Alpa Depani

Architect / Placemaking Lead London Borough of Waltham Forest. UK

What inspired you to want a life in Architecture and the creative industries?
I’ve always felt creative but I didn’t grow up with any role models of people in the creative industries so it was hard to know how it could shape my professional life. I’ve just felt my way to where I am.
After a foundation course I started out on a fine art degree which was a lot of fun but after the first year I knew I needed more parameters to engage with so I applied for architecture. I’m not sure I really knew what was involved but I knew I liked buildings and drawing! Whenever it’s been tough going – undergrad, or certain jobs – I’ve tried to remember the difficulties are to do with that place or situation, not the subject; I’m deeply inspired by architecture as a discipline and I feel very intrinsically that I am an architect.

Who inspired you in finding your path to Architecture and the creative industries?
I’ve been lucky to have had a handful teachers or tutors who have believed in me and understood better than I did at the time what I was trying to achieve, they encouraged me to go against the grain when going with the grain was the more obvious way to achieve success. They encouraged me to hold my nerve and do it my way, basically. That’s big.

How you unlock obstacles and overcome bias in your work?
I try to challenge them head on and draw attention to them. When you experience bias it can feel like being in on the worst secret in the world, it’s alienating. So respectfully, factually communicating there is an issue is key, then you can build allies, and then you can be proactive. And if you draw attention to a fundamental problem and can’t get people to listen, you know you’re in the wrong place and it’s time to get out.

What improvements you feel are required to promote effective change in the academic and working environment?
Diversity, in all its forms, and at all levels has to be the priority; it’s ineffective and fundamentally uncreative to address anything from a single or monocultural viewpoint.
I know from experience that it is possible to ‘be what you can’t see’, to forge a path for yourself without starting out with role models or contacts. But it’s hard. Why make things hard for people?

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