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Making Madame Architect: How Julia Gamolina is documenting the dames of design

At 27 years old, New York City-based editor Julia Gamolina has created a space for women to tell their stories about working in architecture in real time with her new online platform, Madame Architect. The site, which launched in May, is home to Q&A-style features focused on the lives of the leading ladies of design. Gamolina began interviewing women and publishing these conversations on Sub_teXXt, the journal aligned with Nina Freedman and Lori Brown’s non-profit for gender equity, ArchiteXX. For several years, she's written these articles intermittently for the site, but the series truly started taking off in January when she began a 16-story series as a guest editor. By the time the idea for her own site came around this spring, she had a firm following and a growing list of ladies to meet.  So far Gamolina has put out 30 interviews with female movers and shakers in architecture. She’s profiled veteran architects like Snøhetta's Elaine Molinar and Richard Meier & Partners's Vivian Lee—her first interviewee whom Gamolina serendipitously met at an ArchiteXX event—as well as rising stars such as Jenny Sabin, Danei Cesario, and Jessica Myers. Her goal is to unveil the value each of these women possesses in their current career stages. She's found that the newcomers to the working world express uncertainty on finding work they'll love, while those in their mid-career are starting to see the impact of their gender as they assume more leadership roles and become mothers. "While everyone is different and has unique experiences, these themes tend to pop up over and over again," she said. "Those further along in their careers are so inspiring because they talk about integrating all the things they do. Their lives are really full and now they're saying, 'I've built everything...how in the world do I keep it all running?'" Not all of these women are strictly architects, either—some work in strategy, public relations, and management. She says feedback on the first wave of published pieces has been astonishing. “One thing that’s surprised me—and this should not be surprising,” she said, “is that many men have not only made recommendations to me on women I should interview, but many have contacted me telling me they love the site and are learning a lot.” Gamolina wants Madame Architect to be for women primarily, but helpful to men as well, from students to seasoned architects. She aims to show, from a fresh and positive perspective, that these women are relatable.

Today’s radiant #MadameArchitect: Elease Samms, @lc4508. Link in bio!Elease Samms is a Louisiana native but grew up in Central Florida. She was one of the first graduates from Orlando's @supportourscholars program, from which she headed to @cornellaap‘s Architecture Program on a full scholarship. Elease is now a Project Designer at @ktharchitectsinc. Her primary interests in the field of Healthcare Architecture stem from growing up as a daughter of an Orlando Health, Pediatric Level 2 Registered Nurse, and from a desire to work primarily with local communities. In her conversation with Julia Gamolina, Elease speaks about filling gaps, giving back, and increasing representation, encouraging anyone interested in architecture to know that the field is always open to them. #madamearchitect #architexx #womeninarchitecture #shedesigns #wia #shebuilds #architect #architecture #femalearchitect #interview #career #inspiration #series #florida #supportourscholars

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Madame Architect was born out of Gamolina’s desire to find female mentors within the male-dominated profession. After graduating from Cornell University with an undergraduate degree in architecture, she dove into design with stints at Studio V and A+I, but soon found herself attracted to the art of crafting narratives around projects. “As a designer, I felt I wasn’t using all parts of my brain,” she said. “I wanted to research, develop a concept, create imagery, talk, and write about these projects—all things I love and that coexist within the profession—but I was only doing the drafting part. I found myself wanting to get out and talk to people more than refine the same drawings for months on end.” When Gamolina started at her first job she was one of the few women in her office, so she set out to find other women who could help her navigate her new career. At Studio V she also helped select students for the firm’s internship program, interviewing the potential candidates and mentoring those that were chosen. This lit a spark in her, pushing her to explore her interest in the more human-centric, one-on-one aspect of firm life.  When she finally moved away from designing and started working alongside A+I’s newly appointed director of communications, Aurelia Rauch, she found her footing and the woman-to-woman guidance she was personally looking for.   “Once I realized my job could actually be to write and conceptualize the story of a project, I thought to myself, ‘What have I been doing this whole time?’” she said.   Currently in a new role as a business development coordinator with FX Collaborative, Gamolina seeks out projects and partnerships that match the firm’s mission. Her favorite part of the job is meeting with and learning from all the different stakeholders involved in a project. This curiosity for people is what drives her with Madame Architect. Nicole Dosso, director of SOM’s technical department, interviewed Gamolina herself for the site. Dosso imagines Madame Architect as having a huge impact on the next generation of not only females in the field, but helping push forward the women’s movement and beyond. “I see these interviews getting a lot of traction already,” Dosso said. “There is power in repetition, with Julia putting them out month after month. She could potentially make a career out of this or put the stories in a book. In time, she could reach out to people in different countries. I could see this extending outside the field of architecture too. The greater volume and quantity, the more it could do.” Gamolina is currently looking for contributing writers for the site. She’s just brought on two new writers, but with a backlog of 50 women to highlight on her list, she’s hoping to publish new pieces more frequently in order to get them up by the end of the year.