Ask the Architect: Margherita Cesca

Margherita Cesca of Saunders Boston Architects answers ADF’s questions on what drives her personally and professionally

Why did you become an architect?

Art and architecture have always been a big part of my life; from a very young age, I had a creative mind-set, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an older brother that has been running his own construction company since his early 20s – so I’ve had a figure in the industry that I’ve admired all my life. Growing up between Italy and Germany, I was surrounded by stunning architecture, heritage and history. My first love was art, but I went on to also study foreign languages and literature for five years at a private Catholic school where I received a full European Diploma in English, German, French and Latin. Despite studying such an intense course, my love for art never wavered, but grew into a love for architecture as well (I think I sketched every corner of that school!). In 2000, I finally decided to enter Università Iuav di Venezia in Venice, and at the age of 25, I became a fully qualified architect.

What do you like most about the job?

The best part of being an architect is having the ability to make an impact. Whether it is executing a project with stunning aesthetics, or providing a solution to certain housing needs; we have the power to visualise solutions, and then make them happen – how extraordinary is that? My favourite part of architecture is that it sits on a line where creativity, intelligence and elegance meet, and it’s amazing to work within such a sphere.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The trickiest part of architecture can be communication – as highly visual individuals, it’s essential that communication is spot on in order for us to understand requirements, budgets and constraints. Being a great communicator is so important in our profession, and it ensures that we are able to deliver solutions that satisfy everyone and ultimately result in beautiful architecture. Communication is both the key and the challenge!

What is your proudest achievement and why?

As someone who likes to push the boundaries of design, working on Versace’s flagship store refurbishment in New York has to be counted among my proudest achievements. Designing for a client that is, in itself, a symbol of cutting edge design, in New York City, the home of art and design, was like having all of my artistic dreams realised at once. I had a fantastic experience, one that encourages me to always be innovative and creative with design, no matter the type of project I turn my hand to.

What’s your biggest challenge currently?

One of my biggest challenges is ensuring that I’m there for my children as much as I am for my career, and vice versa. Luckily, my kids love art, architecture and adventure, so we get to spend lots of time together exploring interesting places.

What single change/innovation would make an architect’s job easier?

Architecture is a difficult and demanding job, but I love all of the challenges that it brings with it. I’m excited to see how technological advancements will change the industry, whether this will make the job actually easier is something we will have to wait to see!

Where do you stand on gender equality in the profession?

Understanding and appreciating that men and women are wonderfully different is the first step to truly embrace diversity and gender equality.

What’s your current favourite sustainability innovation?

That would have to be algae! I’ve introduced this extraordinary innovation into my latest design concept, The Food Academy. It is a biochemical system run by algae that can generate electrical current to power LEDs. The need for sustainability is encouraging architects to be more creative with their work, and delve into a whole new area of innovation.

How has BIM helped you design better buildings?

BIM has helped me tremendously. One of my BIM-designed projects is currently on site, and it has been an extraordinary journey so far; both in terms of modelling and scheduling components of the building in deeper detail, which allows us a better understanding of the structure in its entirety.

How will the architect’s role change in the near future?

In the future, I think architects’ roles will become more specific, in line with the increasing use of specialised components within the industry, particularly with technology. However, I hope that the essence of our craft is not lost in the digital transformation; architecture has all of the passion and uniqueness of art, and this can’t be replicated digitally.

What are your hopes for this year and beyond for yourself and your practice?

This is an important year for Saunders Boston Architects, as we are celebrating not only the practice’s centenary, but also its 50th year in Cambridge. Looking forward, the future holds a period of growth for both the company and I – we are looking to innovate in new areas and push the boundaries of design. I’m currently working on developing much larger projects, both in Cambridge and further afield, and I think this reflects our hopes for the practice in the future.

Margherita Cesca is senior project architect at Saunders Boston Architects