BUYING A HOUSE; AN ARCHITECT’S GUIDE

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Buying a house is stressful, buying a house as an architect is fraught with snagging lists and criteria that can never be met (not by any architect of my salary anyway), then throw in buying a house as a parent and the criteria required of that house makes it near to impossible to satisfy.

When we purchased our first home, we naively jumped feet first into the deep end with no major worries or criteria other than, a house that “felt right” in a city we knew and loved.

The second house search, however, seemed an entirely different kettle of fish, we had 5 years of homeowning experience – some of which had left us a little battle worn and with a new distrust of pipework and plumbing, we now had a child to factor in, we had jobs we actually enjoyed and wanted to keep and the trump card we were priced out of the city we had loved living in for five years.

So how do you go about searching for your second home?

For us it was a matter of criteria first, this next home had to satisfy a lot in order for us to give up the city we had hoped to stay in.

Here was our check list (and the criteria we didn’t meet!!):

Personal criteria:

  • Walkable to a train station with connections to London (for commute)
  • Walkable to a town (for socialising)
  • Has the right atmosphere within the house
  • A street with a good vibe
  • On budget
  • Separate dining room

Architect Criteria:

  • Character property (ideally Victorian)
  • Potential to improve/enlarge
  • No major planning or building regs fails
  • Any modern works are done to a good standard or at least without huge cost to rectify

Parent Criteria:

  • Minimum 3 bed, with potential for 4th bedroom
  • Downstairs toilet
  • Quiet
  • Warm
  • Driveway (at the front of the house) – this was met BUT it is the tightest driveway to park on imaginable!
  • Garden, big but not too big.
  • Bathroom with a bath
  • An area for toys
  • Decoration and general state liveable upon moving
  • Walkable to a good collection of good primary schools
  • Walkable to good secondary schools (in case we stay longer than planned)
  • Walkable to a good doctors surgery
  • Not too far from our current friends
  • ½ way (ish) from the ‘grandparents’

The parent list was given top priority. I still believe this was the right decision, however; I have to say that during the purchasing process I often wondered if I liked the house at all or whether I had only bought it on the basis that on paper it was better for my child than our previous home.

This foreboding feeling was heightened by the stress of dealing with selling and buying a property something that I really believe that I held against the house for months after moving in.

Our buyers had threatened to pull out two weeks before we were due to exchange, our solicitor was slow to inform us that the house had a small lean-to extension which didn’t have building regulations approval. Under rational circumstances, this alone would have been a reason for me to pull out, but this far down the purchase with so much already spent and nowhere else on the market, with our buyers fragilely hanging on, we went ahead. I reasoned that I was an Architect, I understood what the consequences would be and knew the cost of remedial works that would be needed. But I have wondered often since we gained the keys if this was a mistake.

This was not helped by the fact that the house developed a weird smell about 3 weeks into living there, a smell we traced back to the little non-compliant lean-to which it seems not only didn’t get building control sign off, has been built in a way that would never get sign off.

With the smell resolved at our expense, I bitterly went about enquiring what other works were done without proper approval and not disclosed by the seller.

All in all, in the first few months of living there I was wholly unsure we had made the right decision, why hadn’t I put more emphasis on my Architect’s list checking every detail? How could I have committed to a house without the proper certificates of works? Why did I prioritise completing the sale over the hassle of dealing with the previous owner’s dodgy works.

Well, the answer was, we are not millionaires. We do not have the luxury of buying a perfect house, I had the benefit of understanding that the shoddy works were not major structural or safety issues and we were in a rush to find somewhere for our daughter.

Still, I was upset, this was not my perfect home.

I wondered if we should admit our mistake, take the hit and sell up immediately. The best piece of advice I received during this time of doubt was to give it some time. Time to allow the stress of the move to fall away, to decorate and put our mark on the house, to rectify what needed immediate action and to plan how we could be improving the house.

We are now knee deep in paint slowly taking ownership of each room, planning a loft conversion and ripping out the old bathroom.

We have been in our house for eight months and recently returned from a trip away and I have to say when I opened the door, I felt the love. I have forgiven its faults and it is finally our home, it may not be perfect but it is a good place to be for now.

