My journey has been long. A door opens and I say, ‘I’ll do that.’ I always wanted to own my own practice. I spent maybe 6-7 years working for other people and often the dream felt more and more distant. Now I’ve had Schored Projects for four years. I’m the sole director. Prior to Schored, I had a practice with Graeme Gunn for 6 years.
I’m an architect first and foremost. I went back to University and completed my Masters in Landscape Architecture a few years ago. My practice works in both disciplines and we integrate both as much as possible. I started my architecture course at Deakin, completed a couple of subjects at the University of Melbourne, then graduated at RMIT. Melbourne was about catching up on subjects so I could graduate a little earlier. Deakin, I didn’t enjoy the location in Geelong and I wasn’t getting enough out of their design approach and at the time I had my eyes set on being a design architect which RMIT offered.
The only time I become nervous running a business is when the finances get a bit low, or I haven’t had a new job in a while, but I do absolutely love it. You’re a master of your own destiny. My time is my own. It allows great flexibility in life. I just bought a house with my partner, so I do a couple of days renovating with her now. I have a full-time staff member and a part time student in the office.
I’ve worked on trying to build up my Client base with housing associations and we now work regularly with about five of them. I try to touch base with them every few months. Word of mouth is important. The most recent job we won was because a CEO talking to another CEO of a housing association and recommending they speak with me.
My social values come from the way my Mum has bought me up and her influence. She was a nurse. Thinking about other people and not just yourself. The social work we do is to bring good design to people, regardless of their socioeconomic position. It’s really easy to design a house for someone who has money and can spend it. I want to get really good design out there for everyone whilst enjoying working to a budget.
The biggest social housing project we are working on at the moment is a design for Launch Housing on VicRoads land, designing transportable housing on Ballarat Road in Footscray to house people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. I had designed a transportable unit about five years ago for a competition, and we were shortlisted. I went around and showed housing associations what we had achieved. Launch Housing came back to me last year and said ‘Can we still do that?’
To get it off the ground has taken a little longer than we had hoped. The planning system hasn’t worked in our favour. There’s been a bit of the ‘NIMBGs’ (not in my back garden). There’s 9 sites, across 14 Titles. We secured most permits before Christmas and were trying to stay out of the media loop. But The Age got a hold of the story and we received about 80 objections on each of the last five applications. They tried to argue it was about amenity and neighbourhood character. Really it was because they don’t want perceived drug addicts, ex cons, whatever they can think of, living in their area. We have secured all the permits now, we just have to complete the delivery.
You’ve got to try and find your path, don’t listen to the bullshit and don’t get caught up in someone else’s path. That can be difficult, particularly in architecture. Not everyone is meant to be a design architect, winning awards and be published in magazines. I tried doing that for a few years, but it just wasn’t my path. I felt insincere, like keeping up with the Joneses. Don’t keep up with the Joneses, would be my advice. I found my path in social and affordable housing. It was hard to pull away from what I expected from myself. You get to a point where you can reject the idea.
I’ve always been good with work-life balance. There is often a whole expectation of being a martyr and doing overtime. My whole approach was to be out the door at 6:00pm. Time management is a skill.
My mum always told me to be honest. I’m honest to a fault at times. I’m the worst liar ever. In the industry, sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it. I’m hopeless at that. My honesty has gotten me to where I am today. And also probably Graeme. Who taught me ‘You don’t say yes to every job.’ Always get the client in first, because these projects take so long. You have to be able to get along with the people we work with.
Sophie plays a strong female voice in our world of social architecture today. Not only is she a driving force behind Melbourne’s urban environment, she is also promoting how we as a society have the capacity to change our community development. She certainly embodies a fearlessness role model to all women in the architecture industry. Not afraid to call it like it is, her success is a result of her honest, no bullsh*t attitude. Thank you for meeting with us Sophie, it was so refreshing to hear such a genuine perspective on life. All the best with your renovation!
How many times have you heard the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, automatically associating it with women and gender politics. It’s a pretty common association in Australia, given all the media analysis of women’s participation in everything from politics to AFLW.
I want you to stop and think about what does diversity really mean to you? Why should it even matter? How do you think about it in your day to day?
Think about the last time you felt different. Uncomfortable with a situation. A time, where you felt left out or excluded. How did it make you feel? There have certainly been times when I have felt vulnerable, anxious and isolated due to feelings of exclusion. Unable to speak out, hindered by my surroundings.
On the other hand, I have felt the privilege of oblivion. I have followed the crowd on one or more occasions, feeling safe and grounded. No doubt, many of us have experienced both extremes.
Diversity comes in a myriad of forms, shapes and sizes. Ethnicity, gender, age and disability, scrape the surface. The obvious, outwardly overt reasons to exclude someone. Yet it’s the deeper dimensions of diversity traits, those that sit below the surface; often harder to see, that can often be overlooked without a second thought. Traits like values, life experiences, education, sexual orientation, political views and beliefs can all contribute to how you view your world.
The advantages to diversity in the workplace are plentiful. It has shown to facilitate businesses by improving ethical and good, decision-making within teams. Increase brand and reputation amongst customers and competitors. Provide a competitive advantage for talent attraction and retention. Maintain employee engagement. And has also shown to have improved links to safety and innovations gains.
So why is it so difficult to implement? Diversity is known to create conflict early on within teams. Often these uncomfortable situations are avoided at all costs because most people think they will remain this way permanently. It is in fact, quite the opposite. Although uncomfortable to begin with, diversity has been shown rewards of productivity over time. At the opposite spectrum, homogenous teams can remain static and inhibitive.
We all want to talk-the-talk with regards to diversity but we’re generally not walking it. Why? Because our evaluations are typically unconscious. We all have bias. Whether it be affinity bias; the feeling of relating to someone who is like minded is common and most natural. Alternatively confirmation bias; having views confirmed rather than challenged, can result in information and evidence been discounted. This being largely reflective of our social media foray.
Biases can be filtered through priming or stereotyping. What are we inadvertently expecting when we meet new people? Are there situations where we group think? Are we playing to perceived assumptions clouding our judgement of reality?
What can we do to change this? How do you ensure you don’t give in to bias? It’s as simple as becoming aware. It is important that our workplaces and the people in them, grow and learn to become places that are safe and where people can experience true inclusion. Question, Listen and Start the conversation. Ask yourself, what cultural-add is going to occur with this decision? Is the mix being challenged?
Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to get people’s thoughts on the matter. Play a point of devil’s advocate. Think about all the possible solutions. Put your view last in order to reduce the potential of priming and encourage openness.
How many people have felt safe to challenge you and your perspective lately? How are you cultivating change?
I graduated in the early 1980’s from my town and regional planning course at the University of Melbourne. I was there when the faculty building was cobbled together from various different donations of building materials from building companies – very different from the exceptional architectural composition that is now the Melbourne School of Design. My best subject in school was geography and I was always intrigued by patterns of human settlement. I was always interested in maps and as a young girl I spent hours poring over dog-eared Melways editions. When it came to working out what I was going to study for a career, it was always going to be in town planning.
After I completed my studies I worked for a short time in local government and then did what a lot of Australians still do and traveled overseas to London. I got a job as a planner for the City of Westminster working on the initial proposal to extend the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. That project went through an appeal process and involved what the British planning system calls an ‘inquiry’. Ultimately the proposal was not successful. Returning to London many times since, I often visit the National Gallery and reflect on what was finally constructed and is now known as the Sainsbury Wing – a restrained neoclassical building. It sits well alongside its host building looking over Trafalgar Square.
After returning to Melbourne in 1986 I joined Tract Consultants where I stayed for 10 years eventually becoming a partner in the practice. Tract grew out of the Merchant Builders Company, which pioneered free siting techniques and site response design that was reflected in its Vermont Park and Winter Park cluster housing projects.
At that time the marriage of the disciplines of landscape architecture and town planning was revolutionary and together they demonstrate how urban form and where we live, can be so much better. I learnt an enormous amount from my Tract colleagues and importantly Howard McCorkell and Rodney Wulff. It was an inspirational time and Tract gave me opportunities that I am thankful for to this day.
In 1996 I established my own firm and extended my area of practice in design-led planning solutions often in projects with urban design, landscape or heritage considerations. At the same time I was appointed by the then Minister for Planning Rob McClellan, to Victoria’s Heritage Council and subsequently as Chairman of the Council. At this time a new Heritage Act was given effect, which broadened the concept of heritage significance. No longer was it just about buildings but also gardens, cultural landscapes, objects and industrial processes.
My area of professional interest and capabilities was developing at the intersection of urban planning, statutory controls, place-making and project facilitation and I was keen to extend this area of practice into partnerships with urban designers.
About 8 years ago I joined a longtime former Tract colleague at my current firm Message Consultants, which comprises both town planners and urban designers. Our projects for the private sector and government clients often involve urban design and heritage issues as well as visual and landscape impact assessments and of course, advice on the development approval process. So much of what is characterised today as urban design is what I used to know as town planning. The challenge is that built form, landscape and heritage outcomes are primarily delivered through statutory controls so I think there is a clear role for the bridging skills that Message Consultants offers.
There are two aspects to starting any business. The first being the practical one, such as securing a small office space and the necessary IT resources. The second aspect to any successful practice is the development of networks with a client base and with your colleagues. I have learnt that cultivating and maintaining good relationships is critical and its value can’t be underestimated.
To be consultant and a trusted advisor is a nuanced role. As someone who is involved in the planning and design professions you are asked for advice on a wide range of projects. Discretion, integrity and a balanced clear-eyed view are critical. Learning or honing these skills takes time and I was very fortunate in having great mentors.
When I commenced my university course the gender split between men and women was about 50/50 with this ratio generally being maintained for about 5 years into my career. However, the number of women working as a consultant in the private sector reduced considerably after then. There were many times where I would attend meetings and I was the only woman there.
Thirty five years on and things have changed. There are certainly many more women in senior positions in both government and the private sector. However I think that professional prejudice against women and traditional resistance to women being taken seriously, has shifted to more subtle signals. The use of language and unconscious bias still remains. As Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book “Lean In”, a lot has to do with women being able to ‘lean in’ without being seen as a pushy bitch.
We have come a long way though. My parents arrived from Britain in 1955. My mother was university educated and a qualified librarian. Notwithstanding this, she was ineligible for positions in public libraries because of her ‘married’ woman status. It turned her into a lifelong feminist (to my advantage). She eventually found work at the Baillieu Library where she was very happy. At the time however jobs were advertised with a female wage and a separate higher male wage for the same position with exactly the same responsibilities.
I’m so disappointed to hear younger women (and some older women including a senior female federal government minister) say they are not a feminist. I don’t think being a feminist is anything more than saying we’ve got the skills and we should be given the same opportunities in the same way as men are.
I think my advice to any young professional women revolves around style and substance:
Style – I can remember being advised by a university lecturer in preparing us for the world outside, that women should lower the pitch of their voice and dress soberly to be taken seriously. Well times have changed, but not that much.
Substance – Do your best and focus on where you want to be. Women tend to be very hard judges of themselves. Don’t be too harsh on yourself when something doesn’t go your way.
I think there’s a lot to be said for that collegiate relationship of women – seek out supportive female colleagues. I also think that there are some good mentors to be found in men, especially those that have daughters.
My mother always told me to do my best. My mother always worked outside the home. When I look back at her life now, it must have been very hard for a young English bride to be on the other side of the world and seeking employment in a new country where it mattered that you were married. I’m proud of all that she achieved.
We met Catherine at Melbourne wonder Punch Lane, one evening. Catherine is a quiet, considered, powerhouse of a woman, epitomising the advice offered in her interview; speaking with substance, whilst impeccably dressed in what is obviously her own signature style. She has been devoted to her profession for so many years. Her knowledge and involvement in the industry has undoubtedly shaped Melbourne today and will continue to be formative in the industry for years to come. We feel so privileged to meet people like Catherine who made a name for themselves in the industry in a time when the discussion around equality and diversity was but a small, pulled thread in the social fabric of the western world. Where sacrifices were greater and the road less traveled. We wish Catherine all the best for the rest of 2018!
