Studio News

International Women's Day - Introducing Nadiene McCullough


Name: Nadiene McCullough

Born: Christchurch

Family: My partner, my two beautiful boys – Cole age 6, Liam age 3 – and our gorgeous 'bitzer’ dog Lexie.

Role: Senior Architect

Who or what inspired you to seek a career in architecture?
It was probably my inane obsession with drawing floor plans as a child. One of my favourite things to do when I was a kid was to jump on my bike and ride down to the new, sprawling subdivision 10 minutes from our house and watch the construction going on. Mass, cookie-cutter type housing might not exactly be considered inspirational design but looking back it was my first intro into construction. I'd take leaflets from the show homes and spend hours re-drawing the floor plans back in my bedroom. Sometimes I'd even bike back to the show home and (boldly?) show them the 'modifications' I had come up with...(?!) I recall a lot of my drawings having a sunken lounge. It was probably that as well as the experience of my childhood house continuously changing colour. A simple four bedroom house of Summerhill Stone which I recall going from natural, to beige, to cream and then - much to my mum's horror - ended up as a 'most-noticeably-yellow' house on the street complete with green downpipes and spouting. My dad was obsessed with painting. Or with re-painting. Our bathroom was a constant experiment in colour too. Lilac walls with pastel green skirtings and trims was one of my favourites.

How have your thoughts about the architectural practice changed from when you first entered the profession?
I entered the profession straight out of uni where there wasn’t a huge emphasis on collaborative work at that time so I really took to the team based aspect of 'real life' architectural practice. Hero architects or solo, creative geniuses have their place but I've always personally liked the collaborative aspect of design development.

Also at uni - we were aware that women in professional practice was scarce. That understanding was reinforced when I was fortunate to secure my first job as an architectural graduate around the time of the 2008 GFC. The practice I joined had 20 staff and I was one of four females. Two of the other females were part-time administration based - receptionist + accounts/payroll. The other female was a senior architectural graduate who would soon leave to travel. I feel like I thrived in that practice. I stayed for over 7 years. During that time I worked towards registration and switched to part-time employment to care for my first child. They were a fantastic team of people and a great, fair employer. They were ‘family friendly.’ I was exposed to a variety of projects and my technical ability accelerated immensely. All the boxes were ticked. My obvious difference being a female was sometimes made apparent by comments and actions from consultants, contractors and clients but was never highlighted among the studio team.

I still keep in contact with a number of those influential 'white males' today. That practice has gone on to employ nearly 50% female staff – the majority as architectural graduates or architects. It’s important to recognise and acknowledge those practices actively doing their bit to increase female presence in architectural practice; to achieve diversity in architectural practice across multiple facets by challenging and changing outdated but ingrained systems, structures or cultures which have had the effect of disadvantaging particular groups of people. At Tennent Brown we are fortunate to have a strong team of talented females who make up around 47% of total staff and who perform a diverse range of roles across project performance strategy, financial management, recruitment, technical documentation, interior design, architectural graduates, mentors, researchers as well as registered Architects (reg. both here and abroad). It's refreshing to reflect on and be part of the changing composition of NZ architectural practice.

#IWD2020 #EachforEqual