If you are looking to buy your next house. My advice:

  • Make a list of must haves and find somewhere that satisfies at least some of this list, if you are compromising make sure it is on something you are happy to live without.
  • Most importantly, make sure you receive the history of all works carried out, be insistent and ask these questions at the start of the process. If any works are non-compliant seek professional advice and understand whether you will be happy to carry out any remedial works that will be required.
  • Fall in love with the house and if you can’t fall in love immediately then allow yourself time to let it grow on you, some houses are slow burners and you may find that having decorated and settled in you might just open the door one day and realise that your house is a happy home!

GOOD LUCK!

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CASUAL DISCRIMINATION: FROM PROJECT LEAD TO CAD MONKEY

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Today after a long struggle to get into work I sat down at my desk to a pile of printouts all heavily red-penned, marked up by the company’s director. I had a flashback to my first fulltime role as an Architectural Assistant over 10 years ago and as I sat there, I felt a little deflated.

I couldn’t help but think, how was I back in a position where I arrived at my desk to someone else’s red pen markings on someone else’s design stacked up on my desk. Having never met the client nor the project consultants, with no note of explanation from the director, no friendly “please revise these accordingly and by XX date”, nothing to say what the client had been thinking, or why the engineer had moved rainwater pipes, etc etc.

In my first year as an assistant, I had gone from being a fresh-faced inexperienced assistant on my first day to being the project lead, running a renovation project in the Cotswolds, now I am pretty sure that it was driven by two factors, understaffing and overconfidence in my ability by the director, but even so I managed it and we came out with a project that the client was happy with. So how was it that over 10 years later I was back in a “cad monkey” position?

I tried to reason with myself, I had only been at this practice for 9 months, I was part-time, we all need to pitch in when the project requires, I have been given my own clients, it is just this project (but this project is fast becoming my main project).

The more I reasoned the more I came back to the same question, why do senior staff members treat “valued” staff in this way?

How can I be expected to have any interest in a project where, I can only assume, I am deemed to be too junior to meet the client? Why am I expected to understand how the building is to be constructed when I’ve never spoken with the consultants? How can I have a full understanding when I only receive drips and drabs of information in the form of red pen over drawings with no other communication or explanation? I am good at my job but I am not a mind reader.

My deflated head reasoned; “well I’m part time so shouldn’t expect to be seen as a senior” and then my outrage kicked in; yes, I had had a child but my husband didn’t have to go backward in his career because he had a child.

I am still an Architect and the practice should allocate projects accordingly not devalue my training and knowledge by putting me on work that they could employ someone less experienced a lot less wage to do.

I have seen so many of my part-time working friends have to deal with this, we had conversations about it and while I was sympathetic at the time, I don’t think I fully registered when I was working full time, pre-children, what it meant. These colleagues left their offices in the end and freelanced and one friend does not practice as an Architect at all anymore, finding it too difficult and unsupported.

I sat there at my desk feeling discriminated against. I am going to use the term discriminated against. Because surely that is what it is?

To have a level of experience but not be afforded work to match that experience purely because you do not work 9 – 5.30 every day.

To not be allowed to attend training cpds, because the office always books them on your ‘day off’ despite the fact that, to remain as a UK registered architect, one is required to attend cpds in order to satisfy the ARB code of conduct. This decision to book them when I am not in the office not only limits my ability to progress but could also have me disqualified from my profession.

With each day I complete I get a deeper understanding that there is no equality when it comes to parenthood, one parent must choose to cut back on their career. It is a hard, hard slog to maintain your career once you have “cut back” because of the procedures and culture that each and every profession in the UK currently has.

Companies offer “flexibility” and put a big TICK on their equality checklist for offering working parents a chance to continue work. But they need to look further than this. It is not enough to simply allow flexible working without allowing the worker to work to the level that he/she is qualified for. It is not enough to allow someone to work part-time but restrict their ability to improve and develop new skills by not including them in training seminars.

I do believe that, as with a lot of discrimination, this is mostly due to a lack of understanding, a naivety, a lack of thinking beyond the obvious and so as I sat there, I thought well if I do not speak up for myself, I cannot expect anything to change.

