Project Me

I am actively working on a personal project: Project Me.

(I can see all of your eyes rolling right now.)

Let me explain a little further. I am an architect with fifteen years of experience including license, a title, and my name attached to some pretty cool built projects. But I am also an individual who does not have this whole ‘being a professional thing’ ingrained enough for me to roll on autopilot. In other words, I work hard at this and I am always a work in progress.

On the other hand, why would you want an autopilot-architect—one that assumes they know what you need with rote actions and little struggle? I am still learning… daily. This is the nature of being an architect: our buildings work best when static*, but our best thinking takes on a more fluid form.

Things I am actively working through:

  • What is the value of architecture?
  • What is my value as a female architect in a profession that is primarily male?
  • What is my societal and cultural responsibility?

*By static, I mean don’t fall down like this. To be clear I love kinetic design because it’s just that cool.

What is the value of architecture?

I have explored this in previous posts, but I find it fascinating that the design of the places we live, work, and play for the most part are an afterthought in US construction. In a context when cost, expediency, and the assumption that ‘architects are just too expensive’ trump creating spaces that can make a difference in the health and delight of the people they live in, it shortchanges all. Architects see things that others cannot. Architects understand the nuance of making great spaces. The solution will take work from all sides, from architects in learning how to better convey their value and public/clients demanding that quality of attention in their buildings. I have not lost hope, but I also know this will be an ongoing and worthwhile project.

What is my value as a female architect in a profession that is primarily male?

It’s too late for me—I know the score—for better or worse I am in the gender minority for my profession. I have made my peace with this fact, but what gives me hope is that the generations of architects, men and women, following me see a more equitable future. I have been fortunate to call upon many mentors and role models throughout my career of all genders. I have realized that if I endure in this architecture professio and can be of use to just one or two other female architects along the way, I have been valuable. I was so struck by Allison Williams FAIA when she said at the 2015 AIA Women’s Leadership Summit: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” My value as a female architect is both being seen and in just being.

What is my societal and cultural responsibility?

The thing that I get most energized by recently are the little moments of when people in my community discover I’m an architect and begin to ask the questions they have always wanted to ask but couldn’t. I adhere strongly to the ‘do no harm’ principle as an architect. I am embracing these little moments to educate people one-on-one with what I do and how what I do helps create better feelings, spaces, and collaboration. It also feels really, really good.

I am a work in progress. Like many projects, Project Me, has a flexible deadline, but I am enjoying the milestones along the way.

This post was written as part of Bob Borson’s #ArchiTalks series—a monthly series to encourage architects to write about a single topic. This month’s topic is “My First Project.” Please see links below to check out the views of others:


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Emily is an Architect, Mother of 2, and Somerville, MA resident.

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