As much as Justine and I try to pour our time and efforts into Gazella, we are usually absolutely time poor and often also lacking in motivation. True fact! That’s not to say we are motivated about making a difference – we are! But, sometimes after a 65 hour week full of battles and trials, it’s hard to get the lappie out and type out an hour interview, or even worse – spend some time internally reflecting. Not to mention, neither of us are writers, so writing takes us…well a long time…
Let’s face it. Love jobs, require love. And sometimes I’m too tired to even brush my hair. I’ve taken to ‘letting my mane out’ as the blokes on site like to say…secretly I’m too tired in the morning to hunt for the hair ties that my kitten steals during the night.
However, you know what we have learnt here at Gazella? There is nothing like meeting people to bring opportunity knocking. Meeting amazing women that help us in ways we could never have foreseen or imagined. Chance meetings that have become friendships. Momentary conversations that have lead to ongoing dialogues. Introductions that have snowballed into networks.
Back when we were fresh, newly-minted bloggers we were lucky enough to interview the phenomenal Danni Addison, CEO of the UDIA. An absolute moment for both of us. I mean…we left our meeting with her, questioning our entire lives. Both of us were in awe of her. Danni was our age. Already a CEO. Walking a path of influence we could only aspire to. However, Danni saw the worth of the story-telling at Gazella and she invited us to bring Gazella to a live audience in 2016.
Two weeks ago we completed our third live panel. Thanks once again to the UDIA and in particular their Women in Property network. The energy in the room was electric. Women engaging in real conversations around their experiences. We always aim to have a cross section of ages and experiences on our panel, and this year was no exception with Nicole Brown, Sarah Horsfield, Susan Oliver and Hayley Mitchell joining us to tell their stories and offer their words of advice.
I want to be real for a moment. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I feel like an imposter some times in these situations. Probably something we have all felt at times?
At work I’m (kinda) looking after my first project. My team are great, but they barely know about Gazella. On the night we undertake our third live panel, I quietly say, ‘Hey, sorry guys, I have to leave early tonight,’ then leave later then I meant to and battle traffic all the way to the city, where I walk into a room full of women that are probably more confident and accomplished than me. I’m too stressed to speak to anyone, because I left my notes in the car in the carpark I sprinted from across the city. I look at my boots in dismay, as I walk into the venue late – they are covered in mud. At least they are authentic?
Justine and I take the stage with these women who have made their mark in the built environment. I put on my best acting face. If there is one thing I CAN do, it’s get on stage and perform, an architecture degree and years of taking the stage in pointe shoes will bring you a level of ‘game face’. Having said that, I was nervous as hell, being extremely aware that again, I haven’t brushed my hair, my boots are REALLY dirty, I haven’t changed from site, where we were busy pouring a ground slab, so I’m actually just really dirty all over and I’m sure that I’m going to be fairly incoherent because I’m my usual tired mess.
It all goes well of course. Justine and I, from years of interviews, have found a way to settle into a pattern of question asking and covering for each other. There’s a nice natural flow between us and our panelists are in sync with that in the best way. Nicole’s youth and passion, Sarah’s brash confidence, Hayley’s calm consideration and Susan’s bold opinions crystallised on years of experience.
In the end, I have to remind myself, that despite how I felt. Despite the self doubt. It was Justine and I that made the night possible. Not without help and support of course (we love you UDIA), but even though what I have achieved personally often fails to feel like anything, together at Gazella, we have managed to create something to be proud of. A network and a tribe of people bought together because of our effort to INSPIRE, CELEBRATE and CREATE AWARENESS. There is an old adage that we are stronger together. And at GAZELLA that is certainly true. So we hope you continue to spread the word about Gazella and the stories of the women that we share.
So with that I leave you with some words from our panelists. Thanks to these women for being such inspirations to so many. And for making change in our industry.
Considering the cross section of insights and generations across the panel, it is very apparent that women are being heard. It’s so important to look at the positives and celebrate the progression from when Susan graduated, until now. The opportunities women are given today are inspirational in themselves and I believe it is so important, as discussed on the panel, to not wait to be recognized or asked, but to go out there and actively pursue your dreams! Don’t focus on an implications being a woman may hold – know that we are all equal, and go out into the world with the assumption that nothing and no one can hold you back. As women, we should be the first to stop questioning our equality and position based on gender. The rest of the world will follow.
It was a privilege to speak on a panel with such successful women in their own fields. The different perspectives presented provided a well-rounded understanding of the challenges and possibilities for women in the built environment. It was fantastic to have males in the audience and speaking to them afterwards, they shared how happy they were to attend and learn what it feels like to be the minority in the room! The event also gave me peace of mind to know that many others are facing challenges in their own workplaces, but there is a strong force of change moving through the industry.
So refreshing to hear from some truly remarkable women about how much can be achieved by following their passion and backing themselves. An inspiring event that reminded me how much we can learn from sharing our stories.
I cannot forgive anybody that says there is not a woman qualified for a position. The room was full of them.
And the talent, energy and personality of my fellow panelists and the Gazella team was a treat.
We’d also like to invite you all to our next event. Yogazella is back for it’s third installment on June 29 at Radiant Sol in Port Melbourne. Two hours of relaxation. Unwind, enjoy some amazing food and have a good chat with the tribe. We hope to see you there. If you are interested, tickets are only $36 and can be purchased through the link here.
We hope everyone has enjoyed Rosie’s adventures as much as we have. She is jetting off to Kenya this week, so we are sure to have some more adventures from her shortly. But for now, the tail end of her India trip escapades unfolds…
Playground build #5, Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh, Northern India
I am afraid that this update is a little less enjoyable than those sent previously. After a bloody ripper weekend in Ipswich with a couple of legends listening to some phenomenal country tunes, I headed back to polar-opposite-India. I have entered a state which is known to be unsafe, hot and a terrible place for women.
My first transition into the state was after 32 hours on the road, in the plane and at airports, I was KNACKERED. On arrival the team had selfies with me before allowing some much needed sleep.
I helped Socheta final paint her current project before gearing up for another 6 hour journey.
After travelling 200km (which takes around 6 hours) we arrived at our next project in the evening. The area is very rural and traditional, looking around there are many many men in sight and no women. Our accommodation was to be at the office of our local partner surrounded by cropping fields, which unfortunately was not ready for us on arrival. Instead of clearing the room of boxes, putting light bulbs in the sockets, securing the building and setting up beds, the local representative had called all of the neighbours over to see and have selfies with the white girl. To say I was unimpressed is an understatement, anyone who knows me when I am tired knows I will stab anyone who stands between me and sleep. Throwing in the extreme levels of sexism, becoming a sideshow for entertainment and putting a camera in my face surrounded by strange men, you can imagine the mental breakdown swelling under the surface.
