The first year of university can be extremely challenging, particularly if you’re wracked with uncertainty and self-doubt. Marie Glezos advises her younger self on the importance of seeing architecture through a new lens and rethinking the qualities that make a ‘good architect’.

Dear younger self,

It’s 2012. You are about to complete year 12 and find out you’ve been accepted into the only career you’ve ever envisioned for yourself. You don’t quite understand why you’ve always been drawn to architecture, nor have you bothered to ask yourself this question. You’re just grateful to not be feeling like many of your peers, in a panic at the idea of having to consider their future.

Any doubts about embarking on an architectural career have subconsciously been put to bed. Be prepared – they’re about to be quickly and unexpectedly woken up. Architecture school requires a different type of attention to detail, a different lifestyle balance, a different kind of responsibility and demands a different type of self-reflection.

While architecture school is notorious for sleepless nights, overwhelming expectations and consistent doubt, do not fear. These next five years will also find a way to discreetly spark a new sense of inspiration. You’ll be exposed to the endless opportunities the world of art, architecture and design have to offer. Not only will these years provide you with lifelong friendships and mentors, experiences with study abroad and help you realise your passions within the industry, they will remind you of why you wanted to become an architect in the first place and the stress will be alleviated, just for a moment. You will participate in a five-week internship over your final summer break at a small boutique firm in North Adelaide, consisting of two male directors and two other university students. They will then ask you to join their team casually while you complete your final Masters year.

Final year Masters – Port Resolution Community Accommodation in Vanuatu (2017).

Over this final year of Masters you will start to see the architect’s role through a new lens. You’ll be eager to apply your newly experienced real-world knowledge to all facets of your subjects, from architectural theory and history to environmental studies, construction methods and design workshops. Before you know it, you will be excited to find out that the firm would like you to be their first full-time employee once the uni year is completed. Little did you know that this new, young firm would eventually grow to become one of Adelaide’s leading boutique firms in only five years’ time.

You will play a vital role in the firm’s development, recognition and culture, as both a woman in the industry and a young registered architect.

So, you have your education and experience practising in the real world. You find yourself now asking, “What does it truly mean to be an architect? A female architect? A young, female architect? A good, successful, young, female architect?””

I do not have the answers just yet. But what I can tell you is to remind yourself of the following from time to time:

Ask questions

Erase the doubt, but don’t hesitate to ask questions. How else will you learn and continue to grow as both a woman and an architect?

Be spontaneous but don’t lose your values

Embrace your spontaneity, but don’t lose your values along the way. It’s important to live in the moment but never at the expense of changing who you are as a woman or an architect. Invest your ideas into projects that will ultimately improve the lives of others and better our built environments.

Be patient but don’t waste time

Be patient with progress but be mindful of wasting time. Results will not happen overnight, and good things take time. Do the research and learn from history, have the conversations and open discussions. Ask yourself as both a woman and architect, “why am I doing this?”, “who am I doing this for?” and “how can I help others by doing this?”.

Be open to advice

Find the right mentorship for you. Listen to other opinions, ideas or suggestions, whether you agree with them or not. You only need to take away what resonates for you and your projects. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and take the time to help you learn in a way that is most effective for you.

Share your talents

Humble yourself, but don’t shy away from sharing your talents. You’ve been given strengths as a woman and a designer, whether you know what they are just yet or not. Learn your craft and apply your strengths to not only better your life but to positively influence others. If exploring your talents means bringing light into the lives of others don’t ever shy away from sharing them.

Fundraising painting with PAFC’s Travis Boak for Childhood Cancer Association (2021).

Maximise opportunities but always give back

Remember, you are the grandchild of four Greek migrants who packed up their lives in their late teens to provide you and your family with a better life. They have taught you what it means to work hard, express all forms of generosity and never take life for granted.

You are very fortunate to live in a free country, have access to world class education and the opportunity to decide for yourself what you choose to do with your life. Do what you love and do it well, as there are sadly too many women in this world who are unable to do so. Remind yourself in the difficult times that if you can’t do it for you, do it for them.

As a woman and an architect in Australia, you have power, presence and privilege – sometimes when you least realise it. Use it to your advantage and share your success with others in your communities. Perhaps you’ll take it nationwide someday.

Focus on what you can control & influence

You have responsibilities, but don’t take on all the world’s problems. You will feel overwhelmed, as though there are always more problems than solutions. Focus on what you can control and influence; starting with yourself, your clients, your projects and your communities. Use your values as both a woman and an architect to help guide you through your architectural journey.

Rethink what makes a ‘good architect’

Remember, to be a good architect is defined differently by people both in and out of the profession. A good architect is also commonly referred to as the most established, awarded, recognised or the smartest, most creative person in the room. While this is sometimes the case, they can also just be the architect who is the best listener, open minded, considerate, approachable, attentive, deep and critical in thought, sympathetic and, most importantly, a great team player.

These qualities and values can be applied to so many other professions and communities. Being an architect is not all that you are, but you can use your architectural experience, knowledge and access to better shape all aspects of your life and those around you.

Essentially, I believe architecture is not just a discipline. It’s a lens for how we view the complexities of our world and it can be used as a tool to assist us when approaching many aspects of our day to day lives.

Speaking at Parlour’s Adelaide Spring Salon (2022).

Marie Glezos is an architect at SMFA with a strong passion for community and social developments, ESD, interior design, visual arts and product design. These form part of her design philosophy and ensure projects have considered the importance and benefits of collaborating with other design disciplines outside of architecture. Marie studied at the University of South Australia, graduating in 2017 with a Master of Architecture and completed her registration in 2021. She is also a self-taught artist working predominantly with acrylic and pencil, and has produced commissioned artworks for private clients and participated in SALA exhibitions.