Rana Abboud in profileBack
When did you finish your architecture degree?
I completed my Bachelor of Architecture degree in 2004 (at Victoria University of Wellington), and my research Masters in 2006 (at the University of California at Berkeley).
Do you work within a practice or do you have your own practice?
I work full-time for a large architecture firm in Sydney that has studios in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Auckland. In my spare time, I work on personal design projects that are collated in an online portfolio of freelance design work (codessi.net).
Why did you start your own practice?
While not strictly a practice, CODESSI began as a creative outlet to allow me freedom to explore design ideas and subjects that I would otherwise be unable to pursue in my current role as project architect within a large commercial firm.
Why did you study architecture?
I found the combination of art, mathematics, history and theory subjects in architecture irresistible, and realised, last minute, that I didn't want to be a doctor!
If you were to choose a career again, would you choose architecture?
Yes, I probably would choose architecture again, despite the many woes of professional practice. I love design, and architecture is so multi-layered and cross-disciplinary that there is always something new to learn and explore. Great architecture also has an enormous potential to effect social change and enhance peoples' lives, and I've always found that incredibly inspiring.
How was architecture different to what you imagined when you started working?
I had no conception then of how much authority architects had conceded to project managers, councils and consultants, or the extent to which budgets eventually shape what does get built. My final year design project- where I was the client, formulated the brief, and presented to fellow architects- was a far cry from professional reality.
What do you love about architecture?
That, when done well, architecture can really move people, inspire whole societies, and transcend the banality and discord of the world in which it exists.
Why is architecture important, to you, and to society?
For too many reasons to mention in this Q&A! See above ‘what do you love about architecture’ & ‘if you were to choose a career again, would you choose architecture?’
Do you work full time or do you balance work with other commitments? Perhaps you could explain some of this context, ie, do you have children, etc.
I work full-time at a large commercial firm and try to balance work with my other hobbies, such as CODESSI. My husband is also an architect, and so understands what the job entails. We mix work and play wherever possible- for instance, travelling on a European Architecture study tour together- but find ‘balance’ to be a very slippery concept!
Can you briefly explain a typical day? How do you balance work and life?
Typically, I work from 9am through to about 5:30-6pm. Depending on the day of the week, I will fit in a couple of hours of ‘non-work’ before dinner and catching up with my husband and family. Some evenings, I’ll work on a self-initiated design project.
How do you approach a design? What is most important for you to get right?
I begin by trying to understand the clients’ requirements, aspirations, site, and any design constraints. From this initial ‘problem solving’ phase emerge design opportunities. When designing, I place great importance on developing a clear and cohesive architectural concept to address and pull together the many aspects of a project.
Do you think women approach architecture differently to men?
While it’s difficult to generalise, I think women factor in their biological clocks when planning their architecture careers, while men do not have this pressure. Sprinting to fast track a career before maternity leave, or planning for time to raise a family, means that women in architecture seek out roles that allow greater time for family commitments.
What have been the biggest struggles in your career?
Reconciling the schism that exists between academia and the world of professional practice; and the scarcity of jobs post GFC. The economic situation worldwide has made it a grim time to work on interesting projects in architecture, let alone projects that eventually get built.
What is the project you are most proud of?
That would probably be a tie between a recent competition win for a house design concept; and a residential alterations and additions job on which I was project architect, which was completed last year. Being involved in all aspects of the design process- from early concept design, to construction documentation and contract admin- alongside a great builder and fantastic clients was a terrific experience.
What do you hope to be doing or designing in ten years? What is the direction you would like to take for your career?
Ideally, I’d be a design director working on large scale public projects and maintaining links to academia. We’ll see how things pan out!
Image: Dot House render by Rana Abboud