We ended up staying at a dodgy local hotel, where bucket showers are a standard, glow in the dark galaxy stickers are a ceiling feature and flushing toilets a luxury. In the morning we heard of some locals attempting to steal the drivers car outside the office. So it is safe to say we are not staying alone in a remote area, with no lights, no women, no knowledge of local language or customs. This is the first location in India where I have had real and severe concerns for my safety. It is terrifying to know this is thousands of women’s reality across India, where the sheer lack of respect and support within the communities prevents them from leaving the home alone.
Although the team and I (now down to 3 women, Cambodian-American, Indian and myself) were pretty ready to call it on the project due to safety concerns. We spoke at length about how maybe 3 women managing and building a project in the area is exactly what this community needs. How either consciously or unconsciously, local men, women and children might see that women can have roles other than in the home. Which may be a tiny step to appreciating how badass the women they are lucky to surround themselves with, are. We decided to stay and finish the project, because if there is any community who needs a little bit of inspiration, a little bit of joy and a few women telling the men what’s up and to jam it, this is it.
The project itself isn’t particularly tough, lots and lots of tyres, a maze, a snail trail and a swing set. The weather is the hard part. At 38-40 degrees each day, it wasn’t long until this cold weather dweller (thanks Melbourne) managed to suffer heat exhaustion. FYI – would not recommend. Shout out to AB for being my international nurse! The perseverance of the labourers and welder through the heat is truly mesmerising. Especially considering not many people I know would get out of bed in the morning for $5-10 a day, let alone work their butts off in 40 degree heat.
The culture of the area and school, unfortunately didn’t get any better from first impressions… The male gaze, while present and constant throughout my entire time in India, is next level here. It is almost a feeling of predator and prey. Truly terrifying. The school itself appears to have less and less women as the grades go up, apparently girls drop out in about 7th grade to learn domestic skills. The teenage boys appear to believe they run the show. Speaking of teachers, spending days on site, it became apparent that scare tactics are how the children are controlled. Each teacher carries a big stick and isn’t afraid to use it on the children, no words for this barbaric behaviour from the dark ages.
On a positive note, this area is famous for carpets, the storage and transportation of yarn is epic in colour and textures. We had the opportunity to go into a couple of carpet factories and the process was amazing.
As always the tiny humans are superb, and so stoked to be getting a playground and having strange looking humans to stare at. The local press have jumped onto this project as well, printing in 3 different newspapers, ‘Rojie from Australia’ is mentioned with an unnecessary amount of photos.
The TukTuks are next level, serving as school bus, bike transportation, rock & steel delivery, additional height where ladders fail, you never really knew what was going on, in the most hilarious way possible.
While the community as a whole was incredibly sketchy, the families of the labourers we had on site were amazingly welcoming. They cooked for us each day, invited us into their homes and we played with their children for hours on end. They were clearly shocked that we were interested in their lives, cultures and families (see image of the whole clan). Which we later came to realise, was a deep routed caste thing, as managers never interact with labourers other than giving orders.
In completing the project, I am both stoked we came to UP, provided some joy, challenged the local caste system and the typical image of women. But also incredibly stoked to be leaving, as I miss being able to walk on the street alone, or not be creepily watched as I drink a chai. The simple joys.
I hope you are all well, missing Australia like crazy between all these antics, off to Pune next,
Varanasi, Pune & Playground build #6
Don’t worry, you won’t read this one and think, ‘COME HOME NOW’, vibrant, beautiful and challenging India is back!
Known as the holy city, Varanasi is where the main holy river passes through, where priests study, yoga was invented, most Indian make pilgrimage to once in their lives and bathing, cremation and scattering into the river is sacred. It is also known as the highest level of scammers in India, which is an interesting contradiction to religion and holiness. We only spent a day and a half in Varanasi; strolling the river ghants (steps into the holy river) and old laneways, watching the religious ceremony and prayers at dusk, sunrise from an old rickety boat on the river and lots of poori baji (my new favourite Indian meal).
It was long enough to understand the deep connection to this place, the views, architecture, culture and cows everywhere are magical. Tourists here, while targeted, scammed and harassed by humans of all shapes and sizes, are also of a more mellow tone. Although this could be due to the legalisation of weed due to holy reasons in this city. Alcohol on the other hand, not so much, have been dry since leaving Australia.
Pune, what can I say, what a welcome surprise! After UP, in all its glory, I was beginning to loose faith in India. But Pune, is green, vibrant and welcoming. It has the feel of a young population (with exceptional taste buds), rich culture and a progressive attitude.
The project is in partnership with a couple of legendary humans who quit their jobs and started working for ‘Teach India’. Essentially volunteering to teach in schools with minimal funds to pay salaries, they crowd funded to support the school and build a playground. We are staying in one of their apartments on the lounge room floor. There is the standard India challenges of water supply (available for 3 hours each day), power cuts and heat (a/c not available). But it is nice to see how the average 20 something lives in India, an opportunity we haven’t yet been afforded.
The school grounds have two schools running, a morning school and afternoon school to service the sheer magnitude of children in the surrounding area. Unfortunately for us, the playground zone is on a rocky hill at the back where students have been utilising as a bathroom. Terrible ground conditions and permanent smell of sewage, not ideal. This project has particularly poor organisation and progress as the partners are busy with school exams and don’t really understand the whole ‘construction’ thing. The whole thing would be pretty stressful and frustrating if we couldn’t fill our bellies with superb feasts each night – Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican all taste like Christmas when you have eaten a form of Indian curry for every meal for as long as you can remember. Side note, I am absolutely loving the Indian food across the nation, but it is incredibly nice to have a break and the option of cutlery!
Unfortunately, Pune is my last project in India and I must say it is sad that this adventure of playground building and village exploring is over. I would probably continue this fulfilling work if it wasn’t for India’s strict visa rules. As Departure Day rolled around, it was sad to leave a project unfinished, a team (Socheta) who had become family and a cause that I am becoming more passionate about each day. I am glad that I saw the good, the bad and the ugly of India. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. While it was challenging at times, it is always important to check your own privilege.
