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.