9th March 2018

Women in Architecture Q&A: Meadhbh Caldwell

In conjunction with International Womens Day, TODD Architects are celebrating Women in Architecture with a Q&A series with the female members of our talented team.

To launch the series we meet with Architect Meadhbh Caldwell and she discusses what first drew her to architecture, her approach to design, and being a woman in the profession.

What inspired you to be an architect?

I’ve always been obsessed with space and the impact it can have on a person. I was lucky enough to be at a school that moved into a new building during my time there. It was the first modern building I had been in that I used every aspect of and understood it was designed for my experience as a pupil. The effect of that building sparked an interest that was encouraged throughout my education and continues through my work today.

Should architecture offer a radical vision? Is it the role of an architect to be a visionary?

A visionary seems like a big title to undertake! I think occasionally the opportunity presents for an Architect to create something that they believe will inspire future designers and define something original in design. Even in a very a commercial environment Architects are always planning the future, rarely would it be considered radical but often innovation is promoted regardless of the nature of the project.

What is your view of women’s role in architecture today?

I would consider it to be the same as a mans role in architecture. I am optimistically beginning my career with the assumption there are no limits for me because I am a woman. Men in architecture need to actively ensure discrimination doesn’t continue to be commonplace. With the current imbalance of men to women in the profession it is key that male architects also respond to inequality in the workplace, as they make up to majority of most offices, site meetings and board rooms.

What projects are you currently working on? 

As part of the education team in the office I am working on several school projects ranging from new schools currently on site in Omagh, Modular construction school expansion across multiple sites in Surrey and feasibility for local school redevelopment. I am also lucky to be involved with the redevelopment of the former BHS unit in Belfast City centre which brings huge challenges from its high-profile position in the city centre and the implications of working in the conservation area.

What are the biggest challenges and the most rewarding elements of your work?

The most challenging aspect of the job I have found since graduating has been the level of knowledge expected of an architect on all areas always. This will build with experience, but it is clearly important to define your role in a project and if the knowledge isn’t there seek help from experienced colleagues.

The most rewarding part of the job for me is not always a completed project handed over, but smaller skills learned each day in the office or knowledge gained during site visits. There is a lot to learn after university, but its hugely rewarding to see your professional development and confidence in your own skills grow over time.

What words of advice would you offer young girls wishing to pursue a career in architecture today?

DON’T DO IT! – No only joking!

It’s a very rewarding career that needs more women than ever to change the perception of the industry. It’s a long time studying and a busy work life after that. Be prepared to work hard, but if you have a passion for design and the drive to push yourself it provides opportunity to change the built environment and positively impact on people’s lives.