Headed to the airport at 3am I barely had my eyes open and was not prepared for the strangeness to unfold. You know when you pick up a hire car, or jump in someone else’s car? Strolling along the bays, searching for the correct vehicle…. this is what Pune airport was like, but with planes. Yes they had the big airport loading arms (are these called the ‘gates’?), but instead of using these, every passenger cruised down the steps and strolled along the Tarmac in search of the correct company plane headed to the correct location. Phenomenal India, a smash in the park description of how simple yet complicated everything and anything can be here. Love your work.
I am currently in Malaysia, holidaying and exploring which is incredible.
Hope you are all well,
I have wanted to be an interior design since I was seven. There used to be an English show called Changing Rooms; it was some really bad TV, but I would watch it every week without fail. One week I was watching it and I turned to my mum and said ‘I want to be an Interior Designer!’
I was born in Hertfordshire, just outside of London. I studied Architecture at Brighton University. I’d been working in retail design and I wasn’t really loving it. One day on LinkedIn, I got an email from Hirsch Bedner Associates (a big international design firm) asking me if I wanted a job. It sounded amazing but it was in Singapore. I phoned my Mum and asked her whether she had ever been before. She said she had and it was lovely, so I thought, ‘Alright, I’m moving.’ There was no hesitation.
I ended up staying at Hirsch Bedner for six years. I worked my way up from a junior to running my own projects all over the place, from Bali to China, Myanmar and Vietnam. I moved to Bangkok when they decided to open another office there. We grew the office to seventy employees. I can’t believe how quickly it escalated.
I found working in Bangkok a real struggle. My partner loved Bangkok but not his job there and I found the culture a real challenge. He wanted to move home to Melbourne so I thought, what am I doing? I’ve been doing this for someone else. Why don’t I move to Melbourne and try and do it myself?
I started Design by Qu a little over a year ago now and we currently have 11 live projects across three countries with our first hotel opening in October 2017. I’ve met some amazing people over my career and most of my business today has come from those people and their referrals. The most incredible support for my business has come from my suppliers. I was told at the beginning of my career that you should really respect suppliers – a lot of people treat them like they are disposable. But if your main suppliers for everything from lighting to fabrics and finishes aren’t keen to help you, then who is? I am endlessly grateful to these incredible people!
In Asia throughout Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia, I found challenges with ageism as well as gender. It’s interesting, in Thailand, older women hold the most respect, followed by older people in general and then younger men. Working as a young woman was a nightmare. I’d walk into meetings and Clients wouldn’t even want to look at me. They are looking for the old, experienced person with the grey hair. It was however character building and taught me to have confidence in myself no matter what the situation. It has been the complete opposite in India however. In my experience, India has been the easiest market to work in. People seem to have less concern for age or gender and just want to work with people who can deliver what they want.
My number one piece of advice to other young women, or men, is just do it. If you said to me move to Singapore, my answer is ‘Yep, when do I leave?’ or start a business? ‘Sure when do I start?’. Just do it! There’s so much more regret for people who don’t even try, when what do you really have to lose? Especially when you’re young, what’s the worse-case scenario?
My mother always said our door is always open. This gave me the encouragement to go out and do new things with the security of my family and home always being there waiting for me, should anything not go to plan. I think it applies to many situations in design and in life. When you move around, meet new people, new clients, new mentors and new friends, and when you experience new cities, traditions and lifestyles. It’s so important to keep those doors open and use them to inspire your future ambitions.
Meeting at old-trusty (Fatto), we sipped vino with Hayley, whilst listening to her story and her life from Britain to Down Under. Hayley has a wonderful charm about how she talks about her work and her life. A certain joie de vivre for design, for travel and for her business, which is successfully making a name for itself in a particularly tough part of the industry. Hayley has a gorgeous sense of purpose and a great trust in her instincts. Something that has obviously held her in good stead.We wish Hayley and Design by QU all the best! Go check out their gorgeous Instagram too! J&D xx
Hayley will be joining us for UDIA Gazella Live V 3.0 on 24th May 6-8:30pm at Clayton Utz, Level 18, 333 Collins St. Book here.
So, we recently bought you the first installment of the tales of young adventurer and wanderer Rosie Leake, who is taking a year out of the everyday. Read here if you want to catch up on the story so far.
We now bring you the next installments! Happy reading. We bloody love you and your writing Rosie!
India – Mumbai & Sonoshi Village – Playground Build #2
G’day G’day, and how ya goin’?
Before I begin to describe the cross over to India, I just want to take a moment to mention how incredible the view of the Himalayas & Mt Everest are from the plane to and from Kathmandu. For those of you who haven’t seen it, chuck it on the bucket list, you absolutely will not regret it (or you know, hike it if you are into that kind of thing).
For those wondering, the culture shock has now hit. While Nepal was a nice transition into rich cultures, starring strangers, different living standards and customs, it was nothing in comparison to Mumbai. Arriving into a new city is always a challenge, so I jumped in the most logical option – a pre-paid taxi. Who coincidentally, had absolutely no idea where to go, the transition to hostel ‘Bollywood B&B’ was not exactly smooth. After driving around in circles a few times, asking no less than 5 strangers on the street, we finally made it.
We jumped on the train the following morning, found our beds in the sleeping carriage and settled in for the four hour adventure (image of train & new team attached). Trains in India are next level with wandering chai and curries, your average chips and chocolate snacks are few and far between. From arrival, we hopped in a car and headed to the village around 45 minutes away. The drive was spectacular with mountains, abundant crop plains (as Mum would say, great dirt) and bulk wandering animals.
This place is so small it is difficult to even get results if you chuck it into google. The village has around 150 households and it is estimated around 5 people live in each home, which accounts to 750 new neighbours and 47 school mates who we hope to create some additional fun for. The village is surrounded by incredible mountains which are home to a large wind-farm, endangered leopards and tigers who roam into the village at night (note: I only learnt of these antics close to the end of the trip, after I had been freely walking the tracks into the mountains in the mornings and evenings). It is an agricultural area with a focus on cropping, goats, cows and ox’s. The scenery is mesmerising and the people are lovely (although they are taking photos of me casually walking by and exploring which is a tad sketchy).
