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Women Presidents

Brianne Hamilton

Fiona Mckay

Brianne Hamilton also excelled at art and math, so an early guidance councillor made the obvious suggestion that she should look into an architectural career - a sweet twist on advice to previous generations.  Brianne recognised the value of this advice when on a family trip to Rome she stood with obsessive attention in the exact same spot in the Pantheon every morning just to absorb the architectural atmosphere.   Without any wavering or career choice side-tracks, she received a BS in Architecture from the University of Michigan in 2004, in its first graduating class to have 51% women.  She received her MArch from the University of Texas in 2007. 

She came to London on a residency program for six months work experience with KPF and was offered a permanent position at the end of term.  For several years, she worked on KPF’s massive Abu Dhabi Airport project as the coordinator of the passenger conveyance package.  This involved reviewing and editing specification, coordinating with consultants and preparing construction drawings for a staggering “350 lifts, escalator and moving walkways”.  

From 2011 to 2014, she was an integral team member for KPF’s South Bank Tower, an unusual project adding an eleven storey extension to an existing thirty story tower to create a mixed use development of high end residential, office and retail space.  Following through on her early participation in planning applications, design, client/consultant coordination and construction documents, Brianne also worked as site architect.  She continued to perform site inspections and resolving construction issues right up to the birth of her son at the end of 2014.  

KPF’s South Bank Tower Project (permission to use photo granted by CIT, an independent real estate company)

Brianne spent many active years on the AIA Chapter Board, and is particularly remembered for founding an emerging professional component to assist young architects going through the US registration process.   She was also responsible for organising the 2013 Design Awards and – for five years running - the AIA UK Student Charrette. 

Whereas other past presidents also raised children during their tenure, Brianne holds the record for the youngest child by far.  Her son, Patrick, attended all AIA UK board meetings as a less-than-one-year-old honorary member. Brianne left KPF in 2015 to spend more time with Patrick and is undecided about the future: “I am enjoying working part time on private residential work and hope to continue with it for the time being. Who knows what the future holds?  I may end up returning to office work in the future, or may carry on with private work.  I am hoping to keep my options open by maintaining my NY license, while enjoying and making the most of the family time I have now”.

Etain Fitzpatrick

Fiona Mckay

Etain Fitzpatrick decided when she was about 12 or 13 that she wanted to be an interior designer, but she also studied calculus, physics and chemistry at high school.  When she was applying to university, her mother suggested architecture to her because she was “good at math and was artistic”.   After a trial Introduction to Architecture Program at a Cornell summer school, she was hooked on the profession and received her BArch from Syracuse in 1993. Although she records that her class dropped from 130 to 100 after the first year, she only started to ask “where were the women” years later when writing her 5th year thesis.  

Etain worked at several small practices in New York while completing her architectural registration. Once registered, she looked for further experience in a bigger office, choosing KPF as the “less corporate” option.  Eventually at her own request, she moved to KPF’s London office in 2004.

Etain’s parents were originally from Ireland, so she spent time there and was partially educated in England.  As she also studied in Florence and travelled extensively throughout Europe, her career has always had an international flavour.  In 2009, she moved to Paris to work for the Renzo Piano Workshop to work on the Place and its neighbour the Shard.  She moved back to London in 2010 to follow through on their construction. 

Etain describes herself as a “dynamic problem-solver” who “likes to be involved in all aspects of a project from the overall development down to the details and material selection.”  Since RWP, her career has followed a steady progression of increasing responsibility on major architectural projects, including senior designer positions at Wilkinson Eyre and currently at John Roberstson Architects. 

Etain and Renzo Piano at the Place, London Bridge in 2012

During her time on the AIA Chapter Board, Etain was a prolific organiser of lectures, tours and events, most notably the London Bridge Day at the AIA 2014 London Conference.  Her tenure as President coincided with the formation of the AIA International Region and she continued her involvement with the Region on its interim Board of Directors and then as Secretary and Newsletter Editor. 


Elizabeth Waters

Fiona Mckay

Elizabeth Waters started CAD drafting in high school and, like all the other past presidents, enjoyed both math and art. Initial study for an engineering degree at the University of Kansas was quickly put aside for a BArch (achieved in 2005) once she realised she “wanted more of the creative side of things”.   Unlike the experiences of her predecessors, Elizabeth remembers there being “quite a few women” in her architecture program, but hardly any in the engineering program – a sign perhaps that engineering has not yet quite caught up with the improvement in architectural representation.

She got a taste for international travel and friends as an exchange student and wanted to follow up on these connections when she was working in Dallas for the international firm RTKL. In pre-credit crunch days, RTKL had a London office, so Elizabeth just asked if she could have a transfer and was pleasantly surprised when the answer was yes. 

She stayed at RTKL until 2013, and then moved to McBains Cooper to work on a small residential project in London.  As the sole architect on the project, she ended up with responsibility for the complete external works, from design through site coordination.   

