Bushra Mohamed, Architect, London/Nairobi, UK/Kenya
What inspired you to want a life in Architecture and the creative industries?
Craft and making, I was always interested in drawing and making things, particularly the arts and crafts. However, I was very easily distracted when I was younger, so the precision and rigour of an architectural training helped me focus my ideas for longer, and go through the process of working them out, bringing them to fruition. I do still think of buildings as crafted objects or artefacts but have learnt that this crafted building is always in service of the activity, habitation, dwelling and life around it.
I was particularly drawn to the interrogative accuracy of architectural drawing techniques, the plan, section and axonometric. Being an architect for me is about being comfortable with being uncomfortable, you need to be able to adapt and tap into a variety of skills you will need to control the various aspects of an architect’s job.
Who inspired you in finding your path to Architecture and the creative industries?
As architects/artists – Antoni Gaudi’s and Hundertwasser’s work was a huge inspiration – and I think because I didn’t quite understand it. Then, my GCSE art teacher encouraged me to listen to my creative interests and instincts. Lastly, my mother – she’s not an architect or a designer, she hadn’t even finished college at that point – but she was extremely creative and had an eye for interior design, she encouraged me to embrace and nurture my creativity and interest in architecture.
How you unlock obstacles and overcome bias in your work?
Most of the time with a smile, I try to keep positive and keep going. The only real obstacle is not being able to continue doing what you love. So, if you love it, it doesn’t matter how many times you come up against failure or obstacles, it’s important to get back up and try again. Of course, being able to learn from mistakes and seek advice when you need it are all part of it. It’s hard to control bias as an obstacle so I prefer to try to affect the things that I can control and focus on that.
What improvements you feel are required to promote effective change in the academic and working environment?
More representation throughout, we particularly need to see these people as leaders in the profession, within education, writing and as practicing architects. Celebrate leaders in the industry from underrepresented backgrounds. Stop telling us we need to wait 20 years before we see diversity at the top!
Eradicate unpaid competitions and unpaid internships as critical infrastructure in the profession. Improve architectural salaries at every level, a 30% increase is needed at minimum. ARB/RIBA should be leading this instead of following the hundreds of disgruntled architects. They need to help us convey an architect’s value to developers, councils and the general public.
More easily accessible grants for tuition, travel and research for students from lower income backgrounds.
What improvements you feel are required to promote effective change in the academic and working environment