We are staying on site in a makeshift dorm, it has an outdoor room described as bathroom (essentially, you use a heating rod to heat a bucket of water and Wa-lah, bath) and kitchen, but other than that it is pretty cozy. On night one the village was doing some form of ceremony so tunes, chanting, drumming and dancing prevented sleep from occurring – but authentic experience none-the-less. Day two we learnt (after following the music) that the festival is in celebration of the ox, it is to prey for a good agricultural season with offerings of coconut. The music continued all night, but that was okay as we were all mesmerised by the lunar eclipse and what a way to see it over the mountains in the Indian countryside! On second, third and fourth thought, I take back commentary on the ‘on night one there was music’, music is an every-evening thing here. I even asked what it was all about, a local said ‘when you live in India, you get used to this stuff and expect the unexpected for no reason’ – phenomenal.
Three classic India moments with the locals stand out from this stop on the adventure:
- Random drunk man stormed into the house and demanded to talk to me, no real particular reason, it was both bizarre and aggressive (also couldn’t speak English so I am not sure how he thought that one would play out). Unfortunately for me, he also had no shame and watched me paint tyres the following day for 2 hours.
- I made the (very interesting) mistake of asking a group with conflicting views about the caste system and the constitution. For those who don’t know, in the Indian constitution there is a requirement for a certain percentage of the lower caste to have government jobs & higher education. This is very contentious among the population and I can only compare it to those same debates and challenges we have with quotas of women/ diversity in roles & companies. Needless to say it was incredibly informative and it prompted an ask-uncle-google-all-of-the-questions session. I now have another thing to add to the list of what not to talk about over a beer, Religion, Money, Politics and the Caste system.
- I accidentally attended an engagement party, the focus unfortunately changed from the bride & groom to taking selfies with the blonde stranger. No joke I had a photo with every human at the celebration, a woman even force fed me sweets, image attached including laughter tears as added bonus.
The construction process is pretty similar to before, clean, paint, cut, drill and bolt 95 tyres into ripper shapes for activities (pictures attached). This project we have the added bonus of being in the community square so all 750 new neighbours have taken time to stare at the blonde girl equipped with a paint brush and a truck tyre. Might have to start charging – paint 5 tyres and I will let you take the creepy stalker photo you are currently attempting. On the injury front, i managed to get through relatively un-scathed this round, couple of blisters and bruises but maybe this is growth and we will make a tradie of me yet!
Waiting to hear on the next adventure as the project may have been cancelled due to funding and procurement. But in the mean time, I can work on my camouflage among the Indian locals skills.
Hope you are all well
Goa & Barkur Village – Playground Build #3
So, in superb news, a project was re-scheduled and we got the chance to go on holiday to Goa. South Goa was lovely, we stayed in beach huts on the river and wasted the days away reading and eating (tough). We then cruised up to North Goa to see what all the hype was about. Clearly we are rookies with poor judgement calls as North Goa is like Bali on steroids, #peoplepeoplepeople #partiespartiesparties #
We managed to miss our train from Goa as after a two hour delay, 5 minutes before the train arrived the platform number was changed and we didn’t notice, classic India. Replacement train in the non-ac, bulk humans carriage was less than ideal for the 8 hour journey. But at least the scenery was nice as we cruised over rivers and through mountains on our way to Udapi.
With a day to kill by the coast before the start of the project, naturally we hit the beach. Although, I must say I almost regretted the decision as I soon realised this wasn’t a place any tourists go. In attempt to blend, I wore clothes into the water, but unfortunately there was failure on that venture, who knew beach swimming was such a spectator sport hey?
Barkur School –
The school we are working on here is located in a neighbouring village to Udapi. It is surrounded by a beautiful river and a large swamp and there are palm trees everywhere (one morning I watched the process of cutting down coconuts, terrifying). The school itself is a Christian school, after noticing a lot of churches and different architecture, it was mentioned this is another area settled by the Portuguese and even the names of the people in the area are quite European. The project is being funded by retired brothers who attended the school themselves so it has a really lovely, give back to the community, feel about it.
This round I tested out my strength on a digging hoe and I must say, my fierce rejection of attending the gym showed. Multiple blisters followed and at 36 degrees everyday, it is a shame we don’t have a union to call it as too hot for this shit (ha!).
The playground build went relatively smoothly, I chose all the colours possible and the result was as if a clown spewed all over the place – superb. On the last day of the project, we had a handover ceremony with the children, nuns and priest who were all pretty excited to get on the equipment and less than stoked to learn they had to literately watch paint dry.
Following this, we cruised to a local prayer celebration in a neighbouring seaside village. Hosted by one of the volunteers cousins, we missed the three hours of prayers. But got there just in time for food on food on food, lucky for me they managed to locate a spoon for the banana leaf feast of who even knows what and rice. I am quickly learning that any gathering of people often leads to bulk food and bulk selfies so here is to many more appearances of Rosie on strangers camera rolls.
Before departing the coastal zone, we attempted another beach visit. This was more off the beaten track, it was beautiful with a lighthouse, waves, clean sand and water and best of all – minimal people! Swimming around in the waves, there was sudden whistles and waving from the shoreline and it became apparent security wanted us to come in. The inner Australian in me immediately thought SHARK, but was surprised to learn they were actually concerned about how deep we were. The concern about our ability to swim, certainly was a moment of realisation that we take for granted childhood swimming lessons and exposure to beach culture.
Our next project we cruise to a city called Bangalore, I hear it is more westernised, so here is hoping I finally get my hands on a good coffee!
Miss you all, attached are some snaps.
If you want something, go for it. I went for it and I have never had any regrets. Sure, I made a few mistakes along the way but generally speaking I have been a bit of a risk taker. Don’t be so risk adverse that you get twenty years down the track and wish to God you had done it. That’s a shocking situation to be in. It’s a recipe for unhappiness.
I studied a bachelor of Arts majoring in Geography and Politics at the University of Melbourne. I really didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with that. I went on to complete a diploma of Education thinking at least I can earn an income and teach. I then decided to do a three year post grad course in Urban Planning. I taught for a year, loved the kids but was totally depressed by the staff room conversations. I just thought, I don’t want to be here in ten years’ time and be miserable like these people.
Fortunately, I was offered a job with local government working for the former City of Fitzroy, now known as the City of Yarra. I worked in the Urban Planning Office. We were trailblazers at that time working on community gardens, protection of boarding houses, social planning issues, heritage studies, streetscape improvement programs and a whole range of policy and guideline documents.