I decided to question the “red pen” director.

I explained that if I was to be left out of meetings, I couldn’t be expected to have a full understanding of the project, an understanding that is essential in order to do my job. That if they do not book cpds on days that I work I am not satisfying the basic criteria required to continue practicing.

The result: the next meeting, with the project engineer, has been booked on a day that I am in the office…..small steps in the right direction!

 

*Cad monkey: A derogatory term used to describe someone who draws up someone else’s designs and thoughts.

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RETURNING TO WORK: THE FIRST NINE MONTHS

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Well, it wasn’t an easy start that’s for sure. The second week followed suit with the first, but this time my daughter was sick on the way to and from my parent’s house, I am not good with sick. I knew when I got pregnant that I would have to deal with sick as a parent but my goodness I did not realise how frequently I would be drenched in it! My little girl has a very sensitive tum and everything affects it, upset = sick, ill = sick, teething = sick, doesn’t like a taste = sick… you get the point! And as we figured out at about 3 weeks into my working, travel = sick!!

Around the time I started work my toddler required a new car seat, we spent an age researching and concluded that until she was two it was safer for her to be rear facing, so we spent a ridiculous amount of money on a seat which could be both rear and forward facing. This new seat was higher than her baby seat and so she could now see out of the window, and facing backward; looking out of the window along the winding roads that lead to my parent’s house she was getting very travel sick. We turned the seat around and this seemed to partially resolve the problem, it was no longer guaranteed that she would be sick in the car at least. But still now if she has an empty tummy or has had too much milk to drink she will shout “TUMMY ACHE” or “SICKIE” about two bends in the road before she is sick! It does not make for a relaxing commute!

Back to the first few weeks, my in-laws were still away so my parents were having to balance an additional day of childcare into their busy schedules and I had decided that the only way the long commute was even remotely achievable was to stay at my parents once a week, which meant that I missed my husband (he got one night a week of amazing sleep though so he, at least, was benefiting!).

The first three months back at work felt very much like catching up and settling in, I guess it took longer as I only do half weeks, but I found this pretty irritating, I was impatient with myself, why was my brain being so slow to remember things? Why was it so hard to feel involved? Why was I not being given more responsibility? I decided, after a while, that I was being too hard on myself and that once I was back to being fully involved in projects it would not be so easy to have this slower work pace, so I used the time to get up to date on policies and to re-accustom myself to working in the office with their way of doing things.

And maybe I should have enjoyed the ‘settling in’ period a little more! The past few weeks I’ve been too busy to have a lunch break and I really love a lunch break! I have a few friends that work in the same town and so lunchtimes have become great socialising opportunities! It is amazing how lovely it is to sit and talk to someone without a toddler pulling on your arm, or climbing something dangerous, or just wanting to be acknowledged as the little human that they are.

And if not with friends, then lunchtimes offer the luxury of walking down a quiet country lane or shopping without having to navigate an over-engineered pram. Lunchtimes are my respite moments and my old Friday nights out!

But I did ask to be busier, to be more involved and, in all honesty, I crave that. I think I’m addicted to buildings and design! I think most Architects are, and there’s no getting away from buildings, so there is a constant reminder of the job you do everywhere you go, nagging you to get back to it. And the trouble with being an Architect is that it comes with a weight of responsibility, the responsibility of designing someone’s dream! Of incorporating their budget and all the planning and building restraints and still creating their vision.

And in my sector of architecture, the responsibility of knowing that this project could answer their prayers or bankrupt them if you let costs escalate. Of knowing that ultimately this will be their castle, their solace, their piece of England, their home.

And so as I got more into the projects, the more I remembered why I had become an Architect in the first place, something that I lost sight of when I worked in London for the large-scale developers. And at the moment every day that I leave work, I leave feeling happy to have been there. The main feeling I get, as I walk down the narrow winding Georgian grade II listed stairs, from my top floor office, is satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment (as well as being completely exhausted!) and even so, I still question every week, when I am not at work, why am I putting myself through this? Is it worth it? Wouldn’t it be easier to stay at home with my daughter?

