The leader of the firm’s portfolio of community, culture and education projects emphasises the social and environmental responsibility of her job and the importance of doing work that you enjoy 

Louise Boddie

Why did you choose construction as a career?

At a young age I was particularly interested in art, geography, science and engineering. Studying architecture gave me the opportunity to explore all these subjects in a creative way that was grounded in the environment. It was not until I had completed a work experience placement that I really saw it as a career option.

Since becoming a practising architect I have discovered that what I learnt at university is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a social and environmental responsibility to our industry. I enjoy exploring the people-side of the role, really exploring a client’s needs. Seeing a solution materialise is very rewarding!

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

Designing and delivering buildings is something to be immensely proud of and I hope it makes me a good role model for my children! It is hugely complex and an all-consuming process, but when buildings have a positive impact on the people that will use them, it is very satisfying.

While I was at Penoyre & Prasad I worked on several education and retrofit schemes that I am proud of, particularly the retrofit of Denys Lasdun’s grade II* listed Institute of Education for UCL and the re-use of a car showroom for Birkbeck, University of London. This has led nicely into the work I do at Hudson Architects where I am currently working on improving accessibility and equality across historic buildings for a university campus.

For me the reward is not in winning awards – although it’s a bonus! I am much more interested in knowing that a particular issue has been resolved for a client, and that always comes from listening before putting pen to paper.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?

Balancing my career ambitions with being a parent! Although major steps have been taken to address gender-based diversity, I still feel like the industry creates hurdles for women who want to have children and a career – it often feels like a given that architects will work hours of overtime, which just isn’t feasible for some parents.

Since I moved out of London to Hudson Architects in Norwich, my work-life balance has improved a lot!

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I would like to see architects being engaged at a much earlier stage of a project’s development – particularly if there is a debate around whether to demolish or retain a building. Architects are more passionate than ever about the retrofit-first movement and have the expertise to bring about creative solutions for reuse. In many cases this is not being brought to the table early enough to impact the decision-making process.

I recently became a RIBA client adviser to help clients define what their project might look like well before the design stages.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

To trust my judgment, particularly since I have now been practising for over 14 years! I have also learnt to challenge, test and push – and always explore opportunities to do things better.


A bit of Brutalism: The Barbican estate was built between 1965 and 1976 on a 14ha site that had been bombed in the Second World War

Name your favourite building in the world?

I love a bit of Brutalism! The Barbican estate in London really stands the test of time. I like how well it is engrained and connected to the city.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

Not sure how famous it is, but I really dislike St George Wharf, the riverside development in Vauxhall along the Thames. The riverfront developments have a really nice scale right up until that point!

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

I always love looking for the potential in old buildings. We have abandoned too many without really exploring how we could transform and reimagine them. It is not a famous building, but I once went to see an old flour factory that would have been amazing to transform into a community space – it didn’t happen!

Vauxhall Tower at St George's Wharf, designed by Broadway Malyan

Source: Pavel Rumme \ Shutterstock

Vauxhall Tower at St George’s Wharf, designed by Broadway Malyan

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

Architecture is a very wide profession that is not just about working on award-winning new-builds in London! Get as much work experience as you can in different areas of the country (or world!) and in different sectors and it will serve you well. Have confidence in your own voice and speak up if you are not getting the right experience.

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

I really admire all the people out there who are pushing for decarbonisation and exploring new ways of building or trying to bring back traditional ways of building.

Hudson Architects is currently working on the UK’s first domestic CobBauge building and Norfolk County Council has just unveiled a major decarbonisation programme, so perhaps it is my echo chamber, but it feels like we are collectively resetting our thinking about what is possible.

What is it like being you (and doing your job)?

Busy! It’s equal measures of stress and reward daily, but often it is hard to reflect on how it is going because there is so much juggling to do. I find I need to have confidence in my decision-making because there is not much time to sit and think things through.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Spend more time doing the things you enjoy and less on the things you don’t. I am very lucky that I enjoy working in architecture, but do always try to balance work and spend more time with family!

What do you think your best quality is?

I think I am very open and I do really listen before I give my opinion. This reflects how I work too – I try to get a clear understanding of a brief or challenge before I start designing. I never go in with a pre-conceived idea of what something should look like.

What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?

In myself: I really undersell myself!

In others: Overconfidence, speaking before listening.

Name three things that you like

The sea: I love being close to the sea and nature. As a Scot, I found London to be quite an oppressive place to work. Things have improved since I moved to Norwich!

Family: I love being part of family life and, in particular, being home in time for dinner!

Gardening: I would really like to have more time for this!

Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have

I’m great at parallel parking!

What is your most prized possession?

The headlight from my grandmother’s Honda Accord.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl.

What is your favourite food?

Burritos, or anything Mexican. I got hooked on Mexican food after a trip to Chicago.

What would your superpower be?

Freezing time.