Elizabeth is now an Associate Partner at Pilbrow & Partners and is currently working on the interior design aspects of a large residential scheme in Greenwich.  Whereas in previous times, young women architects might have felt pressured into interior design, Elizabeth has welcomed this project as an opportunity to expand her skills.

She currently plans to continue working as an architect, despite the disappointment many architects feel about the financial compensation for their lengthy studies and long hours. Having been warned at university that no one should ever study architecture for the money, she acknowledges the warning, but says “money can’t replace seeing your work develop right before your eyes and having a positive impact on the build environment”.

Pilbrow & Partners’ large residential project the Waterman, Greenwich Riverside, now under construction.

According to Elizabeth, women tend to have great administrative and organisational skills, and she successfully applied her skills to running the UK Chapter. She helped redesign the website, sorted out chapter communications, defined chapter roles and duties and – in particular - organised the popular punting events on the Cambridge and Oxford City Excursions. She was also actively involved in the discussions on the very early stages of the International Region.  



Bea Sennewald

Fiona Mckay

Bea Sennewald’s first degree was a BS in Physics from Antioch before she decided that architecture potentially offered a more “exciting life style than working in a laboratory”. However, she has never lost her interest in science and continues to include “reading science research” as one of her primary outside interests. 

After trial work experience in California, she received her MArch degree from the University of Oregon in 1977.  She then moved to New York, initially at Edward Durell Stone, for further grounding in traditional architectural skills, including a period as construction administrator on Cesar Pelli’s MoMA Tower.  One of her New York projects was a satellite sending and receiving station for the NY Port Authority for which her physics background proved invaluable.  This early Teleport project essentially launched her lifetime career specialising in international science facilities. 

Bea spent 30 years working for HDR - a global architecture and engineering firm headquartered in the US – taking on multiple roles of increasing responsibility from project architect, project principal, vice president to senior vice president.  She started HDR's London office in 1999 with the ultimate responsibility for design quality and budget/schedule control of its European projects.  

Thanks to an outstanding team,” she notes, “I have been able to deliver more than 20 major projects (£50 million +) on time and on budget in the UK, the US, Germany, Portugal, Russia, Finland and many other countries.”  Several of her projects in the UK and US have won industry awards, including a High Honour Award in 2005 (Advanced Measurement Laboratory, Maryland, US) and a Special Mention in 2015 (Plowright Building/BBSRC National Virology Centre, Surrey UK) both for the “Lab of the Year Competition”.   AIA awards include Merit Awards from New Jersey (Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, UK) and from the Central States (International Iberian Nanotechnology Institute, Braga, Portugal).  

During this same period running projects, Bea also had simultaneous responsibility for the financial performance of HDR’s European corporate operations.  One of her major achievements was integrating a German architectural firm of seven offices and 200 staff into HDR’s management structure.

Over the past twelve years, Bea has been committed to working with underprivileged communities in the developing world, having participated in the realisation of more than twenty healthcare and laboratory projects in Africa.  She left HDR in 2015 but has continued her development work as an independent architect developing earthquake resilient designs for housing in the Philippines and participating in the design and construction of a small hospital in rural Zambia.

Bea’s project range from the high-tech Roslin Institute Building to low-tech construction in Zambia

During her time as president, Bea concentrated on raising the profile of the Chapter in London by organising more events, increasing publicity and spearheading a fundraising drive via corporate sponsorship.  Incidentally, she also initiated the name change from AIA London/UK to AIA UK to better reflect the geographic coverage in the Chapter name.

Elizabeth Casqueiro

Fiona Mckay

Elizabeth Casqueiro’s route to London differed significantly from the other past presidents.  She obtained a BA in Design at the University Institute of Art, Design and Enterprise, in Lisbon, Portugal in 1975, but she soon realised that – while she loved design - she was passionate about architecture.  Immigrating to the US following political upheavals in Portugal, she received her MArch from the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, in 1986.

In Washington DC, she first worked in traditional practices (Perkins & Will, SOM) and then – prompted by “a desire to work on an international scale and contribute to world development” - as a project manager at the World Bank (IBRD).   This meant overseeing the site selection, construction and fit out of IBRD’s country offices across the world, on all continents and often in emerging, post conflict and fragile state markets.

She moved with her youngest daughter to London in 1998 when she was recruited as Head of Property and Facilities Management at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).  She saw the move from design and project management to property and real estate management as a natural managerial progression, and one which afforded her a greater influence on the strategic direction of the real estate portfolio. 

In her view, there is a strong case for architects to become corporate facilities/real estate managers: “A strong facilities manager can generate significant cost savings over time and is in a position to affect the ability of the institution to retain quality staff through the condition and quality of the working environment”.  While in London, Elizabeth also earned an MA in International Business Management from the University of Westminster.

Elizabeth’s tenure as President of the AIA UK Chapter was cut short in early 2003, to take on a position at AIA National’s headquarters as the Managing Director responsible for education, emerging professionals, stakeholder relationships and the College of Fellows.  She stayed with the AIA for two years before becoming Head of Global Real Estate at the International Finance Corporation (IFC). 

