Q+A: Inspiring Women at DMA

From left Wan Yau, Lindsey Bean-Pearce, Kate Sandle, Rebeca Aguilera and Giada Gemignani.

In celebration of International Women’s Day in March, we caught up with some of DMA’s female designers.

Wan Yau, Partner

What is your role at DMA?

As a Partner I have numerous management responsibilities, from defining practice architectural and interior design standards, to overseeing and supporting our staff. I find increasingly that I am practicing less architecture and spending more time running the business.

What attracted you to a career in architecture?

I studied architecture at The Bartlett in London. The course was wide ranging and challenging. We studied drawing, design, people, politics, philosophy, engineering, light, mapping and even anatomy. While working at a residential practice in London during my ‘year out’ I learnt about the building process; the transformation of a design into a physical manifestation; the variety and breadth of cross consultancies and designers; and the decision making that goes into creating a building. I love architecture. I enjoy working with a team to design and construct a beautiful and useful building.

What advice would you give to women joining the profession?

Love architecture. Love design. Be inquisitive. Be assertive. Be competent and confident but don’t be afraid to say you don’t know and will find out. Find a mentor to champion you.

Lindsey Bean-Pearce, Partner

What is your role at DMA?  

I run the interiors department. I’m responsible for all of the projects and managing the team. No two days are the same. I might be doing anything from interacting with clients and working on pitches, to checking progress on ongoing projects and researching new suppliers.  It’s incredibly varied and that’s what I love.

What is the most enjoyable part of the job?

I love working with the client and team to develop the brief. As part of this process we research the site context and decide the most efficient spatial layout. The best part is that first 10 minutes after the project opens when our team can see what they have achieved. If your client walks round and says, “I really love it” that is an amazing feeling!

What advice would you give to women joining the profession? 

Find a mentor, I was lucky enough to be mentored by two amazing women at my previous practice. Have conviction in your design.

Do not be scared of failure – it will make you stronger. Never stop learning – try to learn something new every day, research, ask colleagues, read books and articles, attend seminars and conferences.

Kate Sandle, Associate

What is your role at DMA?

I qualified as an architect 20 years ago and have worked at DMA for over 16 years. I focus on the construction end of the profession, delivering complex hotel and mixed-use schemes through the production drawing stages to site delivery.

What was your route into architecture?

I fell into architecture after doing an Art Foundation Course and had little knowledge of what I was getting myself into! An architectural education sets you up for many diverse design career options, and for me it was an inspiring time.

What advice would you give to women joining the profession?

Go for it! The construction industry is a career where you never stop learning and every day is different and challenging.

I am lucky to work in a practice where there are many women role models to look up to. I believe diversity in a design practice allows more versatile opportunities for women contemplating a career in architecture.

Giada Gemignani, Associate

What is your role at DMA?

I’m an Interior Designer with specialist experience in the hospitality sector. During my time at DMA I’ve been lucky to work across Europe for major international brands such as Starwood and InterContinental.  My recent focus has been on boutique and lifestyle schemes including Vintry & Mercer, one of the most anticipated recent London hotel openings, and the Clayton Hotel City of London, a unique project inspired by the neighbourhood story of East London.

How did you become a designer?

I actually studied science and wanted to be a nuclear engineer but was lucky to be pointed in another direction combining my passion for art, architecture, fashion and branding with a methodical approach to delivery. After my studies I worked on interiors and branding projects in Italy before moving to Toronto to kick off my career in the hospitality sector. I relocated to London four years ago.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

Design is my main passion but construction and delivery are equally fascinating. Seeing an abstract idea become a three-dimensional space is an incredible experience.

What advice would you give to women joining the profession?

When I was studying we weren’t presented with many female role models. Aspiring woman architects and designers should seek out their own heroes. The incredible futuristic and provocative vision of Lina Bo’ Bardi was a huge inspiration for me.

Approach your career with passion and determination. These are the most efficient weapons against insecurity and the best tools to help you achieve success.

Rebeca AguileraAssociate

What is your role at DMA?

I am an architect. My role within the practice is mainly in the area of planning and feasibility. I work on the project from the early feasibility stages to the moment we submit the scheme for planning approval. I really enjoy the design stages. One of my latest projects is The Allen Building, a new hotel in the historic centre of Bath which has just received planning approval.

Why did you choose to be an architect?

Architecture for me is the perfect discipline. Since I was a kid I loved to create, being an architect gives me the option to imagine a new building and make it happen.

Any advice to woman joining the profession?

Although sometimes it can be a demanding profession, it is also gratifying. Listen and learn.