Belinda Grant reflects on her experiences as she transforms across an architectural threshold. (WARNING: disruptive referencing system).

Transform audience. Photo Jonathan Butler.

What else should our lives be but a continual series of beginnings, of painful settings out into the unknown, pushing off from the edges of consciousness into the mystery of what we have not yet become, except in dreams that blow in from out there bearing the fragrance of islands we have not yet sighted in our waking hours, as in voyaging sometimes the first blossoming branches of our next landfall come bumping against the keel, even in the dark, whole days before the real land rises to meet us.’ David Malouf, An Imaginary Life, 1978.

I feel this every day. Accompanied by fear, that, if managed well, becomes exhilaration. I’m in the midst of a larger cohort, as I discovered at Transform

Finishing my Master of Architecture, I’m on a threshold. Academia pulls me backwards. The business world beckons me forwards. I’m in between the kitchen, where renovation sawdust threatens the integrity of the nourishment I offer my son, and my study, where the conventions of footnotes threaten to trip me up. I loved convention once. It promised safety, security. But now it bogs me down as I stumble through its hoops. With each move, I make my way forward and become further entangled by precedent and convention. I become unsure whether to struggle or surrender, and when to do either. What of ibid., the sequence of author, date, publisher —and which part is italicised? ‘I just want to get my kid to his tennis lesson on time.’ I’m aware that this puts me in a category of privilege. Another theme of Transform.1

Three things have bought me to this threshold. In this order:

  1. A deep-seated disappointment about what architecture is, and a frustration about what it is, compared to what it could be —particularly for women.
  2. The lovely Hélène Frichot —a generous and intelligent leader— who pointed me in the direction of Lori Brown’s work. I am devouring Brown’s book, Feminist Practices, like a hungry teenager (WARNING: the resulting indigestion, when hope collides with reality in a confined space, is extreme).2
  3. Transform. Parlour. Transform. A day of airing and sharing current dilemmas, and to my delight, diverse modes of architectural practice. Pathways forward. Relief. These conversations have been had with our mates, but to have them at this scale and amplification, and with a comprehensive strategy in place to move forward made me tearful with joy and relief. There is possibility in architecture after all.3

So, as David Malouf describes, each day I’m journeying out into the unknown and shifting the balance ever so slightly away from fear and towards exhilaration. We are all emergent. We Transform together.

  1. Brown, L 2013, ‘Advocacy, activism and the futures of architecture’, keynote presentation at the 2013 National Architecture Conference, Transform: Altering the Future of Architecture, Melbourne, Australia, 30 May – 1 June.
  2. Brown, L, (ed.) 2011, Feminist Practices, Ashgate Publishing Company, Burlington, USA.
  3. ‘Can policy drive professional and disciplinary change?’, session 3 at the 2013 National Architecture Conference, Transform: Altering the Future of Architecture, Melbourne, Australia, 30 May – 1 June.