At the IFC, she not only managed the capital and operating budgets for the corporation’s Washington Headquarters, but also spearheaded an addition to the building and oversaw the certifying of it to LEED Platinum EB standard – the second building in the US to achieve this rating.

As per her work with the IBRD, she set up IFC facilities around the world. She left the IFC in 2014, but continues to work as an adjunct professor and as a principal in her own consultancy “providing creative solutions for corporations seeking to establish or relocate their physical footprint in international markets”.  

Elizabeth and David Adjaye, who designed IFC’s offices in Senegal in 2013, currently under construction (permission to use sketch granted by Adjaye Associates)


Lorraine King

Fiona Mckay

Lorraine King was originally enticed by the promise that architecture “is where art and science meet”, but she was actively discouraged from an architectural career by her high school counsellor.  She obtained a BA in Anthropology-Zoology before she returned to her first choice and obtained a MArch from the University of Michigan in 1973/4.  She was one of only three women in an initial class of one hundred and forty to complete the programme.

Her early career in hospital and laboratory design at Smith Hinchman & Grylls in Detroit taught her inter disciplinary coordination and led her into project, then construction and subsequently corporate management.  After a few months spent working on the US Embassy in Sri Lanka for SH&G’s construction management subsidiary, the choice of an international career in construction was a given.

Having dual citizenship, Lorraine came to London in 1982 on her own initiative and found work with Heery International, one of the first US architectural/construction management companies to prosper in the UK.  Building on the wide variety of experiences at Heery - including several years as Internal Operations Director - she ventured into self-employment as an independent “trouble shooter in the construction and property industries” specialising in what she calls “projects beyond the routine”.  Since 1991, she has worked on a multiplicity of assignments across the whole architectural process from initial project programming, design management, construction documents through to installation, occupancy and even demolition.   

Although continuing to delight in the problem solving opportunities offered by architecture to a confirmed generalist, after 2001, Lorraine also focused on projects in the cladding/facade industry, finding its mix of marketing, design, fabrication, on-site and final account issues particularly challenging.   

Perhaps every architect,” she claims, “should be required to apprentice for a time to a specialist subcontractor; getting projects built on spec, on time, on budget and hassle free is that essential other side of pure design.” 

As general manager of a major specialist cladding subcontractor and later consultant to several others, she has been actively involved in over 30 major building projects worldwide.  If she has a speciality, it is in construction claims and - a particular concern - claims avoidance.

Lorraine’s varied projects in London and overseas - Al Shaqab Equestrian Academy, Qatar 2009 / Blue Fin Building, London 2005 / Eagle Place, London 2010 / King Abdul-Aziz Centre for World Culture, KSA 2015  

Lorraine is one of the longest serving UK Chapter board officers.   She was also treasurer for 13 years, having established in 1997 the financial programme and controls that are still in use today. She has been Chapter Secretary now for many years, with a personal brief to safe-guard AIA UK’s legacy.

Justine Kingham

Fiona Mckay

Justine Kingham’s first degree was in Art History from George Washington University and she worked initially as a writer, editor and graphic designer.  “I then realised,” she explains, “that only architecture brought creativity together with reality.  I love the problem solving involved in design and its execution.”   She followed through with a BArch from the U of Maryland in 1979 and eventually a MSc from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.  

In her architectural programme at Maryland, she recalls there being fewer than ten women in a class of ninety, but there ended up being seven women in the graduating class of nineteen – a clear demonstration of the strength of commitment required by female architects just to pass this first step into the profession.

Justine worked for Keyes Condon Florance, Swanke Hayden Connell and John Carl Warnecke in her early career.  Seeing her potential, the last one encouraged her to start her own practice as a way to broaden her skills, although they did expect her to work for them during the day and for her own clients at night.  She gave up her US work when her husband was assigned to a London law office and she moved with him.   She returned to Washington in 2000 and eventually restarted her own, successful small private practice. 

As a sole practitioner, most of her work has been custom residential design as well as assorted interior design, office planning and historic preservation projects.   She continued to volunteer with the DC/AIA Foundation, teaching architectural concepts to grade school children, and with the Zoning Committee of the Committee of 100, the preeminent organization in DC for the preservation of the L’Enfant Plan for the nation’s capital.   As she turns seventy, she has started “tapering down” and is now planning to close up shop at the end of this year. 

So far, the above all sounds relatively straightforward, but that is only if one ignores the fact that in the time of her successes there were few other women architects to act as role models.  While in London, she also raised her family; studied for her Masters; researched and wrote a book; worked for Hurley Robertson & Associates; completely renovated three flats and two London houses as well as played a critical role in establishing the UK as the 1st International Chapter of the AIA.

An example of Justine’s private residential work at White Sulphur Springs, WV

In the early 1990s, Justine was intimately involved in all the key issues of the day, including reciprocity, continuing education and the legal framework of the newly founded Chapter. She also set up and ran the AIA Newsletter and for many years was the main contributor. There is a strong case to argue that – without Justine – there would not have been a sustainable UK Chapter.