The Business of Architecture Podcast:

The Business of Architecture UK Podcast episode 174 with Rion Willard presents an exciting view of architecture. It is entitled: Why Company Ethos Matters with Cindy Walters and Michál Cohen. The Business of Architecture Podcast is a leading business consultancy for architects and designers, offering conversations of current interest within the field.

Business of Architecture UK Podcast with Rion Willard ©Business of Architecture UK Podcast

Episode 174: Why Company Ethos Matters.

Walters and Cohen are the co-founders of the Walters & Cohen Architects firm based in the UK. This firm has been heavily engaged since 1994 in numerous projects in education, culture & recreation. Their extensive portfolio proves their ability to succeed with their projects to a high degree, as their multiple awards and nominations will attest. They believe in a collaborative, flexible and growing working environment, directly collaborating with clients and maintaining a high work ethic.

Background

Michál Cohen studied architecture in South Africa, but she then moved to London, where she has worked most of her career. Born in Australia, Cindy Walters also studied in South Africa, where she met Cohen. She also moved to London in the early ’90s and, together with Cohen, started Walters & Cohen Architects in 1994. They have earned work through recommendations, competitions and repeat business throughout the years. Their work has placed them as one of the top female-led architecture companies in the UK and the world. Solidifying this accomplishment is the fact they won the inaugural AJ Woman Architect of the Year Award in 2012. Cohen and Walters have also served as jury members in subsequent years.

Cohen is one of the prestigious Design Council’s associates, through which she often participates in lectures at universities in the UK, and she is a spokeswoman at numerous architecture and design-related conferences. In 2020, Cohen was made an honorary professor of architecture at the University of Nottingham as part of the Architecture and Built Environment Department.

Walters is also involved in education as an external examiner and guest lecturer in academic and professional enterprises. She has also served as a jury member for numerous architecture and design competitions, such as the Sterling Prize and the World Architecture Festival. In 2019 Walters was made chair of The Architecture Foundation, and just like Cohen, she is one of the Design Council’s associates.

Episode Takes & Summary

Cindy Walters and Michál Cohen are guests on the 174th episode of the Business of Architecture Podcast, hosted by Rion Willard. In this episode, they discuss many important topics related to current events in the architectural world and the origins and development of Cohen & Walters Architects. They also give their takes on what it is like to be a woman working in architecture in a male-dominated profession.

Cohen and Walters have held a professional and personal relationship for 40 years. They jokily say in this episode that they have spent more time working together than the time they have spent with their spouses. But prioritizing work has been one of their challenges. They also comment on their early difficulties finding a workspace in the high-priced realm of London real estate, having to make the risky choice to buy instead of rent.

In this episode, they discuss how they grew their business and kept their company alive and thriving from the early days until now. They also consult with Willard about the changing procurement landscape in the UK and how it presents challenges for their firm as established architects. They also give particular focus to the issue of education and fostering new generations of architects and designers.

Cohen and Walters believe in a family-like office ethos, and even though they have grown substantially over the years as a firm, they still maintain this philosophy. This way of thinking developed from their friendship and shared experiences as foreigners in the UK. Having had to leave South Africa for different personal reasons, they relocated to the UK. They had to keep a solid bond to get ahead and develop a female-owned business together.

Another key point discussed in this episode is the significance of establishing a “mission-focused company ethos and culture” that will keep up with the world’s changes, nurturing innovation rather than being stuck in predetermined rules. This means that Walters & Cohen Architects is always on the lookout for new talent, offering emerging professionals the solidity of an already established firm, allowing old and new to grow together.

 Podcast for Architects: Why Company Ethos Matters with Cindy Walters and Michál Cohen by Business of Architecture - Sheet1
Business of Architecture UK Podcast with Rion Willard conversation between Cindy Walters and Michál Cohen (2022) ©Business of Architecture UK Podcast.

Opinion/Conclusion

As a young female architect myself, this episode is a must-listen. The conversation is delightfully guided by Willard, touching on many vital points for female architects and new firms still trying to make a name for themselves. Cohen and Walters share how they started and slowly developed a strong firm, despite being told from the beginning by peers and potential clients that they wouldn’t make it on their own. My recommendation? Set aside an hour and a half of your day to relax and listen to this episode, preferably with a warm cup of tea and pen in hand!

References:

(2022) YouTube. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUw-fzn2wZM (Accessed: November 13, 2022). 

Images:

  1. Business of Architecture UK Podcast with Rion Willard cover (2022) ©Business of Architecture UK Podcast. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUw-fzn2wZM (Accessed: November 13, 2022). 
  2. Business of Architecture UK Podcast with Rion Willard conversation between Cindy Walters and Michál Cohen (2022) ©Business of Architecture UK Podcast. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUw-fzn2wZM (Accessed: November 13, 2022). 
Author

G. C. Reyes is a classically trained artist and architecture student from Miami, Florida currently working in New Jersey. She enjoys 3D printing and design and thinking about the architecture of the future. Some of her favorite artists include Louis Kahn, Steven Holl, Marina Abramovich, and Leonard Cohen.

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