The founder and owner of the architecture and interior design practice on the commercialisation of sustainability, the need to support rising talent and her favourite north London restaurant 

Rachel Basha_B-F_high res

Why did you choose construction as a career?

My parents wanted me to become an accountant, so in true teenage style, I rebelled and became a designer instead.

The industry allows me to channel my creativity, curiosity and critical thinking to challenge conventional ways of doing things. I constantly seek new and better approaches to design because I want to enhance people’s experience of space and connection to place – I would have been a terrible accountant. 

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

I have stayed true to my convictions and ambitions for the practice. People say you have got to bounce back after setbacks, but I believe in bouncing forward.

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

Catching a break in the early days was challenging, especially when you need an established portfolio to engage in traditional procurement methods! I am grateful to the clients who entrusted us with their projects and have championed us ever since. But we all need to do more to support rising talent.

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

We need to address greenwashing and the commercialisation of sustainability accreditations. We are missing out on specifying incredible products from smaller suppliers because they do not have the (huge) funds necessary for certification.

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

“Make it meaningful.” That and “fail better!”

Name your favourite building in the world

Whoever said Brutalist buildings don’t have soul never experienced The Barbican.


The Barbican: Brutalist buildings with soul

Which famous building do you most dislike?

It’s not a building but a style. Or the absence of one. I call it El Blando. You see it in all the major towns and cities, new-build schemes with no sense of place or passion.

I understand that it boils down to more than design – finance and policy are at play – but I believe we can do better.

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

Welbeck Street car park. It felt like a death to see the Brutalist icon demolished. I always look to preserve, transform and reuse because the more we lose, the more our collective history and memory are eroded.

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

Your career is your responsibility. Nurture your skills, figure out where you want to go and plan a route to get there. And don’t forget to build relationships along the way!

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

The women who got where they wanted to go and held the door open for the rest of us.

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

It’s like everything everywhere all at once! I’m not just the ringmaster; I’m an acrobat, juggler, tightrope walker and lion tamer extraordinaire. And I love it. What an honour to work on meaningful projects with a brilliant team and aspirational clients.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Life is like a camera. Focus on what is important, capture the good times, and if things don’t work out, take another shot.

What do you think your best quality is?

Unwavering determination. I’ll always find a way!

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

Impatience. Although sometimes it’s a benefit.

Name three things that you like

Empty art galleries; the moment before everyone else wakes up; passionate, genuine people.

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

I can sniff out the most expensive item in a shop in record time without looking at the price. Sadly, I haven’t been able to monetise this!

What is your most prized possession?

A series of oil paintings of the area I grew up in from the 1970s. They capture the spirit of the landscape as I remember it.

Early bird or night owl?

Early bird… this industry starts at the crack of dawn.

What is your favourite food?

Everything on the menu at Primeur in Stoke Newington. Understated, simple yet inventive.

What would your superpower be?

Seeing the future. I would like to be able to solve problems before they are a problem.