Sophie Steed tells Building about her 1980s pop music knowledge, the Mackintosh Building in Glasgow and women in construction.
What has been your biggest career challenge?
The transition from design architect to director, where my role is to support and motivate a team of people at various stages of their career. This has meant honing my skills to understand how different people work, and drawing out individuals’ strengths so that we are all able to work collaboratively and successfully.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
For everyone to understand the value an architect brings to a project in improving the built environment.
Why did you choose construction as a career?
My father is an architect, so I was always aware of the excitement around construction and architecture. I loved seeing building components come together to create something.
What are you most proud of working on?
My proudest moment remains hands-on practical experience of a residential barn conversion when I was a part I student. I loved the hands-on site experience, and think it is invaluable for architects to understand construction from an early age. All architectural degrees should contain an element of practical experience on site.
What is the most helpful advice you have been given?
Be realistic about what type of architect you want to be. It is important to recognise your strengths and weaknesses. Plus always listen to others, and look up!
What is your favourite building in the world?
The Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is incredibly sad the building might not be enjoyed by future generations.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?
Never be afraid to ask questions, regardless of who is in the room. There is so much jargon and are so many acronyms in the profession – always ask.
Who do you most admire in the construction industry?
Women working in construction. While the landscape is improving, women remain a minority within the built environment, which has its challenges.
What famous building do you wish you’d worked on?
The Guggenheim in New York, by Frank Lloyd Wright. It would have been incredible to have been part of such a radical vision at the time, and it’s a building which still inspires people today.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Be happy and, if you’re not, then understand that only you can change it.
What’s a secret skill we don’t know you have?
I have a surprisingly detailed knowledge of 1980’s pop music, which infrequently comes in handy.
What’s your most prized possession?
My gold 1974 VW Beetle.
What would your superpower be?
Flight - it would make getting around London sustainable, quick and fun!
What do you think your best quality is?
Patience and empathy, backed up with a good dose of humour.