Digital magazine and media start-up Madame Architect is celebrating Women’s History Month with a major milestone, publishing its 400th interview! The publication, which will celebrate its 5th anniversary in May, has highlighted hundreds of “extraordinary women that shape our world” across its various content verticals including Feature Interviews, Days With, NextGen, the Expert, and Team Interviews. Most of those interviews were conducted by Madame Architect Founder and Editor in Chief Julia Gamolina. Gamolina is a trained architect who serves as an Associate Principal and Business Development Director at Ennead Architects as well as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute. In conducting Madame Architect interviews, Gamolina had the opportunity to sit down with a diverse array of women in the industry to discuss their work and their unique experiences as women in a traditionally male-dominated field.
“Beyond the number itself, what’s most meaningful to me about this milestone is that it represents a significant compilation of different ways women’s stories, perspectives, and expertise are shared – be it through a holistic story of their career, a look into their day, their aspirations for the future of the industry, an essay on their design and research interests, or a team initiative that is wholly women-led,” she told Untapped New York. Gamolina expressed thanks to her team – Amy Stone, Gail Kutac, Pat Dimond, Kate Reggev, Kate Mazade, Julia Chou, and Sydne Nance – for all of their contributions to this exciting achievement.
For Untapped New York, Gamolina dug into the archives to curate a list of 10 interviews that offer a sample of the fascinating profiles published. The list exemplifies the wide variety of ways women enter the architecture industry and the many different paths they take to build their careers and navigate life. Below, you’ll find excerpts from Gamolina’s interviews and quotes from each interview subject about their advice for those just starting out in the field! You can share Madame Architect profiles that have inspired you by tagging #MadameArchitect400 on social media.
1. Doula x Design: Kim Holden on Her New Practice, Birth Empowerment, and Advocating for Women and Girls
Kim Holden was one of the Founding Principals of SHoP. In addition to her design role, as Managing Principal, Kim guided SHoP’s strategic development, shaped its operations and staff, and spearheaded cultural initiatives for the studio as it grew from 5 to over 200 people. Along the way, she worked with many young, talented professional women and mentored them in work and in life – one of her favorite aspects of the job. After almost 30 years in the design world, Kim switched careers, founded DOULA X DESIGN, and is now honored to support women as a birth and postpartum doula. Kim earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Vermont and a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University, receiving several awards for design and research.
Gamolina: You’ve really seen and done it all – what advice do you have for those in architecture, for women in architecture, and for those that may eventually want to transition into something else?
Holden: I attribute SHoP’s success, in part, to the five of us coming to architecture from different academic backgrounds. That was very impactful in the early days and so as we grew, we looked for and embraced each staff member’s “special sauce”– a passion or experience that helped define who they are. People are great architects when they bring other things to the table that inform their problem-solving skills, their designs, and their practice.
When I think about what brings me joy, it is the same things I loved in childhood, high school, and college. In my conversations with my daughters about the pursuits that they enjoy, I tell them, “Those are the things you’re going to continue to love, so always look for ways, outlets, and paths that will allow you to do them.” My advice is to keep doing what you love that doesn’t have anything to do with architecture, and guard that fiercely. Those passions will help fulfill you both as a person and as a designer.
Read Holden’s full interview on Madame Architect where she talks about what she’s learned from building a wildly successful practice, and her transition from architect to doula, advising those just starting their careers to fiercely guard their “special sauce.”
2. Madame CEO: Sheela Søgaard on Executing a Vision, Raising a Family, and Solving for Mission Critical
As Chief Executive Officer and Partner at Bjarke Ingels Group, Sheela Søgaard manages the overall health and growth of the studio’s 500+ designers and support functions globally. Prior to joining BIG as Chief Financial Officer in 2008, Sheela led Business Development efforts for Danish culinary entrepreneur and NOMA co-founder Claus Meyer and before that, she developed strategic solutions at McKinsey & Company. Having roots in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Denmark, Sheela holds a Master’s degree from Copenhagen Business School.
Gamolina: What advice do you have for those who want to start and run their own practices? For those just starting their careers?
Søgaard: For those starting their own firms, if you can’t, at the beginning, afford business staff, make sure you get business advice; someone to help you establish some guiding principles and a pain threshold of when you engage in a project so that you curb your investment in it. Not curb your enthusiasm necessarily, but match your enthusiasm with your business structure. And really only work with and hire people that energize you, and that represent you.
To those starting their careers, select the people that you want to work with. Also, there are so many great companies, so many great people, and so many great initiatives, that you don’t have to be stuck in something that you don’t enjoy or in a company where you don’t feel like you’re advancing or evolving or being allowed to contribute in a meaningful way. There are so many things you can do in the world, and form, and be part of, that there’s almost no limits to what you can expand into.
Read the full interview where Sheela speaks with Gamolina at length about her path before and at BIG, and her experiences as a mother, advising young architects to know what their mission-critical is and to work with people who energize them.