills and this, in combination with 20 years of experience, and the provocations that come from my PhD research on “small houses”, combine to make architecture very exciting for me. I became interested in the “no bigger than necessary” design thesis some ten years ago while active with the Institute of Architects and since starting the PhD its morphed into user-centred design, that is, using “social research” techniques to delve deeper into design and use of “small houses”.

I also enjoy the collaboration and critique process; the pursuit of that self-evident, elegantly simple solution – not forced – but rather the solution that resolves many issues at once and usually requires a lot of work to conceive! It involves listening to clients – really listening – and sometimes they’ll say “keep going” or you know yourself to keep going! It’s very satisfying when you reach that point where it’s successfully resolved.


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

Recently MDa won the NEAT Housing competition, a very satisfying win as it was the result of bringing together our creative endeavour and our research, an approach that underlines what we stand for as a practice.

There is a body of post-occupancy evaluation fieldwork, including our practice research, on the liveability of medium density “small houses”; terraces, townhouses and the like. Our NEAT Housing Competition design entry responded to fieldwork with compact housing occupants and their observations about privacy, flexibility, size, expansion space, garden space and many other aspects.

Our “HI-lo” precinct of houses is organised around shared edible gardens across two levels; at “HI” and the “lo” level. Cars access the precinct but share space with pedestrian paths and private garden space. HI, lo and HI-lo houses are clustered in groups, offering many permutations for expansion and contraction of household occupant numbers, hobbies, home and work life over time.

The “HI” house features upper level living, with loft above. The upper level northern courtyard and surrounding communal landscape, offers resident privacy from the street and range of spaces to access. The house has two front doors, at “HI” and “lo” level, with floor layouts flexible for single level living on each. Variations might include home office studio, tenant or carer at lower level with living above or vice versa. We focussed on simple materials and standard construction techniques along with passive design features responding to the Canberra climate, with both the initial build cost and ongoing running costs kept affordable.

The precinct is articulated using slender pitched roof forms. These offer screening between houses, while the forms limit overshadowing. The result is a medium density precinct which allows for privacy and communal possibilities and with landscape weaved throughout.

Several spin-off projects on compact housing are now underway in Canberra.


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

I don’t want to over emphasise the challenge but from time to time there is marginalisation, similar to what no doubt applies in other industries and professions where there is under-representation. For some in the construction industry, women in senior roles is still a novelty. It’s a form of underestimation from people who don’t know you well, but being underestimated means you can surprise people when you get the job done anyway. I’ve always used it to focus me on whatever the project outcome is that I am trying to achieve instead.


Who do you look up to in the architecture profession?

I have a long list of women and men that I could offer – I guess it’s all the people I feel I have learnt from over the years. Alastair Swayn sits at the top of that list for his architectural values, strategic outlook, and his passion for the city of Canberra, architecture and the profession, as well as for his generosity.


What is a typical day at work involve for you?

Running a busy architectural practice, finishing my PhD and finishing renovations! In the business that means dividing my time between business administration, interacting with clients and the MDa team, design and 3D modelling. My PhD occupies some evenings and weekends.


What are you looking forward to in your career?

Completing my PhD mid-2016 and building the practice further; anyone who runs a practice will tell you how engaging that is. It has an “otherness” quality to it as well. I’ve found that in commercial practice, you have to facilitate the progress and performance of the team in your practice with all that this entails. It’s a pleasant irony really that you may own the practice, but it’s not really about you, but rather how you facilitate the progress of others — an important daily endeavour.


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

The integration of design and research into projects. But to be more precise, the quality of our design work is continually improving as we acquire more skills and techniques to investigate – really investigate – the needs and wants of the occupants of our built designs. I have always seen the “no bigger than necessary” agenda as a form of sustainable architecture but increasingly, this approach also has the potential to minimise the resource wastage that stems from built solutions that are unsuitable for the occupants and / or are difficult to change. I suspect this is a controversial point of reflection for the profession, but the body of social research on occupant satisfaction with medium density “small housing” of the last five decades justifies the sort of approach I am advocating. Research also challenges your preconceptions and this is essential to any creative endeavour.


Image: NEAT Housing competition entry by MDa

Women in Architecture: Caroline Stalker

Caroline Stalker, Director, Architectus and Adjunct Professor, School of Design, Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology

Caroline is an architect, urban designer, communicator and leader of teams for complex architectural, master planning and urban design projects. Her career spans 27 years and a range of project types demonstrating a sustained passion for enhancing people’s connection to the natural world and each other through design, and a keen sensibility for integrating architecture into its urban setting. Caroline’s work has been recognized in both AIA and PIA awards, and she is an Honorary Life Fellow of the Urban Design Alliance of Queensland, a member of The Queensland Board for Urban Places and the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Urban Design Committee.

What do you enjoy most in the practice of architecture?

