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Elizabeth Timme
Director & Founder, LA Más

  • When did you first realize you wanted to become an architect?
    Growing up in a household of designers (my father was an architect and my mother was an industrial/interior designer) I knew I did not want to be an architect. Both were solidly post-modern architects and from a very early age I was very vocal about disliking the work my parents produced. I mostly wrote poetry, prolifically, and had gotten some positive reception to my efforts.
    The plan was to attend a creative writing program, however I also enrolled in an architecture program out of an intuitive interest in having a greater understanding for the profession I grew up around. Within a week of being in the architecture program I knew I had come home. All the critical energy that had gone into writing went into understanding form, space, void and parti. The world opened up and became larger, and that began my lifelong passion for architecture.
  • Who has inspired you and/or influenced your career the most? And how?
    My father unquestionably shaped my ethics and values as an architect. From living in Rome as a small child when his firm won the Rome Prize, to living on an island in the West Indies and watching him create a construction/trade industry where there had been none. He taught me that architecture is first and foremost a cultural pursuit, grounded in living, breathing and doing it.
  • What are your recommendations for increasing diversity in the workplace and within the design process particularly?
    In Architecture schools, in the first year of enrollment, there is an increasing trend that women make up the majority of students. However, there is little to no incentivization to keep female enrollment strong and provide support for various life circumstances that invariably effect the female population more so than the male.
    The same challenges hold true for the workplace. We are lucky to live in California where we have a state family leave program, which supports and subsidizes extended leave for new parents. However, this isn’t reflected in the workplace. Often there isn’t a job for women to return to and most start practices of their own to compensate.
    Lastly, I’d love to see women professionally diversify from ‘selling’ or ‘tending house’ at large firms. When female friends are offered jobs there seem to be only two binary paths. One is the “glorified sales person”, in which they are sent places to sell ideas, without any real increase in salary or professional title – usually in support of a male, more established team members under the guise of ‘mentorship’. The other path is the anonymous creative director, a role which is never promoted to one of holding equity or independence, and amounts to “overseeing” and coordinating many projects at once. Neither role creates a foundation for women to build a vertical career upon and both are entirely inflexible to women taking maternity leave.
    If we want greater female diversity we need to support a complete quality of life for women in architecture. Women shouldn’t have to adhere to the male model of work first, family second to achieve professional success; it is possible for our industry to accommodate both lives.
  • As a woman, what are your thoughts on the Los Angeles region as a place to work?
    It’s absolutely wonderful to work in Los Angeles. There are many other women with diverse and interesting jobs, and it is immensely fun and rewarding to collaborate with them. However, this is mostly outside the practice of architecture.
    In Los Angeles I have found it hard to find fellow architects who share my values (being collaborative, sharing, playful). I do have a core group of close friends, whom are female designers, and I’m immensely excited and proud to see them develop. However, it would be misleading to say that I’m not upset by the concessions they make because the positions and opportunities they are offered don’t parallel our male peers.

Elizabeth Timme

Director & Founder, LA Más

Elizabeth is the director and co-founder of LA Más, working on projects that look critically at systemic problems and provide solutions based on research and community engagement. Primarily using alternative models of social inclusion and collaboration to shape the future of equitable city growth. Elizabeth is as an Adjunct Professor at Woodbury University’s ACE Center, in addition to serving on the re-code LA team, a comprehensive revision of the zoning code for the City of Los Angeles.

Last updated: 17-Feb-2015 05:06 PM
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