Caroline Pidcock, director at Pidcock – Architecture + Sustainability, is one of our judges for this year’s Sustainability Awards. As the name of her firm would suggest, Pidcock has a wealth of experience when it comes to sustainable architecture and building outcomes.

She is a member of the Living Futures Institute Australia, the Sacred Heart Education Ministry Boards, and an ambassador for both the Al Gore Climate Change and 1 Million Women projects.

In the lead-up to the 2017 Sustainability Awards, A&D spoke to Caroline about women in architecture, sustainability, creativity, and the field of architecture in Australia. 

There has been a lot of discussion recently around the topic of ‘women in architecture’. Do you think it’s necessary to say ‘female architects’, or should we should be using gender-neutral terms, as is becoming the norm with other professions (for instance, lawyers, accountants and doctors)?

What is important to note when speaking generally is the profession the person is part of. Neither their gender nor race are relevant in conversations about these matters.

In a more detailed discussion about a specific person, these are some of the many factors that impact on our experience and approach to thinking and creativity, and might be worth discussing in a boarder context at such a time. 

We recently passed the 12-month anniversary of the death of Zaha Hadid. What do you believe her contribution was to the issue of gender in architecture, if any? Is the access to prominent role models one of the differences between our notions of male and female architects on a global level?

Zaha Hadid was a very successful architect who worked on a very broad and international stage. She (and her team) created many amazing buildings that inspired lots of people. She is one of the only females to be recognised as an individual star architect – a title generally reserved for men, and breaking such boundaries is always a great thing.

In terms of Australia, for young women looking to do their HSC this year and perhaps thinking of going to university to study architecture, what would be the best piece of advice that you could give them?

Identify what you are interested in and like doing, and do your best to pursue this. Do not be afraid of the fact that this might change, and your career might take several changes in direction.  Architecture is a great degree as it trains you in creative problem solving. Not only can this be used for a future in architecture, it is also [useful in] many other careers where you need to consider a range of different issues [and devise] a clever solution. 

Getting back to Zaha Hadid, her work had in some ways an anti-establishment feel about it. Do you think this was a personal trait of hers?

This is very much a personal trait. There are many people in the architectural world who follow such routes, but few are as successful in being appointed to big projects where such ideas can be realised. She was unusually capable in bringing this approach into the successful realisation of major projects. 

Your practice caters to both residential and commercial clients. Which space do you find is more creative and more open to experimentation, and why do you think this is?

I think the potential for creativity and experimentation is not so much related to the project type, but the people involved in the team. Also, sometimes there is a confluence of ideas and timing that enables great things to happen.

Is it possible to design to both a sustainable goal and one that is culturally rich, or are the two concepts mutually exclusive?

I believe that a truly sustainable future is one that is “socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative”. If a project only looks at technical issues and does not address social or cultural issues, I don’t believe it can be assessed as sustainable. 

In terms of architecture in Australia, what, in your opinion, do we lack in comparison with other countries? On the other hand, what do you think we have in abundance?

At the moment, we suffer from a lack strong leadership that understands the importance of sustainability for our future, especially in the state and federal governments. However, we do have an abundance of renewable energy and ingenious, creative people. Together, these are the best ingredients for an abundant living future.