First Published by Architecture + Women NZ
Winner of the A+W NZ Metalcraft Writing Award 2016
Tuesday morning and the phone on my desk is ringing. Hello? I’m needed on site. I look down and remember I’m wearing a dress. A quick sigh to myself as I pull on oversized steel toe boots from the office cupboard and a large orange vest, velcro it up and let it slip off one shoulder. Hard hat in hand, I march carefully down the hall and out the glass front door, feeling ridiculous, but looking official.
Half an hour later I’m standing on a plane of butynol three storeys above ground. Four men and I gather, standing in a circle together poring over drawings. The tightness is uncomfortable, but necessary. I ask a question, we figure out a solution. Descending back down the ladder, we shake hands on the ground and part ways.
Fitting into this industry, shaped by men, mainly for men. I’m stretching boundaries daily, making room for a skirt on site. Recalling my first job interview, I am studied by the man sitting at the table. Finally the director says ‘you’re a woman, that’s a disadvantage… And you’re short.’ A pause, and then some advice: ‘you should wear heels. That way they’ll hear you coming.’ I get the job, but I don’t wear heels.
Zaha Hadid stares at me, intimidating even from the flat screen of my laptop, refusing to be made an object. Marianne McKenna explains she used to keep her baby in the bottom drawer of her cabinet in the office. The risen and rising female architects, but what adjustments are we making?
My grandfather, retired builder, making a speech back on my 21st birthday ‘When she said she wanted to be an architect I thought she can’t do that.’ An awkward silence amongst my friends as he continues, ‘but then I’ve started to realise, that maybe she can.’