Fariba Makooi, RA, AIA
Fischer + Makooi Architects

A registered Architect with over 30 years of experience, Fariba is an expert in the design and implementation of high-end, ground-up residential condominium and conversion projects, as well as hotels, commercial complexes, and institutional buildings. Outside of her project work, Fariba is actively involved in the industry as a member of the Design and Construction Network and the AIA, serving on the New York chapter’s Women in Architecture Committee.

NY Makooi

Question: What led you to a career in the construction industry?

As a teenager, I traveled through Europe and got fascinated with the beauty of the buildings and their presence in people’s lives. So I decided to become an architect at a very young age, and to this day, I love being an architect. I think it is the best profession in the world!

Architecture, as a profession, is all-encompassing, and has strong basis in science, as well as art. You must have background knowledge about nature, history, human behavior, and human psychology. In particular, you must understand how building materials work together and how and why certain buildings stand the test of time.

Question: How has the context of being a woman in the industry changed since you started your career?

When I started, which was many years ago, there were very few women in the industry, and most often I was the only woman in meetings, at job sites, practically anywhere related to the construction industry. Although traditionally, women have been actively involved with design of their homes for centuries—perhaps always—they were not welcomed in the professional capacity and in the workforce in this field until very recently. Nowadays, the picture is very different, with many more women involved in all aspects of design and construction. I see more women in the meetings on both sides of the table: architects, engineers, developers, surveyors, brick layers plumbers… the list goes on.

How do you leverage your position to help recruit and retain more women in the industry?

I always have women interns in the summer and try to mentor them to become seasoned architects in the world of construction. However, I am not always successful; occasionally, an intern decides that the industry is too male-dominated for her. But most often I see that young women are much more eager to finish college so they can join us in the real world. That always makes me happy and encouraged.

What improvements can the industry make to help women succeed in the construction business?

I never thought of myself as a “woman architect,” but rather, just as an architect. At the same time, I think, in general, women have more family responsibility than many of our male counterparts; and it’s very hard to balance these two areas of our lives. We work long hours and spend a lot of time in the office. My hope is that, with recent technological advancements, we now have more opportunities to work from home and balance the two areas of our lives more efficiently.

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