For the third Q&A of our Women in Architecture series we meet with Senior Architect Brona Marshall. She discusses what and where first inspired her to study architecture, her interpretation of women’s current status in the profession, her no barriers approach and the importance of choosing the right practice…
What inspired you to be an architect?
Visiting Venice during a family holiday to Italy. It was my first family holiday abroad. I was amazed by the architectural detailing on the buildings in St. Mark’s Square, the Piazza and the interconnecting Piazzetta. As a student I had the opportunity to visit Italy again several years later on a field trip. Destinations on the field trip included Venice, Verona and Vicenza. There is nothing quite like sitting sketching beautiful buildings in the sun. It helped me observe and appreciate the use of materials / scale / proportion and architectural techniques. That year for Christmas each of my sisters received framed sketches of some of the Italian buildings I had visited.
Should architecture offer a radical vision? Is it the role of an architect to be a visionary?
Architects should be radical, it is good to approach work in a way that favours challenging the expected. However, only if the risks associated with this approach can be managed.
Architects as visionaries? It is fine being a dreamer with some highly speculative ideas although at some stage reality often kicks in.
What is your view of women’s role in architecture today?
Women are still in the minority; however, we should not dwell on this. What is important is that both women and men should have roles in architecture where there are no barriers to fulfilling their potential.
What projects have you been involved in?
I have had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects. In the early part of my career I spent 11 years working on a wide-ranging mix of commercial schemes, media and airport projects. In the last 10 years I have been working on various projects for schools, universities and sports facilities. Currently I am working on a school project, an airport masterplan and a new training college redevelopment scheme.
What are the biggest challenges and the most rewarding elements of your work?
The major challenge of work is ensuring that the completed buildings retain their quality whilst implementing the stringent regulations that are put in place by statutory bodies and funding constraints along with the contractor’s appetite for altering specifications – not to mention keeping the clients happy.
The most rewarding part of the work is receiving positive feedback from clients, this makes it all worthwhile especially in projects that are driven much more by the design than by the economics. I also enjoy seeing the finished building in full use as planned.
What words of advice would you offer young girls wishing to pursue a career in architecture today?
Consider not only the broad range of skills but also the stamina and resilience required to study architecture. It is a long course. You will need to believe in your abilities. Try to surround yourself with the right mentors and support network to create a nurturing environment because the tutoring at university can at times be based on a critical culture.
Examine all your options when considering your first employer. The variety of work offered is important as is the working environment and culture within the office. A positive working environment is vital, and you want to be in an office where everyone’s work is valued, and everyone can see how their contribution makes a difference.