Episode 4: Breaking Ground

Decades of statistics show that women are entering accredited architectural programs at an ever increasing rate. Yet recent AIA surveys indicate that females still make up less than one-third of architectural staff, and only 21% of principals and partners. Given this, it’s no surprise that over 70% of female students and professionals believe that women are underrepresented in the industry.

With a new generation of women preparing to enter the field in even larger numbers, how much progress toward equality will they find, and what changes are likely to shape them? By Design went to Washington DC to hold a frank conversation with two architects breaking new ground in every sense.





Inside the Episode

For nearly 40 years, Olvia Demetriou has blazed her own trail as an independent architect and entrepreneur. The daughter of a successful urban planner, Olvia set out at the age of 17 to follow her passion for architecture, and gain the experience necessary for her to build a solo career on her own terms.

One of only six women in her graduating class, Olvia gave up the familiarity of a family firm to start her own practice at a time when having a man’s name on the masthead was deemed a necessity. Through her own brilliance and business acumen, Olvia rose to become one of the nation’s most sought-after restaurant and hospitality architects, with appointment as an AIA Fellow in 2000.

In 2011, Olvia merged her company to form HapstakDemetriou+, where she continues to lead her own teams in the creation of evocative, trend-setting projects. Her story is not only a view into how far the industry has come, but the type of courage and confidence that remains critical for women to succeed.

Across town, Allison Cooke represents the major strides female professionals are making within the traditional firm environment.

An interior designer who recognized how a grounding in architecture can deliver more creativity and project control, Allison sought out the cross-team collaboration of CORE architecture + design to reorient her career while on the job. Establishing retail and hospitality as her focus, Allison gained increasing client recognition first on a regional stage, then a national one as her ability to innovate and create spaces from the inside out blossomed.

After proving her capabilities as an effective manager and business executive, Allison recently became the first female partner in the firm’s history, as well as the youngest. Her insights are required reading for all who want to follow in her footsteps.

Watch the episode to hear the candid thoughts of these pioneering figures:


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