I am extremely lucky to be working, without having a major financial need to work and so I guess I have the luxury of being able to question if it is worth it. But it does make me think, if even I (who enjoys her job) questions if the hassle of working as a mother is worth it, then is it any wonder that so many women leave architecture (or any job) once they have had children.

Throw onto that pile, that most companies do not accommodate flexible working, or accept the excuse “my daughter has just puked all over the car, I’m going to be late”, or allow working from home and you begin to realise why so many women are now campaigning for work flexibility, for the right to be both a mother and a worker and for companies to acknowledge that women need more support in the work place.

For me, the desire to quit work and focus on motherhood is always higher on no sleep days, because how do you function without rest? Now when I say without rest, I do not mean a slightly disturbed night, I mean that even on a ‘good night’ I have not slept, without interruption, for more than three hours in a row, for over 22 months.

My daughter has only managed to ‘sleep through the night’ twice in her 22 months of life, and on both of those occasions I woke up anyway (being so used to it now) in a panic that she was not behaving ‘normally’!! So when you take that as a base and then throw in the nights when she is poorly, teething, whatever, and she’s up every 30 minutes you get one pretty shattered shell of a human being! So how am I expected to function at the top of my game?!! How am I supposed to make it through a working day?!

Well, I don’t think I’ll ever find an answer to that question and will have to go with the fact that I’m trying my best and if my company doesn’t sack me on those occasions, well then, it’s a just a matter of getting through!!

One of the things that became clear pretty quickly with this exhaustion, was that my commute was not achievable and that if I was seriously considering staying at this office we would need to move. We had pretty much outgrown our then house anyway and staying in the city we lived in and having a larger house proved financially impossible so we knew we needed to move regardless of my working, but with the work factor thrown in the search became narrowed to commutable distances for me and my husband. I have to say that moving in the first 6 months of returning to work after your first child and having to entertain a toddler is not an easy task. But there it was, the decision was made and we began the search.

Luckily post move, at my six months review (which happened at near to nine months!) I was informed that I had passed the probation period! Phew! And then came the dreaded: “Can you up your hours?” Erm. S***. No. it’s hard enough with the hours I’m doing, I already feel stretched at home, how can I possibly lose even more time? When will I do the washing? The admin? Play with my child?! My response did not match my thoughts and came out as “I need to talk to my childcare, but I could potentially up the time at home by half a day” their reply “that would be a start.”

So that is where I find myself now, having just gotten used to the routine, just settled in to my new home, just getting into the projects and knowing that I want to keep the job. But when I agreed to review the hours, in my interview, I was thinking when my daughter was at school.

Will the office accept a no, or will I ultimately have to freelance to do the hours that I want to do?

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BUILDING OF THE MONTH – OXFORD UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY & THE PITT RIVERS MUSEUM

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I am taking you into the heart of Oxford with this month’s ‘building of the month’ blog and to a building that was a regular haunt for me during my Architectural training.

These two museums, which adjoin each other, are housed in a beautiful Grade I listed building which looks as though it has been plucked straight out of the pages from the Lord of the Rings.

In fact, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote his Lord of the Rings trilogy and the hobbit during his time as a professor in Oxford and is known to have frequented a pub not far from the museum with fellow writer C. S. Lewis, so it is plausible that the building helped to shape the worlds within the book.

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History is of a Victorian neo-gothic style and was built by Sir Thomas Deane (1792-1871) and Benjamin Woodward in 1855-60. It contains 126 columns within the central room and each column is constructed from a different British rock.

The Pitt Rivers Museum was built in 1885-6 by T. N. Deane, the son of the Architect for the University Museum of Natural History.

The Pitt Rivers underwent an extension by PRS Architects, with the help of lottery funding, in 2009. This extension has made it much more accessible and included the installation of a lift giving access to all floors. Prams are ok, although I wouldn’t say the display cases are easily navigated with a larger pram. There is a family trail for children to get involved in (you might want to censor the shrunken heads?!)

Both museums are a treasure trove of quirky artefacts and curiosities and the Pitt Rivers even hosts a pufferfish lantern (circa 18th century) in its display!

