Sophie Cleland

“It’s the response to human nature in architecture that I like.”

“Before I became an architect I used to work in advertising, making TV ads. I wanted to be a photographer too but, after a while, I noticed that all my photos were of buildings.

I’m interested in the relationships between buildings and people—how people respond to them, design with them, use them. Houses are usually about the client as a person but when you’re designing a public or government or institutional building you’re producing something that responds to a far greater number of people. It can have a bigger impact on a city, culture, environment, it can stand for or represent bigger things, it can be around for a long time.

In my role as a project architect, I shepherd the process of creating a building from the initial idea through to shaking hands with the client in front of the finished building. I also lead project teams—I don’t just manage them. I like to have people in my team who consider and engage as much as they can. I want them to say, ‘Is that right? Can I see something that will have a flow-on effect?’ You need people to do that. It’s part of being a good architect.

I’m good at communication. I like talking to people and I don’t mind if clients, contractors, other architects or anyone from the team wants to delve deeper into the detail. Those people need to understand the bigger picture so they can be part of making good decisions. As architects, we’re taught to question. There’s always a reason for it.

Is architecture art? That question generates a lot of debate because if it is art, it’s art with a function. Our buildings are about ideas but they don’t have a neon sign out the front that points those ideas out, so there is interpretation involved. It’s great when people want to know about something about a building. It’s a nice conversation to have.”