Estimated reading time: 3 min
Nina Mendes is one of the architects at RMJM Brazil. She came to the firm with a background in social housing and urban renewal and a keen interest in urban design. She is fascinated by the impact of architecture on our daily lives and cites that as her reason for enjoying urban design so much; it requires architects to consider, not only how people use built-spaces, but also why. Unusual for in her position, she also lectures on Urban Design at one of the local universities. As a still-practising architect, she offers a real-time insight into professional architecture that many other lecturers cannot offer their students. Between teaching and designing, she managed to find a free afternoon to talk to us about women and architecture education.
What Do You Do?
N: I am an architect and project coordinator at RMJM Brazil. I also teach urban design at Centro Universitário Senac in Sao Paulo.
Who Inspires You?
N: Every working woman inspires me. It has taken time for women to be accepted professionally as they are today, and to think of the women who strove to be recognised in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds is incredibly inspiring. Not just in the architecture industry, but in all professions and in life in general, women who have worked to establish their place in society should inspire everyone, not only women, and not only on International Women’s Day!
What Led You To Your Career?
N: I chose architecture because I am fascinated by urban spaces and how they shape our lives. Architecture is just as much about the city in which you are designing, as it is the building itself. I have been with this studio for 14 years now. I chose to work in a studio where the projects have an impact on their society. When we design, its less about the building’s walls and more about the doors to the city.
How Has The Industry Changed For Women Recently?
N: More and more studios are being led by women. Women have been in the industry for a very long time, but have always been behind the scenes. In the last few decades women have been realising that they can lead themselves.
What Changes Still Need To Come?
N: Women certainly have more voices in the industry now than they did 10 years ago, and women are participating across all levels and in all roles in the industry. My hope is that eventually, “women in architecture” will simply be seen as “architects”. Right now, we are emphasising gender to make people aware of the specific gendered challenges that women face, but I think that we will eventually come to a point where these gendered challenges will be eroded to a point where we no longer have to focus on ‘female’ or ‘male’ architects, and instead can just appreciate designers for what they do, regardless of their background.
What Is The Best Professional Decision You Have Ever Made?
N: I think going into teaching while I was working had a really positive impact on my career. I have had to keep updated with the changes in the industry in order to teach new architects the ropes. It has also forced me to challenge my own ideas, which has given me a renewed strength in my convictions. I get 50 new students every year, which means 50 new perspectives and 50 passions to navigate and sculpt. I am the youngest teacher in the department and I have discovered that just as I have things to teach my students, there is plenty I can learn from them too!
What Advice Would You Offer To Women Starting Out In The Industry?
N: Be resilient. There is a lot to conquer, but it is absolutely worth it.