But for me it is the building itself which is the main pull for a visit, it’s skeletal form and delicate vaulted glass roof makes you take a deep breath as you enter and it’s only when you finally look down from the ceiling that you notice the dinosaur in the centre of the room!

Entry is free (always a winner!) and if you are looking for lunch head into the Natural History’s café for sandwiches and cakes or take a walk into the city itself, there’s always plenty of food options in and around the covered market.

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RETURNING TO ARCHITECTURE FOLLOWING MATERNITY LEAVE

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I returned to work as an Architect exactly 15 months after having my daughter. She was early (not excessively, but enough to make me re-evaluate how precarious having a baby can be) and because of this, I wanted to extend the time I had fully with her beyond the one year (3months of which is unpaid) that is lawfully given to parents taking maternity/shared paternity.

Obviously after 12 months I was expected back at my then job working in the building conservation sector, and this 12-month deadline is what pushed me I suppose to revert back into the world of architecture, although in all honesty I had trouble getting information from my then employer about returning and I had been missing the ‘Architect’s life’ for a while!

Around about 2 months into my maternity leave I began panicking that I did not want to return to work on my daughter’s first birthday! I didn’t want to go back full time, I didn’t want to return to the London commute that had been the absolute bane of my working life for three years (I don’t know how people do it day in day out for years and years, my husband included), I didn’t want to go back to a job that I didn’t feel absolutely 100% passionate about; because, after all, if I was giving up time with my precious child it had to be worth it both professionally and mentally.

I didn’t feel that my current job could or would accommodate any of these criteria. Not to mention the fact that no one in my department or the HR department returned my emails/phone calls/cries for advice on returning to work. Could they offer anything on flexible working/change of location etc? I will never know!

In fact, I’m pretty sure that I had grounds under the 2010 equality act to claim unfair treatment on returning to work post maternity. But luckily for them and for me, I had found something else and I was happy to cut and run.

As my daughter turned 4 months I found myself doing the all so familiar searches for new companies feeling a tad dejected, most people I knew who had continued to work post motherhood had done so in the job that they had pre-baby.

How easy would it be to get a part-time, well-paid job in an industry I had been away from 2 years prior to my mat leave?! Let alone a job in a company that met my architectural aspirations? I didn’t want to fall back into the London trap, where I had spent a few stressful years working on large-scale residential projects that sat a little uncomfortably on my conscience.

And then fate played its hand: sat in my Linkedin inbox was a message from the director of a company I had worked for during the summers of my architectural training. “do you know anyone looking for a job, with the intention that they are trained up to become a director in the business one day?” (do I? I thought!!) my reply was something along the lines “I don’t know many Architects in your area unless you fancy re-hiring me?!” I then went on to list all the reasons why they wouldn’t want to hire me; I didn’t want to start for another 13 months, I didn’t want to work full time, I didn’t live that near to the company anymore…… the list went on. “Why don’t you keep in touch and let us see where we are nearer the time” came the reply.

As my daughter turned 11 months, I had met with the directors and the rest of the staff and had been offered a job, 2.5 days a week with the proviso that this was reviewed over time.

PERFECT!

And then…….

What do I do with the little one?! Will she hate me forever for leaving her? Will it stunt her growth/ my relationship with her? Can I remember how to use the computer programs? Have all the regulations changed while I’ve been conserving roman walls and teaching my child how to walk?! Can I remember how to do private small-scale historic projects or did I spend too long in the cutthroat corporate environment prior to leaving architecture completely?!

The questions and obstacles were endless and (as a CBT therapist once warned me I was prone to do) before long I was spiralling into a chasm of self-doubt.

My ever-patient husband declared, he would support me whatever I decided and pointed out that if it was something I wanted to do, the obstacles I was throwing in the way could be overcome.

My parents gave me the old trusty ‘pufferfish’ and ‘architect of distinction’ pep talk (will save the explanation for another day) and then, as they have always done, bent over backwards to ensure that I could follow my dreams; They would look after my daughter, until we felt comfortable putting her into nursery.

And after many a cup of tea (all spirals are resolved, in part, with a cup of tea) and endless discussions on every possible outcome of me working, it was decided, I would start in March on a 6-month trial basis and see how it was going.

