dhk associate director Sarah Patterson features as an architect ‘Woman Achiever’
Writer: Gareth Griffiths
According to Sarah Patterson, an associate director at dhk Architects, Cape Town, there are many upsides to practicing architecture. ‘One of the most satisfying aspects of being involved in shaping the built environment is the engagement it necessitates with so many aspects of life. With each project comes a myriad of factors to consider. I find my job is constantly about the challenge of balancing conceptual narratives with hard realities,’ she shares.
Sarah graduated at both undergraduate and post graduate level from the University of Cape Town. She spent her first five working years at Vivid Architects, learning the rigours of commercial practice and gaining a solid foundation as an architect. Thereafter, her career took off. Sarah explains: ‘in 2011, I got an opportunity to practice urban design at Jakupa Architects and Urban Designers with a focus on public sector projects and participated in several conferences and workshops. From there I moved to dhk where I segued back into architecture. My career at dhk has also seen me rise in the leadership and assist with business development at the company.’ She confesses to be an active person who enjoys hiking, running, swimming and travel. ‘I paint, draw, and watch films in my spare time. I also love a lively evening of debate with friends and good music
Education projects More recently, Sarah has been developing a focus on education projects. She tells To Build: ‘My current focus lies in the education sector; with both new builds and adaptive reuse of existing structures. ‘With the advent of technology in teaching aids as well as changing pedagogical approaches, we are seeing significant shifts in the various education models on offer in South Africa and abroad. I think it’s imperative that architects investigate how learning environments might be adapted to accommodate these shifts whilst maintaining sound design principles. the challenge of the disparity of wealth and quality of teaching at our schools makes the challenge in South Africa especially great,’ she adds.
On being female in a tough professional world ‘I think it’s unfortunate that we women seem to need to perform twice as hard as our male counterparts to gain an equal level of recognition.’ Women architects are sometimes overlooked on their technical knowledge and understanding of construction issues. It kind of feeds into “the fragility myth” that women aren’t cut out for construction site environments. I have found that all you need in order to be competent on site is exposure to the practicalities, common sense, and problem-solving abilities.
‘Mentorship is also a big issue – so many young women in the industry are citing a lack of guidance and support,’ she says. Young women architects often lack role models. ‘I am interested in finding ways to daylight and normalise accomplished female architects doing extraordinary work so that it becomes just as commonplace to equate brilliance in our field with women as it is with men’, Sarah says
Current career interests and projects? Sarah is currently involved with an initiative called the Ignite Collective which, together with the Cape Institute for Architecture, the initiative aims to launch a platform which seeks to mobilise the ideas and voices of various disparate projects in addressing transformation in the built environment disciplines, particularly when it comes to the position of marginalised women in the industry.
Article source: To Build.