Lisa Raynes is the founder of Pride Road, a Manchester business dedicated to supporting women in architecture in the North West. JLife’s Evangeline Spachis spoke to the acclaimed architect to discuss building homes, and equal opportunities, for the future.
Manchester-born Lisa Raynes is a chartered architect with 20 years’ experience which included becoming a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) council member and director of her own architecture company Pride Road.
Educated at Leeds Metropolitan University and at University College London, Lisa’s dream career began at SimpsonHaugh and Partners and then Urban Splash in Liverpool before a brief stint in New York came calling.
The successes have also come with difficulties, and Lisa freely admits that many of the opportunities she has had have also come alongside professional hardships: “I ended up being made redundant a couple of times, and I found the architecture workplace really hard to have the work-life balance.”
Having children, and a couple of career breaks during the recession which saw around 50% of architects employed in UK practices losing their jobs, set Lisa on a path of starting her own business in 2009, establishing Raynes Architecture and seven years later launching Pride Road as a franchise business to offer other women in architecture a family-friendly, ready-made business model.
This resilience has given her the impetus to assist young architects, especially female, in helping them strike out on their own as well as providing the security and support that working in a franchise can offer. Most recently, the scheme resulted in the appointment of Catherine Traynor, and as an award-winning new recruit for the Liverpool South area, Catherine will be working with Merseyside residents as Pride Road expands further throughout the North West region.
“It’s definitely a male-dominated industry,” Lisa reveals, “and you have to prove yourself before people will listen to you and it’s a case of working even doubly hard. What I am trying to do is show an alternative, a third option between setting up on your own and working for somebody else. It’s like setting up independently but with a big comfort blanket.”
As a passionate advocate of making the construction industry a better place for women, Lisa also discussed how starting a family and other decisions faced by women in the workplace are issues often ignored by big companies or agencies: “At the time [of setting up Raynes Architecture] I was chair of Women in Property North West and I could see that there was a wider problem and that it wasn’t just me. In architecture school there’s about a 50-50 split of men and women but once you get into the workplace, only 25% of architects are female and only 17.5% of RIBA chartered architects are female.”
Setting up on her own was also part of a conscious effort to move away from the main preconception that using an architect for a relatively small scale project or domestic renovation would be a bit of a luxury and therefore, not affordable, but as Lisa insists: “What we can do is maximise spaces and help them get the best possible result while being mindful of budget and where’s best to invest. It’s not just helping footballer’s wives choose gold-plated taps, we’re actually helping normal people, young families and retired people get the most of their houses.
This year, thanks to her lofty position as a council member for the RIBA, Lisa has also had the chance to give talks as an industry leader across the country and to let people know about the widening Pride Road network that the scheme is creating: “There’s a lot of rhetoric about women leaving construction and STEM subjects but there aren’t that many people doing something about it. I am trying to lead by example.”
Furthermore, Lisa can identify how her ethnicity gives her an extra dimension in helping people realise reassess their commitments: “Coming from a minority group and a strong community that a lot people identify with, it’s been really helpful to discuss these working pressures. For many, you can be a professional architect or a mother, not both. So being able to get out there and show that you do it has been really worthwhile.”
As a working Jewish mother, it’s understandable that Lisa’s background and life experience offers a further understanding of the work she does with clients: “When it comes to designing people’s houses, I have that insight into what people need from a home. For instance, is the house fit for festivals? If I try to invite both sides of my family round for Rosh Hashanah, that’s 20 people to fit around the table!”
Ultimately, far from the office skyscrapers and apartment blocks typically sketched out by architects up and down the country, Lisa’s projects will remain more grounded: “A house is your primary investment and we want to make sure it works for you. It’s more about the quality of life, not the expensive fixtures.”