Once the local council changed from a Labor Party base to become controlled by a small group of independents (they were starting to destroy the whole progressive agenda), I left. I became a consultant working for Wilson Sayer Core who were urban planners. I became a senior associate and one day realised that I was billing more than three out of the four directors. There was no career path for me in terms of directorship so I went out into business in 1986 with John Henshall (an urban economist).
That successful practice through evolution became Hansen Partnership in Exhibition Street, Melbourne. I took on two other partners, and eventually brought in urban designers and landscape architects to broaden the diversity of skills in-house. Whilst I was doing that, I was going back and forth to Vietnam completing projects for the World Bank and various other foreign aid agencies.
In 2011, I decided to retire, supposedly. I was nearly sixty years of age and I thought ‘I’ve had enough!’ I had my succession plan in place – by that stage I had five other equity partners in the company. Since then I have been involved in many things! I chaired the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Plan Melbourne which is the Metropolitan Melbourne Strategy to 2050. And more recently been involved in the Geelong Authority, another ministerial advisory committee, looking after revitalisation of central Geelong.
I am also a member of various boards including YWCA Housing, Salvation Army Housing and the Melbourne Social Equity Institute. So basically, I’m not retired!!
When you have been in practice for so long, the reality is you’re not just going to turn the switch off. I’ve had a real interest in affordable and social housing for a long time. I guess I have been fortunate in that I have had opportunities to continue that interest but in a capacity where I have more influence.
I’m a leader, I acknowledge that. Whatever I have taken on, I have always liked to lead. For instance in 1998, I chaired what is now the Heritage Council of Victoria. I was 36 years of age, I was the youngest person around the table of 16 members, and I was female. I had only been on the Heritage Council for 2 years. The then Planning Minister asked me to be the chairperson and I jumped at it. It must have been a shock for some of the old guard who had been sitting, waiting in the ranks to have the accolade. I had to prove to them that I had the capability to be able to lead a statutory authority as well as bring fifteen other people together from a wide range of interests and backgrounds, as was the case with the Heritage Council at that time
I think female participation in the workforce is improving dramatically. I used to get annoyed sometimes at some of my fellow colleagues (males in the organisation) who weren’t so attuned to being supportive of women in the workplace. Those attitudes, that when you delved into it, didn’t have 100% acceptance. Planning is increasingly female dominated, however poorly so in senior positions. We are still not well represented, that is, as much in local government as well as in the private sector. I think it will change.
The challenge for women is when they go and have kids. How do they keep in contact with the industry and transition back into part and full time work? I believe the employer has to provide every opportunity to make this work. Many employers put a lot of time, energy and training into people who come into an organisation. I think the employer has an obligation to help women in the workforce have a pathway to achieve what they want. There shouldn’t been these glass ceilings and obstacles in the way. When they move into a child caring situation, they should be given every opportunity to continue if they so desire. And when they do come back, to actually give them the support and the systems they need so they can come back and feel comfortable and continue to be productive and successful in what they do. Some employers are very good at doing that, but I think there are a lot of employers, particularly in the private sector who are slack. They talk the talk, but don’t put words into action.
When I went into my own consultancy, (I was only one of two women who was heading up a planning consultancy at that time), I was quite ambitious and career driven. I made a conscious decision in my mid-thirties not to have children. People often ask whether I have any regrets. The answer is, I don’t and I don’t feel I have missed out. I made a conscious choice. I knew that I could not have children and fulfill my ambitions. Women should not have to make that choice. But at that time, I was ‘it’ in the company.
I do however, have step children. I have two by my first marriage and I have three by my current marriage. And I love them! I treat them as if they are my own. Sure, I didn’t have to do the nappy changing and all the hard yards but I do have the friendship and the joy of those people now as they are all adults.
The advice I would give to young women in the industry is to sort out what you want. Don’t think about the end of this week, or at the end of the year. Actually have a serious think about where you want to be in five or ten years time. When I pose that question to women I have mentored they are often taken aback because in many instances they haven’t really thought about it. Do you want to stay in Planning? Do you want to branch out? Be in middle management or CEO of the City of Melbourne? What do you want to be? You should give it some serious thought. It will change through your life and your work career. Open different doors. Then figure out how the hell you are going to get there and what you need to do to put all the pieces in place.
Networking to me has been really important. I have been to network functions where I have been the only female apart from the waitresses. I used to say to some of my mentees, when you go to a cocktail party after work, don’t wear black and white! I once went to a function full of men, and one man came up to me and said, ‘I would like a scotch’…! I happened to be wearing black and white.
Get out of your comfort zone. Talk to people. Broaden your networks. Build your future opportunities. Treat networking as a part of your professional development and being able to pursue your dreams.
Don’t stay in one job for too long. You can always go back, but I see so many people, particularly in the public service, that have been there for yonks and they are often dead wood. They become brain dead and have lost their spark. People say to me, ‘Well, how long should you stay in a job?’ and the answer is till as long as you don’t like it anymore. When boredom kicks in, get out.
And finally, I say, travel. It is the best education you will ever get. Sure, it costs a bit of money, but travel to me in my profession, has been an absolute winner. Certainly that has opened up doors for me. It’s a lifetime journey of actually having experiences that you don’t get out of a book or lecture.
My father was my mentor, he was very much a private enterprise person. At the age of 14 he was out on the floor sweeping a warehouse. He never had the ability to have a tertiary education but he made sure all of us had a good secondary education and four of his five kids had a tertiary education. My father taught me a really strong work ethic. You want something, you work for it. You don’t get it on a silver platter. I think that has been embedded in me. Every dollar I have earned, I know I have worked for it. There have been no freebies, no hand outs, no leg ups. I think that is a really solid foundation. You won’t get anything by sitting on your arse. It might sound like old fashioned advice but it certainly got me though. I’m 65 this year and I figure so much of my value, work ethic and leadership has come from my family. Those things resonate.