Designing, building, communicating, thinking well – working from the big idea through to the detailed, thinking across scales. I work a lot on urban-scaled projects which means it can be many years before the thinking is translated into something built, so when that does happen it is particularly special. My career and interests have always focussed on the public realm, public life, nature in the city, building communities. Working with communities, clients and clever project teams on potentially transformative urban design is a real privilege.


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

Since 2008 I’ve been involved as a urban designer/master planner and architect at James Cook University in Townsville’s Discovery Rise. Located and built on the edge of Townsville in the 1960s when Universities were ‘a place apart’, in this century JCU is the keystone of an important Townsville employment hub and  is now seeking to reinvent itself as an energetic community of living and learning. JCU have had real clarity of purpose and understanding about the importance of great design and urban realm in achieving this. I’ve had the pleasure of working with JCU to establish an overarching master plan, design guidelines, detailed master plans for residential villages and the town centre. The master plan advances a concept of Dry Tropical Urbanism, where buildings are more like perforated green shade screens than solid volumes, and the public spaces of Discovery Rise offer respite and invite occupation even on very hot days. It’s a looser-fit urbanism than the walled urbanism of southern cities that emphasises landscape integration with mega-shade trees and woven or layered shade to mark and create urban places.  We have also completed a number of detailed master plans for the different precincts within Discovery Rise: the Mt Stuart St precinct and the Ideas Market; Discovery Village and Discovery Central West. Mt Stuart St and the Ideas Market are the heart and soul of Discovery Rise; Mt Stuart St is a shady slow speed people street, connecting with the Ideas Market; a mixed-use grand courtyard where JCU and the city meet. Discovery Village posits new models of medium density housing for Townsville, taking the idea of a three dimensional lattice to create housing forms where ‘cool tanks’ of air are created and cross ventilation is supported horizontally and vertically.

We’ve also been the architects for the first building of the new town centre, the Clinical Practices building.  It offers clinical practice, commercial and teaching spaces. It also contains a fresh food market, bottle shop, chemist, cafe;  all essential ‘starters’ for a new town centre. The design creates a filigree screen to the street edge, marking the corner strongly with the ‘brain coral’ screen, alluding to JCU’s research prowess – and progressive approach to its campus, which we have taken exceptional pleasure in being able to support over the years.  I feel very lucky to have been able to have an ongoing role, not only doing the design framework but then to be part of implementing the buildings, streets and spaces


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

Juggling very young children and architecture can be tricky – during this period of my life I stepped into an urban design role in a planning practice that worked very well, I had terrific bosses.   More recently probably guilt and stress about not putting enough time into my teenage children.  (Actually they are just fine; I’d still like to see more of them, but given their age I accept the feeling may not be mutual).   Very early on in my career I was sexually harassed; I think that was extremely common 30 years ago and is much less so now. I have encountered quite direct sexism at different times – it can be very demoralising.  But again I believe this is much less prevalent and acceptable now. I’ve been part of the generational change, and would now always suggest to other women that they ‘find their people’ – the workplaces where the culture fits the way they need to work and supports them – and those workplaces are more the norm now.


Who do you look up to in the architecture profession?

I’m pretty broad church.  Anyone who practices with integrity, clarity and depth of humanity.  Brit Andresen because she taught me well and I admire her intellect and ethics.  WOHA for their great clarity and skill. Erskine and Ted Cullinan’s practice were early career heroes for their blend of social and design concerns. Kuma for poetic minimalism, also SANAA. Snohetta because they are collaborative but also great designers. The current crop of Spanish ‘critical regionalists’ for their humanistic and climatically oriented architecture.


What is a typical day at work involve for you?

Constant juggling of priorities – leading projects, the practice, client relationships, meetings, presentations, business development. If I’m lucky a bit of quiet design or thinking/writing work.


What are you looking forward to in your career?

The next great project that is always just around the corner!


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

I believe my key strengths to be in the areas of strategy and conceptual thinking, then driving those ideas through to realisation in collaboration with other skilled people. I’m a reasonably strong communicator who can bring people together around a shared design vision. My ability to think at the urban scale and drive that down into the detailed scale consequences of that thinking is also useful and I understand not super-common. And in the end I really like doing it, despite the difficulties, hours, all the challenges we all face in the profession, I fundamentally really love being an architect.  So enthusiasm and consistency are probably strengths too.


The University of Queensland Women’s College team at a project inception meeting in the Architectus  Brisbane office. From left interior designer Bill McIlwraith, co-director Elizabeth Watson Brown, director Caroline Stalker, architect Jennifer Palmer, graduate architect Jessica Spresser, former director Mark Jones

Women in Architecture: Georgia Singleton

Georgia Singleton, Global Director of Health, Education and Science at Woods Bagot


photo_GeorgiaSingleton (2)


As a Global Director of Health, Education and Science at Woods Bagot Georgia has continued to provide a strong commitment to the sector’s ongoing development across the globe. Having worked on a diverse range and scale of architectural and interiors focused projects, she seeks to push traditional building and fit-out typologies with dynamic, highly integrated and research-driven solutions.


What do you enjoy most in the practice of architecture?

