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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