So then came another guilt, is it acceptable for my parents to do the childcare and not offer it to the in-laws!?!

We settled on my parents having her while I was working in the office (they are close to my office) and my in-laws having her when I worked from home (they are close to my home). I then had a few glorious months of maternity leave knowing that I had a job to go to but that it was a way off.

I believe I stuck my head in the sand during these months not really wanting to face the idea of leaving my tiny toddler and before I knew it, it was the week before I was due to start…and here is where we hit our first snag in the perfect returning to work, not paying for a nursery scenario. My in-laws had booked to go away for the first month that I returned to work, great! Well my parents stepped in, my nan who is 99 and is visited by my mum once a week was rearranged (another guilt) and we were on; the day came.

At this point, I was living over an hour away from my new ‘perfect’ job and so decided that I would stay at my parents on the middle night. The morning of my first day arrived and I was up at 5.30 packing the car with our overnight stuff. We set off and I dropped my daughter with my parents, made sure she was settled and left, without saying goodbye (I agonised for hours over whether it was better to slip away or say a proper goodbye) on the day she was happily reading a book with my mum so I decided to just scarper.

I got to work and realised that I hadn’t forgotten everything that I knew, but that I was a little out of date on some new planning policies, “I’ll research those at home” I thought (PAH!).

I arrived back from a pretty good, pretty uneventful first day to a beautiful wide smile from my girl and the report that she had been happy all day. Lovely.

As planned we stayed over that night and I got little to zero sleep, with a very clingy toddler who not only was at a loss as to why I had disappeared all day but was also confused not to see her daddy.

The next day went ok, again little one was happy as I headed off and I got reports throughout the day that she was doing well. I arrived home to pick her up; pretty exhausted now with all the emotion of going back to work and having done two full days, an up all-nighter and two very early starts. I opened the door and my daughter took one look at me and burst into tears. It was heart-breaking.

Was she crying because she was relieved? Had she thought she had been abandoned? Was she cross with me for disappearing? Did she hate this new routine? Did she want to see her Daddy? I cuddled her and tried not to cry myself!

Having managed to calm her down, we did bath time at nanna’s and got into the car to go home, I couldn’t wait to see my husband. The car journey went ok until; about two minutes in she started crying. 5 minutes in and she had been sick everywhere.

I turned the car around and headed back to my parent’s house to try and clean her up and console her. We decided to stay another night.

Great, I thought. The end of my first week and I had made my daughter miserable to the point that she had made herself sick. I was completely exhausted and depressed, I missed my husband, I had missed being with my baby and I was missing the comfort of my own house.

How on earth was this going to work?

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BUILDING OF THE MONTH – KENWOOD HOUSE

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My first ‘building of the month’ blog is a throw back to a building I had the pleasure of working on a few years ago.

I’ve started with an oldie (but a goodie!) because I have a history of conservation and because I believe that the conservation work to this house has been impressively done, something that, unfortunately, can’t always be said.

This beautiful and little-known manor house north of London has some pretty spectacular views of the city from its grounds and is a perfect location for a quintessentially English day out.

The house is of brick and render construction and stands on the edge of Hamstead Heath. Thought to have been originally built in the early 16th century, it has been remodelled and extended over time and its current form is considered to be mostly due to the major renovation work which took place between 1767-1768 by the then renowned Architect Robert Adam.

The English Heritage Trust has invested a lot of money caring for and conserving this building and have worked with a variety of conservation specialists to restore aspects of the house to its former glory.

Along with its year by year conservation projects, a major project was completed in 2013 and included restoring the great library, which is pretty magnificent in its nature and well worth a peek at if you go.

Among the multiple specialists who worked with the English Heritage Trust are the London based Architectural practice Carden & Godfrey who were involved in the 2013 works and Lincoln Conservation (the conservation department within Lincoln University), who were used, amongst other things, to analyse plaster samples so that the make-up of any new plaster could be matched as closely as possible to the original.

The grounds of this building are extensive and are used to enhance the setting of the house, which sits secluded on one elevation and dominant on another; overlooking the heathland below.

