What attracted you to work in architecture?
I always knew I wanted to have a career rooted in creativity, but I didn’t seriously set my sights on architecture until the end of college. I initially studied Interior Design but then went straight on to pursue a Masters in Architecture. I think the seed was always there though. I was born, raised, and currently reside in Coral Gables, Florida where we have a wealth of beautiful Old Spanish homes, one of which I grew up in. I watched as my parents transformed the run-down 1920s house into a home full of detail and beauty. They taught me about vision and being able to see past a neglected exterior or a blank page.
Describe a typical working day for you…
I wake up before anyone else in the house in order to squeeze in a quick workout before jumping in the shower, making lunches, and getting myself ready for work. After I’ve dropped off our two young boys at school, I rush off to the office to start my day. These days I’m doing a mixture of working from home as well as working in the office. Once in front of my computer, I dig right in since time without the distraction of two little ones is limited these days. I’m usually designing in AutoCad and sketching, completing image research, and taking Zoom calls with clients and my team. A good podcast, audiobook, or music is a must.
Can you tell us about 1-2 challenges you faced throughout the course of your career, and how you overcame them?
Obtaining my architectural license was a long process, one that took me about five years and two pregnancies to get through. I started setting aside my lunch hour to study and took advantage of the study community within our own office for motivation.
At a certain point, I realized my skill set needed some updating, especially within the 3D realm. I asked to be put on a project using Revit and have learned a ton by being thrown into the fire. I’m currently learning SketchUp as well through the same process.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Working at Baha Mar in the Bahamas in conjunction with SB Architects has afforded me the opportunity to lead the design of two amazing restaurants. Since Baha Mar is known for its spectacular, out-of-the-box ideas, the client was keen to pursue ideas that might have otherwise been disregarded initially for budgetary or feasibility reasons. Not only did I get to lead the design, but I was able to be a part of the construction administration process. The sweet finale was being able to finally enjoy a meal and a margarita in one of the over-water dining pavilions we designed.
What do you see as some of the challenges facing women in Architecture?
At a fundamental/human level, I think it’s challenging when a woman becomes not just a mother, but a mother with a career that she’s worked a long time to have. Funny enough, we often don’t reach that point in our career until we are about to become a mother. As far as architecture goes, it’s for the most part been a man’s world although that’s really changing. Still, however, most developers in the room are men and it’s important as women that we let our voice be heard and know that we have a seat at the table too.
What advice would you give to young women aspiring to a similar career path?
As women, and often mothers, we are great multi-taskers and time managers. Don’t wait for the opportunity but instead speak up about what your goals are. Also, know it’s ok to offer up ideas and speak up in every setting. Most of the senior leadership I work with are so busy that I think they appreciate it when someone else is willing to take the reins on a new initiative.
What advice did you receive early in your career that has stayed with you?
On my first day of work at SB architects, the late Joe Andriola gave me my first assignment… a very non-exciting switching plan for a lighting layout. He told me with a smile, “look, I know it’s just a switching plan, but make it the best switching plan ever to have existed”. So, no matter how mundane or seemingly useless your task might be you should always be proud of your work at the end of the day.
Interview with: Lucienne Walpole, Vice President and Senior Designer