Estimated reading time: 3 min 

Yasuko Kobayashi’s impressive CV features some of the most well known practices in the industry and led her to a Senior Architect position with RMJM in Dubai. Her ability to manage a multitude of projects has seen her become a crucial figure in the continued success for RMJM in the Middle East. Yasuko is one of the most highly regarded architects in her field and in 2014 was fittingly recognised as such when she made the list for the Middle East Young Architect of the Year.

When did you understand you wanted to be an architect?
I would say my training started with my appreciation of growing up in a house designed by my dad’s friend who was an architect. I went onto Nihon University to read architecture in Japan and then to London to do a Masters course. My first job was at Richard Rogers, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when he was visiting Tokyo. As a Senior Architect in RMJM, I front and run a number of projects all at different stages. Leading a team towards a common goal would be the most challenging part of the work.

Do you think that young female architects today need role models to follow? And if so, are Zaha Hadid and Kazuyo Sejima, pioneering architects and women for whom “nothing comes before work”,  the models women are looking for?
Both Zaha Hadid and Kazuyo Sejima are great and pioneering architects regardless of their gender. Being a woman in architecture is more certainly challenging and it’s important to have inspirational figures but I would not say they are my role models. I believe we should follow our own individual philosophy in life. There are various way of working hard and achieving your goals and everyone can/should have their own way of doing it.

In a recent survey conducted by Women in Architecture, the participants were asked if women can have a good work-life balance in architecture. In the Middle East & Asia, 60% responded “no”. Do you agree with the 60% of the respondents? How do you balance your work and personal life?
I think it is very difficult to have good work-life balance in any profession if you are aiming to achieve good quality work. I am struggling every day too! I believe you must enjoy and love what you do. In a way, your work needs to become your hobby and also a part of your personal life.

You are currently working as a Senior Architect at RMJM but before joining the company you worked with Zaha Hadid Architects in China and Hopkins in London. How have these three experiences influenced you as an architect and as a woman? What differences in the profession have you noticed in these three markets?
Those three companies and cities have very different influences on myself and my architectural approaches. I have learnt a lot as a woman in the architectural field from Zaha Hadid Architects. They are very open-minded and accepting, and I learnt a lot on how to deal with people and leading a design team. It was also eye opening to work in China, a place with a different language and work ethic. I can tell you that being a female foreign architect on building site was not easy! Working for Hopkins in London was more like a finishing school for me, having the time to learn how building comes together and good detailing.

Do you think that bigger studios can offer bigger benefits for women compared to rather small & medium studios?
Equality is important, bigger studios do provide woman better chances for growth and a lot more external interface with consultants.

As a young architect and a woman, do you think that the women’s authority is recognised today in the building industry  in the Middle East?
From the three places I have worked and lived, I have found the Middle East to be the most challenging, but it is getting better.

Would you encourage a woman to start a career in architecture?
I believe any profession can be difficult. However, as long as the person has a passion for architecture then it is great profession and a very satisfying job.

What is your personal motto?
Enjoy the challenge!