There are established manicured gardens, parkland and woodland and if you are able to roam for long enough you will come across some of the collection’s sculptures, which include works by well-known artists such as Barbara Hepworth and (a personal favourite of mine) Henry Moore.

For parents out there, it has great grounds for running around in, a buggy friendly path with great views, a couple of cafés (the scones are their best feature in my opinion!) and a room with dress-up for silliness!

It’s an easy drive (although the paid carpark isn’t huge, there is on-street free and paid parking on the neighbouring streets) or it’s a short bus journey from Archway or Golders Green tube.

It’s well worth a visit, and best of all this is one of English Heritage’s free entry sites!

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“YES!”

 

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Ok, here goes. This is my first official blog, to no one in particular! No followers, no Facebook likes and so far, written under a pseudonym, this is so that I can be honest and open without too much fear of professional repercussion (family members and a few friends will recognise the nickname should they stumble across the site).

I guess I should start by saying that I am not particularly up to date with the blogging world, I am no good with grammar, I am dyslexic and am sometimes hot-headed, I have no idea how best to use Instagram or Twitter and I am not sure that I intend to fully find out.

But here I am, almost 7 years post qualifying as an Architect and 6 months after returning to work following maternity leave, thinking that it might be interesting to write things down.

The aim?!

I suppose is to shed light on the world of a working Architect/mum but more importantly to provide some sort of support to those that are looking for it.

For anyone going through what I once dubbed ‘Architorture’ (aka an architectural degree or postgrad), to inspire any budding or practicing female Architects not to quit (even though there are plenty of reasons to do so), to encourage all working mothers when they have had no sleep and wonder why they don’t just call it a day (I ask myself every week why I am putting myself through it) and to raise awareness of the problems within the construction world for the women that work in it.

Here’s a quick fun fact for you: In a 2013 survey by the Architect’s Journal, 63% of women answered “YES” to the question “Have you ever suffered sexual discrimination in your career”. In the same survey, 74% of men and 89% of women answered “YES” to the question “Do you think having children puts women at a disadvantage in Architecture”.

University statistics show year in year out that the rate of female students slowly declines from part 1 to part 2 and from part 2 to part 3 and in the ARB annual report of 2016, it stated that of all qualified UK Architects only 27% were women and this was considered an improvement!

Time and time again industry surveys find that the main reasons for female Architects leaving the profession are to move away from sexism or bullying. Unequal pay, unbreakable glass ceilings and inflexible and long work hours are other common factors.

This is not to say that being an Architect is a struggle day by day, there must be a reason I am still practicing 7 years and one child on. However there has been many a time when I have been near to walking away from my career, I have even had a two year pause in ‘architecting’ to concentrate on building conservation instead and during these moments, I have found limited support online or in person and this is something I would like to address.

I will be doing this, to start with, purely by writing my own experiences so that others can read and feel happy in the knowledge that they are not alone.

I have already stated that I am not very computer savvy (crazy for an architect I know). So, I apologise if there are resources already available but, I have not found them and so I am sure many others haven’t found them either.

Here is where I am going to have my first dig:

RIBA what am I paying for?

I can honestly say that I still have very little understanding of what I am getting out of being a member of the RIBA, apart from the ‘street cred’ that comes with being in an old mysterious club and the pretty magazine that I get sent.

I acknowledge that the general public knows the name and look for the name when searching for Architects, in fact, most people haven’t heard of the ARB which is the actual governing body for British Architects.

I know also that they oversee certain university courses, in order to standardise the level of training for Architects.

But really?! For the extortionate fee to join this club there is very little actual benefit to the individual for being a member and I certainly haven’t found one piece of useful advice for surviving or advancing my career from them.

I recognise that, should I wish to spend more money, I could go along to one of their seminars. But honestly, if you want advice or support in real-time their website is about as helpful and as easy to navigate as a chocolate teapot and how many working mothers do you know that can just pop along to a seminar that takes their fancy?!

If only they would use their influence to further address the problems women face in the profession and provide assistance to all Architects for the duration of their working lives, then might they be useful to the professional body that they claim to serve.

For further information on the statistics mentioned above go to:

https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/

http://2017.arb.org.uk/

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