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Women In Architecture: Julia Barfield / Marks Barfield Architects
Julia Barfield is the director of Marks Barfield Architects, established in 1989, winner of ‘Architectural Practice of the Year’ in 2001 and a ‘Queens Award for Enterprise’ in 2003. Together with husband partner David Marks is creator of the London Eye and co-founder and Director of the London Eye Company that developed and realised the project (winner of over 25 awards). With over 22 years architectural experience, Julia studied at and is now a Council member of the Architectural Association. She spent her year out in South America working in the barriadas of Lima in Peru designing housing and a community centre. After finishing at the AA she worked for Richard Rogers & Partners and Foster Associates for a total of 9 years. During the last 13 years, with David Marks, she has designed projects in the leisure, housing, transport, education and cultural sectors. Julia has been an Awards assessor for the RIBA and the Civic Trust, including the recent IPPR Designs in Democracy competition and has also been a judge in a number of other competitions. She is an enabler for CABE and lectures widely in schools and universities, education conferences and institutions in London and overseas including recently in Mexico, Rome and Berlin.
"This subject does concern me greatly. I was a student in the seventies and the proportion [ of women to men in architecture school ] then was 1:7. I didn't particularly experience any direct discrimination. I always assumed a position of equality. However when I started working in practice I can remember some shocking ads using scantily clad women to sell fire doors for example. When I complained the reaction was a combination of surprise and embarrassment. I can also remember a meeting with a services engineer who asked me advice on behalf of his daughter who was interested in studying architecturewhile sitting his office with nude calenders on his wall. The irony was lost on him. I don't think you see so much of that kind of thing any more but the numbers do reveal that significant barriers persist. I think this is primarily due to issues of child care and the prehistoric attitudes of many male dominated practices. Only recently I heard about a woman in a respected practice who is an associate and became pregnant and wanted to work part time only to be told that she if she wanted to do that she would be demoted and her work would be less responsible. I don't think architecture needs to be a man's world but I think there is a long way to go before things change significantly."