A lot of people in the industry will be familiar with Roz Hansen. When we ask people to name the people they find inspirational, it’s often Roz’s name that pops up. She holds a space in the industry like no other. Her breadth of experience and her years of forging her own path have made her a denizen of the Melbourne planning scene and her name precedes her prodigious reputation as a powerhouse of strength and experience. We had such trouble picking a quote that really struck us from this piece, as the vast majority of our interview with Roz was memorable and relevant! We can’t thank Roz enough for taking time out of her very busy schedule and speaking to us over a glass of wine at Punch Lane. We wish her all the best and hope her endeavors both continue to bring her great joy and achievement, and also change to the industry for the better! J&D xx
Look, we aren’t saying we’re not partial to a long lunch, or a sneaky wine after work. I mean sometimes that’s just what one needs! We conceived Yogazella with the mind and body at the forefront of our thoughts. A chance to network, with good vibes only. A chance to take some time out of your busy schedules to find some peace of mind. A chance to eat and be merry without the usual beer in hand.
Good Food + Good Flow = YOGAZELLA
THANK YOU to legendary, beautiful soul Jules Jenkinson for her practice. We all felt challenged and grounded through her teachings. For Radiant Sol for providing the most effortless and calm studio space. And to the people who made the night special – YOU!
Wellness is… Family and Love.
Wellness is… Time to yourself. Peace, Strength and Resilience.
Wellness is… Drop all of your thoughts and go for a long, peaceful walk with a friend or a family member.
– Elisia and Nella
Wellness is… meditation and taking the time to look after yourself.
Wellness is… walking along anywhere. Sleeping.
Wellness is… sleeping, relaxing, eating and being with the people you love!
Wellness is… family and friends.
Watch this space for the next Y O G A Z E L L A event that will be in June 2018. Hope to see you there.
– J & D xx
My brother worked in a job for ten years that he hated and I was at Uni at the time, so I was like, ‘Right, I’m going to chose a job that I love.’ So every morning, and every day is not a chore. Some people go into professions, they think they like and just moan about how terrible it is. Well, change? If you want to move, it’s never too late.
I started as a quantity surveyor maybe ten years ago now. I was twenty-three at the time. I wanted to be a lawyer, but then I tried law for about five minutes and it didn’t ignite any fire in me. Then I worked on a construction site and thought, yep, I wanted to do something in construction. So I got a job as a trainee quantity surveyor in Manchester, for a quantity surveying firm.
The UK was going through the GFC, everyone was just getting sacked left right and centre, so I just said to my boss, I’m going to move to Australia and take a punt. I rang WT Partnership, at 1:00am from the UK and said ‘Can you give me a job?’ and they said yes. So I got in on a plane with a suitcase. Arrived, with nowhere to stay. I had to start from scratch. That was seven years ago now.
I worked at WT for five years and loved every minute of it. But I just didn’t want to be a QS anymore. I’ve always wanted to be a project manager. Being a QS you don’t really get to show your personality sometimes. Sometimes, you are sitting in the corner of a room, but you really want to jump in and drive the project. That’s basically why I moved over to Sinclair Brook.
You need resilience and the ability to work very, very hard. I couldn’t believe what we had to do for Australia 108. I’ve never worked as hard in my life to get the contract signed. It was so worth it in the end. You have to have organisation and a personality that is able to influence people and get people on board.
I asked of my Director, when I interviewed with Sinclair Brook, ‘What personalities do you want in the people here?’ He said he wanted everyone to be different and work in a different way. Because if everyone is the same they will see everything in the same way. I’ve seen people hire in their mirror image. But I think that’s a bit unfair because all people have things they can bring to a project.
It’s about relationships with people in the construction industry. If you have the ability to build relationships with people, then it just come down to working hard at the end of the day. It’s not about bashing your hand on the table. Sometimes it’s just as important to be quiet, reliable and good at your job. You can’t have the same archetypal construction characters all the time.
I’ve seen it before where female colleagues have gone on maternity leave, come back and haven’t been treated the same afterwards. It’s very frustrating to watch because it doesn’t mean that just because they have had children, they are worse at their job. All of the female colleagues I have worked with do more in four days than I do in five and knock it out of the park! I actually feel guilty sometimes, like I really need to lift my game! I could probably learn some time management. It’s all about efficiency and organisation.
It’s not just those typical things, but it’s also a different perspective that diversity brings. Women look at things, slightly differently. I don’t want to use cliched words, but sometimes, rather from a ‘I’ve got to win’ standpoint, a female’s approach can be more subtle in order to get a proper resolution. I think women just need to be given the best possible chance to excel.
The construction industry has a real problem with innovation. Change scares the hell out of people. Immediately you get the response ‘It doesn’t work.’ It’s not like the technology industry where people are designed to be innovative. It’s always, keep doing what you have been doing for ages, just do it quicker, quicker, quicker.
My style is fairly laid back, although that doesn’t work with everyone. I always think, at the end of the day, we are doing construction, it’s been done before, it’ll happen, you just need to calm down. You feel sorry for people who have a role in medical science where you have to find the cure for diseases where you start with no reference point and you don’t know where the endpoint is. For Construction, you have a programme, you have concrete, reo, windows and you just have to get there. For someone who is told to create something out of nothing…I just wouldn’t be able to compute that. Where do I start!?
My mother is a lovely, lovely woman, although she has quite an acid tongue. She’s from Liverpool. She actually saw the The Beatles play when they were in Liverpool and maintains they were rubbish! My dad was the archetypal 1950s type, women-do-everything-at-home bloke, but he has always really respectful of my mum. He has always maintained that my Mum had a role in our family and that she went well above and beyond. I had the best childhood I could have asked for. My mum has always said ‘I live in a house with three men, but I’m better than all of you. All you do is watch football all day. That’s all you care about. I’d rather speak to the dog then speak to you!’ And she was right.
Richard is quite the character. We thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him and getting his perspective on the industry. Laid back, introspective and down to earth, he has a sense of quiet ambition about him. None-the-less, tempered with a will to see the industry move forward and things done better.
Like many of the men we have interviewed, he was nervous to talk to us about diversity in the industry, but not because he hadn’t thought much about it, but because he has thought much about it and he didn’t want to seem irreverent or entitled to an opinion he had no entitlement to have. However, at Gazella we have seen how important it is, that the industry understands and discusses diversity and other issues such as flexibility and well-being, across the board. The discourse on such matters does so much more to create movement and real action than almost any other policy, workshop, conference or guideline does.
We thank Richard for his courage, honesty and willingness to engage. Best of luck with mega build Australia 108 and for the future! J & D.