The role of architecture is changing. We are problem solvers and thought leaders of the future for business, universities, governments and schools. In education, science and healthcare, where research led design enables great design outcomes, we are seeing a paradigm shift not borne from aesthetics, but rather cross-discipline collaboration.

I love the fact that design is never your own; its fluid and constantly changing and evolving. Design is also a collective notion – you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. It’s those talented individuals and research designers I work with every day that really inspire me, make me move.


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

I have been involved in a number of key projects including the University of Sydney Business School, Nan Tien’s Institute and Cultural Centre, University of Western Sydney’s campus redevelopment and the UNSW Australian School of Business & Bioscience projects.


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

Before my time at Woods Bagot I worked in a company that didn’t respect women’s ideas, thoughts and values. I was quite bemused by this as being a woman in architecture allows a different voice.

As a woman we bring different ideologies to the fore and it helps create dynamism in an organisation.  It’s so important to nurture female talent rather than stymie it and recognising female excellence in architecture is what I strive to do at Woods Bagot.


Who do you look up to in the architecture profession?

It would have to be Woods Bagot Executive Chairman Ross Donaldson and Global Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Nik Karalis. Both men truly inspire me. They have changed the shape of Woods Bagot, the way we design and have shown the true essence of what it means to be global design leaders.

In terms of people I have been influenced by, I would say Alvar Aalto. Every time I experience one of his buildings, I get reignited. I studied him a lot and love how he compresses space and then expands it. I love the siting, the fluidity, the fact that it’s NOT polite. I love that.


What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I love the diversity of my role.  It’s everything from design to managing a team, board decisions, dealing with stakeholders and clientele and dealing with managing a global sector.


What are you looking forward to in your career?

Right now I am at the pinnacle of my career. There will definitely be more challenges ahead but at the same time I am confident and equipped to handle these because of the support I have at Woods Bagot and the comfort that I have the right team of people around me to make sound decisions.


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

I see myself as a good facilitator of design and a person that brings together the right team of people. The great thing about Woods Bagot is that the model is built around co-authorship so it’s not just one person’s design it’s collective. By having a model that harnesses combined talent it enables us to produce the best design outcomes like when we worked on the University of Sydney’s business school and UNSW biosciences.

120021_N85_screenlow (2)  120280_N42_screenlow

Images (L-R): Nan Tien Education and Cultural Centre, Sydney University Business School, photos by Peter Bennetts

Women in Architecture: Ingrid Bakker

Ingrid Bakker, Principal HASSELL

141006 Ingrid Bakker 0650 (2)


Ingrid is a Principal of HASSELL in Melbourne and part of the Regional Management team, overseeing the Eastern Region of Australia. She is a registered architect with 20 years of experience in both the architectural and interior design industries.


What do you enjoy most in the practice of architecture?

I really enjoy the variety in architecture – things come in from left‐field when you least expect it.
Almost every day an exciting new project opportunity comes in the door, and they’re often largescale, city‐changing, important projects that I’m really enthusiastic about.


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

I’ve been really lucky to be involved in some amazing projects, particularly in Melbourne. My first project was the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, which was an unbeatable learning environment. I was involved in the interior design of the Westin Hotel in Melbourne. Working as an architect on an intensive hospitality interior project was also a great learning experience.

Recently, I’ve been involved in the new headquarters for Medibank at 720 Bourke Street, Melbourne. It was a fantastic project to lead. It took a lot to win the project and then deliver it in a very short timeframe. We’re all very proud of the end result and the tenants are rapt with the environment that we’ve created for them. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know we’ve created a building that people love being in.


What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I don’t think there is a typical day at work for me. As regional manager at HASSELL, I travel interstate almost weekly, so my day varies depending on whether I’m in our Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide or Melbourne studios. My time is split between meeting with clients and leading teams to win new work, and working one‐on‐one with staff across the region.

My day often doesn’t start at 9 and finish at 5. I might be up at 5am to catch a flight and not home until fairly late in the evening. I balance this by not working at the weekend so I can spend quality time with my family.


What are you looking forward to in your career?

I’m always looking forward to the next project. As HASSELL increases its international presence I’m really excited about the opportunities and the potential of working on projects in other locations. I’m very fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people ‐ both within HASSELL and the organisations we partner with on projects.


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

I’m a people person, so my core strength is my ability to bring the right people together in a collaborative team. With the right team you can understand and respond to a client’s brief and ultimately create the best result.

I genuinely enjoy collaborating with others, and I also love winning, so I’m able to get people inspired about a project and what we’re trying to do.

In this competitive industry it’s necessary to have that desire to win, but I also recognise the need for resilience given that you can’t win everything. You have to roll with the punches a little bit and dust yourself off and keep going when things don’t quite go your way. I’m very optimistic and generally very positive, so I’m always looking for the best in people and situations.


A000252_N305_medium   A000252_N401_medium (2)

Images: Medibank, 720 Bourke St
Photographer: Peter Bennetts