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.