Ana Mendes graduated in Architecture in 2007 from the Mackenzie University in Sao Paulo. Having already gained experience working in several architecture offices she continued her studies, specialising in the study of Contemporary Cities. Having obtained her MSc in 2014, Ana began teaching in an architecture school as well as continuing her role as a full-time architect. Working for RMJM she has established herself as a fundamental part of RJMJ LATAM.
When did you decide to be an architect?
I decided to be an architect when I was 17 years old and was asked, at school, where I would like to go for work experience. As a result of this, I spent a day in an architecture studio and fell in love with the profession. I haven’t looked back since.
According to the Brazilian Council of Architects and Urbanists (CAU), the majority of architects and urbanists in Brazil are women and young people with a deep interest in the profession. How is Brazil different from the rest of the world?
First of all, I believe many people in Brazil don’t completely understand the complex role the architect plays. A lot of people, in Brazil at least, believe architecture is restricted to interior design. Unfortunately this discipline within architecture, sociologically speaking, is something women are supposed to do or have historically done. Interior design, an important part of architecture, is still associated with a traditional women’s role, where she would stay at home and take care of it.
One of the most famous women architects in Brazil is Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992). She once said: “In Brazil, I have always done everything I wanted. I never faced any obstacles, not even as a woman. That’s why I say I am Stalinist and anti-feminist.” With that, she rejected the women’s liberation movement as a bourgeois dispute and expressed her admiration for those women that fought for equality side by side with men. Do you feel that her way of thinking has somehow influenced the younger generation of women architects like you?
Lina Bo Bardi is for sure a reference for many Brazilian women architects, and an inspiration also for younger generations. Although, it does seem unusual to me that a woman, even nowadays, wouldn’t face any difficulties at work in comparison to men. Men still have higher salaries than women doing the same jobs in a lot of cases. For this and many other reasons I guess the struggle for equality that Lina admired is still on-going and continues to be worthy of our support.
In a recent survey conducted by Women in Architecture, nine out of ten women said they are worried that having children would hinder their career. Is the fact that most famous women architects don’t have children a worry?
I think it is a concern of mine that it would be difficult to combine work and a family at this stage but I am not influenced by the decisions of other female architects. At this moment in my life working in an office, beginning academic activities as a teacher and having a baby would be a lot to handle!
Do you have any model to follow or did you use to have some when you were a student?
Since I was a student I have always had a special appreciation for the work of Villanova Artigas and Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Both are modern Brazilian architects really interested not only with the building as an object, but also with its insertion and surroundings. For me, this is fundamental in achieving successful architecture.
Would you encourage a woman to start a career in architecture?
Yes, I would! I guess I’d encourage them to work with what they love; it could be an interior design office, a construction site, teaching at the university. It is important that they know they can work in any discipline within this industry that they want.
What is your personal motto?
I guess something related to perseverance motivates me – keep fighting, great things will come!