January 8th, 2020.
Architecture graduate Bridget Nathan has poured her passion for amplifying the voice of women in the built environments into a fascinating and insightful platform – The Doyenne Interviews. We sat down with her to discuss the inception, evolution, and future of the podcast series as it sits at the brink of its second season.
Open Journal: What was the impetus behind establishing The Doyenne Interviews?
Bridget Nathan: Many positive things led me to start this project. Curiosity is a big driver. During my first few years as a graduate of Architecture, I received a lot of industry support. Tutors and women I would meet at functions or in meetings took me under their wing. I felt really grateful for this, but it also felt contained. At one function I engaged in a conversation with Melbourne School of Design Dean Julie Willis, and as it was in a lecture theatre format, we later continued the conversation, which lead to the first interview. The podcast was created to share the conversations I was already having publicly and also to enable me to engage with my industry through connection and inquiry.
OJ: Why do you feel a stand alone platform for women working in architecture and design was needed?
BN: I’m fascinated by how the media can be used as a tool to redirect attention to minority groups and, as my podcast is unfunded, I have creative control over amplifying the voices of women whose ideas inspire me.
As an artistic person, I’ve become interested in how this can spark creative connections. I’m interested in how the intangible sides of project generation can happen organically. Amplifying different voices gives more people the opportunity to lean into this. Being less quiet means that you open yourself up to connection and possibility, and I think doing this outside of professional roles can help establish your identity.
OJ: What are some of the most defining lessons you have so far learnt in the wake of interviewing such stalwarts of the built industries?
BN: It may sound like a cliché but one thing the podcast interviews have taught me is that to be successful, you need to be yourself. You need to know yourself and work with your own ways of being, and the changes that come with that.
Also, I’ve learnt that it’s ok to not know all the answers and to think out loud. I’ve found that each woman I have interviewed is unique and has a lot to offer through their thoughts and reflections which has really helped me build my own confidence and made me consider a range of futures.
OJ: The Doyenne Interviews has been launched with a beautiful brand aesthetic, thanks in part to the illustrations of Grace Yeo. How did the collaboration with her come about?
BN: As Architects, we’re taught to draw straight lines, which can sometimes mean straight walls, and straight walls speak to me of homogeneity. The curviness of feminine linework communicates something organic, natural and unique. I was drawn to Grace’s work because it combines architectural language with feminine iconography. I wanted to make the drawings like album covers, book covers or wine labels because I feel like those mediums stick in your mind. A number of design friends also contributed to establishing the project’s visual identity.
The colour scheme is inspired by nature. Museologist Ethel Villafranca has a blue circle that reflects the colours of the world, as she’s a traveller at heart. Sian Pascale’s yellow circle represents the moon, as that’s something she teaches about as an architect turned Yogi. Meaghan Dwyer’s overlapping circles represent how the sun can enter buildings in a poetic manner, like in her work. And Ruth Wilson’s has ten pink dots because her interview is about a group of ten women, so that’s a comment on their collective heart space. In Season Two I will be bringing more yellow trace into the experience, asking the guests if they would like to contribute sketches so that I can celebrate their linework and design potential.
OJ: Is there a long term goal or is The Doyenne Interviews more of an organic endeavour that will evolve?
BN: The Doyenne Interviews is an experiment between goals and organic developments.
Moving into season two, I’ll focus on an inquiry into diversity through a multidisciplinary collection of interviews that will explore design mediums related to the built environment. So this will include, for example, artists, landscape architects, and interior designers. The interviews follow my own career trajectory, and it’s interesting because at the moment my professional projects explore sites with multiple narratives. I see The Doyenne Interviews as R&D that inform my own work, and also as an evolving platform that promotes female designers.
There are currently some exciting prospects on the cards, such as collating a book and also an exhibition. I’d like to go overseas and use the interviews as a networking tool to engage with new connections and to see more of the world through the female lens.
OJ: Dictionary definitions aside, what is your personal take on what makes a ‘Doyenne’?
BN: A Doyenne to me is someone who has the mindset of educating and imparting knowledge. You don’t have to be senior to do this, and I also don’t think it’s always done in a formal way.
One way to describe it is through an experience I had in India a few years ago, when I had the opportunity to visit the Barefoot College. This is a place where female tribal community leaders are educated because they know that these women will go back to their communities and remain, sharing their acquired knowledge. The program is based on breaking cycles of educated people leaving small towns and taking their skills to the cities. Grandmothers are included because they have roots and they’re the ones who will pass on skills.
I see a Doyenne in western society in a similar way – passing on information and fostering the growth of others. Anyone can be a Doyenne that’s the beauty of it. It’s about contributing at whatever stage you’re at, and understanding that there’s value in what you have to offer no matter your perspective.
Interview compiled by Tiffany Jade.
Images by Grace Yeo.