Women Share Secrets to Success

Event: Women in Architecture Leadership Roundtable: Women As Design Principals in Architecture Firms
Location: Bulthaup Showroom, 09.16.08
Speakers: Audrey Matlock, AIA — Principal, Audrey Matlock Architect; Yvonne Szeto, AIA, LEED AP — Partner, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Moderator: Abbey Suckle, FAIA, LEED AP — Secretary, AIANY Board of Directors
Organizers: AIANY Women In Architecture Committee

Chelsea Modern by Audrey Matlock Architect (left), and the NASCAR Hall of Fame by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (right).

Audrey Matlock Architect (left); Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (right)

As successful women in architecture, Audrey Matlock, AIA, principal of Audrey Matlock Architect, and Yvonne Szeto, AIA, the only female partner that Pei Cobb Freed & Partners has ever had, enjoy the freedom that comes with their positions. Matlock has organized her office around projects that engage her personal design principles and aesthetics. Szeto is able to explore building types and work with clients with whom she is unfamiliar while balancing her responsibilities at home with her young daughter. Whatever their list of priorities (career, family, friends, etc.), being happy is most important.

Although Matlock has yet to secure business from cocktail parties (an important way to network, she believes), she thinks her well-respected reputation has led clients to seek her out instead. Matlock guarantees that each project receives individualized attention, strict adherence to program, and an emphasis on sustainability. The Chelsea Modern, for example, reflects the artsy, active neighborhood, literally, with a reflective glass façade that changes colors with shifting daylight. The offset horizontal bands have a dynamic street presence, and allow for open and flexible spaces within.

Szeto has designed many of Pei Cobb Freed’s most prominent corporate structures. Being a “newbie” to the sport of racecar driving and museum design, as design partner of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC, she was given an opportunity to focus on a new building type. The end result is a design based on literal interpretations of the raceway.

The discussion centered on giving professional women advice on “climbing the ladder” and making important work/life balance choices. Szeto presented the statistical realities of being a woman in the field, and explained that despite the equal number of men and women studying architecture, the disparity not only exists in the profession, it grows in proportion to experience (the greatest gap exists with principals of firms). Although women are still very obviously a minority in the field, Matlock and Szeto are helping lay the groundwork for women to have meaningful and prosperous careers as architects.