Role Call: Real Women in Architecture

Lauren is an Architect in Albany, NY.

Lauren is an Architect in Albany, NY.

Role Call is a Petal + Sass blog section featuring interviews with professional young women occupying diverse careers- and their advice to teens.

Name: Lauren Thomsen

Age: 31

College & major: Hamilton College ’05, BA in Comparative Literature and Art History

Graduate school & concentration: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Master of Architecture

Past jobs: Let’s see, there have been so many…highlights include:

-Camp counselor
-Gallery intern
-Landscape architecture
-Engineering intern
-English teacher (in France)

-Teaching Assistant

Current occupation: Architect at EYP, Adjunct Professor at RPI

How did you get involved in architecture? When I was seven we moved. Soon thereafter I began drawing the houses of my dreams. I have ever since. I landed my first job in architecture while waitressing in college. I was waiting on an architect and more or less begged him to give me a job for the summer. I created a portfolio of all the houses and work in fine arts I had done and he hired me!

How did your college major influence your career field? I took a very long and windy road into the field of architecture. I always knew that I loved to draw, but wasn’t ready commit to a college major in architecture while still in high school. So I went to Hamilton College and got an incredible liberal arts education – I learned to write well and articulate my ideas, I lived in France and became bilingual… all things which are not directly related to the field of architecture but make me a better designer now.

What do you love most about being an architect? What I love most is that I spend all day drawing (both by hand and on the computer). My job is to use materials and light to create space. Designers deal with problems that have no right answer, so success rides on one’s ability to articulate a solution to others. The challenge of being an architect is to best represent your ideas through both images and words.  

Do you feel women are underrepresented in architecture? What obstacles do you face as a woman in your field? Women make up only 18% of licensed architects in the US. Very often I am the only female in a room full of men nearly twice my age. In a profession based on experience, I’m often dismissed as young or naive.  But hard work, initiative, and dedication go a long way to convince others of your credibility and talent.

What advice would you give to girls considering a career path in architecture and design? Go for it! But be sure to do some research on college programs and on the field in general to make sure it’s right for you. Visit schools if you can. As an undergrad, you’ll spend long hours in studio and need to be able to present your ideas to your classmates and professors. The late nights are completely worth it and the friends you make in the studio are friends you’ll keep all your life.

What would you wear to a job interview? Not a suit. In the design world you want to wear something tailored and professional but which also speaks to your creativity. Big glasses are always a plus. (Just kidding?).

Any favorite websites particular to your field? There are so many…,,, 

Looking back, what general life advice would you give to your former high-school self: Identify what you’re passionate about and don’t spend time doing something that you’re not truly interested in. It seems young girls are too often overcommitted these days.

Any other relevant info or words of wisdom: Be intrepid. You can achieve ANYTHING if you work hard enough at it.

You can view more ‘Role Call’ interviews here.

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