Rachel Bell, Architect & Director, Stride Treglown, UK
What inspired you to want a life in Architecture and the creative industries?
From quite an early age, I was interested in design and making things. I studied art and graphics at school, and I loved CDT (Craft, Design, and Technology). As I got older, I was very clear that I didn’t want to go down the A Level route; I wanted something that was more practical and varied. So, I made the decision to do a BTEC in Construction. I did all sorts of things like crushing concrete cubes, surveying road curves, and even looking at the in-depth mathematics behind engineering. It gave me a brilliant base to go into any aspect of the industry, but architecture was my calling.
Who inspired you in finding your path to Architecture and the creative industries?
My Dad, an electrician by trade, was my role model and inspired me to get into the industry. When I was two, I climbed up a ladder to reach him on the roof of our house! After that, he always joked that I was destined for a career in construction.
How you unlock obstacles and overcome bias in your work.
I’ve long been an advocate for diversity in the construction industry. In one way or another, I’ve mentored school kids, undergraduates and young professionals all of my working life.
My own mantra, and my advice to others, has always been ‘stand tall’. By that I mean, be brave, step outside your comfort zone, embrace opportunities – big and small, and get your voice heard.
I did exactly that a few years ago when I launched my own podcast: ‘Stand Tall with Rachel Bell’. It features conversations with diverse trailblazers from across the property industry and beyond. Each of my guests are breaking down barriers in one form or another and I’m passionate about sharing their stories and hopefully inspiring others to think bigger.
For me personally, launching a podcast was terrifying but it’s led to some really exciting and unexpected opportunities. When I invited Kate Webb, Founder of Orbis Expeditions onto the show, I was really inspired to hear about the purpose-led Women’s Partnership Challenge. Fast forward a couple of years and I’m about to visit Malawi for the third time to lead a trip and run skills exchange workshops with local female entrepreneurs and school children. This is a real ‘stand tall’ moment and a project I’m very proud to be involved in.
What improvements you feel are required to promote effective change in the academic and working environment?
It’s well known that the UK’s architecture industry has issues around exclusivity. It takes seven years to qualify as an architect and many people just can’t afford to take it up as a career. It’s a huge barrier. The other part of the problem is that too many young people have the impression that the construction industry just isn’t for them – which of course isn’t the case.
We need to be talking to children as young as five about the industry, communicating the different educational routes in – from T Levels to apprenticeships – and demonstrating the huge range of opportunities that exist within it. With so many avenues to explore – professional, design, financial, legal, marketing, writing, photography, as well as technical roles – there’s something for everyone.
All of us in the industry need to go out proactively into our schools and communities to inspire a new generation to join up. I challenge businesses and individuals to consider these issues wherever and whenever I can because long-term diversity will build resilience and success in an industry that is vital to the UK economy.