Dr Maria Faraone

Dr Maria Faraone, Architect, Social Urbanist, Oxford, London, UK and Toronto, Canada 

What inspired you to want a life in Architecture and the creative industries?
My studies began in very different fields (physics / philosophy), and I had no idea about art and the creative fields. I stumbled upon a foundation course and thought it would be a way to just feel better while I was in university because I struggled to fit in and feel part of the massive institution. The foundation in art allowed me time and space to think about what I enjoyed, to see that I had capacity for visual creativity and that was so deeply inspiring. The idea to become an architect came after that even though my whole life I was surrounded by construction trades, I had never envisioned myself in such a prestigiously viewed profession. Very special teachers and mentors along the way were the ones I owe so much to because they believed in me before I knew how to believe in myself.

Who inspired you in finding your path to Architecture and the creative industries?
A small group of really significant people influenced my life in architecture. My step grandmother who ran a farm on her own and who was incredibly wise was my first life influence. Her home and the land were precursors to understanding the landscape before I was conscious of that knowledge.
My brother and his wife always believed and encouraged me from a young age to follow my heart and they offered a support base through their family ready whenever I needed it (and I have needed it!).
A dear dear cousin and friend, inspiring me into education from a young age and was always present for me across all realms of life.
My father with his deep gift of empathy for the underdog instilled a sense of justice and probably guided the route to my PhD; something I only realized afterwards.
My mentor Michael Miller became a close friend and for two decades had a generous influence on almost every important decision I have made. I was so sad he died recently but his life lives on in the many people who he has guided onwards and upwards. I know he taught me how to do it and is present in my own everyday endeavors in practice and education.

How you unlock obstacles and overcome bias in your work?
The funny thing about obstacles is that they only really stop you if you focus on them. And often times you don’t realise something was in your way until afterwards when you look back.
If there have been issues to address in terms of bias, it helps to understand that people have their own backgrounds and histories and perhaps never had the chance to learn to deal with their bias.
It is incredibly tough to be sympathetic when it becomes personal but in time it becomes easier to be so. I am grateful when the bias is obvious and can be named. The really difficult forms of bias are invisible. My career has been about uncovering these so together we can learn to create and inhabit our mutually beneficial societies.

What improvements you feel are required to pro?
So many words are used like ‘engagement’ and ‘inclusion’ and ‘equity’. These are all important. In my experience, looking for what people have to bring / how It will enrich a place, a community of thinkers and workers, an institution across as wide a range of backgrounds, experiences, cultures, wisdoms are vital to being impactful in the world.  The people who make the greatest offerings are those who understand struggle and who very graciously offer their reflective wisdom about what is possible and how to get on with it.

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