Challenges, support and coronavirus

Alison Carter
28 Oct 2020

To mark Black History month in the UK, we spoke to three women about the challenges that come with being both female and black in this sector, the support available in the UK and the US and how the coronavirus pandemic has revealed problems within the built environments of black communities

Born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Gabrielle Bullock talks about what drove her to decide to be an architect at just 12 years old and what her role as Head of Global Diversity, Perkins&Will, entails. As the second black female to graduate from the architecture department of the Rhode Island School of Design, Gabrielle has been a key player in the firm’s success for over three decades, working in both the New York and Los Angeles studios where she became the first African American and first woman to rise to the position of Managing Director.

Kimberly Dowdell, Principal at HOK, President of the National Organization for Minority Architects in the US and Co-chair of HOK’s Diversity Advisory Council shares her experiences in the US. Kimberly won the 2020 AIA Young Architects Award honoring individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers and was also recognized by Architectural Record’s 2020 Women in Architecture Awards program for her activism efforts.

Elsie Owusu, principal of her practice and Founding member and the first chair of the Society of Black Architects speaks about the issues in the UK. Born in Ghana, Elsie came to England when she was eight and has spent most of her life in London. After enrolling to study at the Architectural Association in 1974, while bringing up a three-year-old daughter, she became Partner at Feilden + Mawson, where she oversaw the refurbishment of the UK Supreme Court (2009) and the redesign of the entrance to Green Park Underground Station (2011), before leaving in 2015 to work for her own practice.

Recording a podcast virtually had it’s challenges this week and we apologise for the sound issues. We’ll nail it next time.

In the first Women Build podcast we talked to Maggie Mullen, principal at her practice in Liverpool, about what success looks like for women in architecture, whether women have a more practical approach to design, ask are we seeing a growth in women led practices and finally some key advice for those starting their architectural career. 

If you want to give us feedback on these podcasts or get involved please do contact WAN via

The podcast series is available on Spotify, iTunes and Google Podcasts. So register, download and join us as we look into the world of architecture from a female perspective, wherever you are.

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