Q&A with Caroline Kite
Registered Architect and Board Member of The Anganwadi Project
Graduation year: 2009
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Orange NSW with my parents and younger sister. I always had a leaning toward artistic pursuits, which was encouraged by parents who sent me to art classes and gave me art materials from a young age. My father is a maker and our home was a place where tinkering, building and making always happened around us. I discovered architecture toward the end of high school and it seemed to be the perfect balance of the creative and the practical, while being an ever inspiring and challenging profession.
Q. Looking back, what advice would you give to your first-year self?
Architecture is not for the faint hearted! It takes commitment, persistence and hard work. But the result of this is a physical building or space that can be experienced and enjoyed by others. This makes architecture a truly rewarding profession.
Q. How did your architecture degree help prepare you for the workforce?
UNSW has a very rounded architecture degree that covers all aspects of design, construction and professional practice. This broad knowledge base equipped me with the practical skills and confidence to transition into the industry.
Q. What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at UNSW?
Australia has so many talented architects and one of the most exciting aspects of the Architecture degree at UNSW is the first-hand exposure students have to some of our best practitioners. During my time at UNSW we had the privilege to take design studios by some of Australia’s most esteemed architects such as Glenn Murcutt and Durbach Block Jaggers. I also met my future husband while taking a design studio together!
Q. What do you enjoy most about working in your profession?
My degree in Architecture has given me a solid foundation to pursue a career in both architecture and construction. The design, technical and interpersonal skills I have gained along the way have led me to work with great firms in Sydney such as Allen Jack+Cottier; an international role working pro-bono for communities in India with The Anganwadi Project; and now with a top residential builder, Bellevarde Constructions. I enjoy the challenge of working in a dynamic and evolving environment, with the ability to pivot between different roles whether it’s the design process or working with trades on site.
Q. Can you share with us an exciting project you worked on?
During my time with Allen Jack+Cottier I led a major renovation and reconstruction project of an historic 1870’s residence, ‘Maybanke’, which was originally built for one of Sydney’s preeminent suffragettes and activist of women’s rights, Maybanke Anderson. Working on a significant building in Sydney’s history gave great purpose to my involvement. This was a pivotal experience in my architectural career as I managed the project from concept through to construction with a focus on high quality and sensitive architectural detailing to tie the old with the new. This project fuelled my interest in building, making and materiality and ultimately to work more on site with talented builders.
A long term passion project has been my involvement on the board of The Anganwadi Project, a not-for-profit that designs and builds preschools in India with a strong emphasis on community engagement and capacity building. It’s been an exciting time as we have gained recognition for our work locally and are now expanding our reach across India.
Q. Tell us about your experience with The Anganwadi Project – what drew you to this work originally, and what has fuelled your ongoing commitment to staying involved?
I joined The Anganwadi Project (TAP) early in my career as I was seeking an experience to use my architectural skills for a humanitarian cause. I lived in Ahmedabad, India for nine months working pro-bono full-time on the design and build of two preschools for communities in need of improved facilities. This experience showed me how small, thoughtful interventions can transform peoples’ lives and the long term, positive impact good design and architecture has on communities. As my involvement has progressed to a board role, it has been incredibly rewarding to help guide the exceptional work of our volunteers, alongside project stakeholders, in creating safe, beautiful spaces that not only celebrate education but have become centres for empowering women and girls, while also becoming loved buildings within the communities.
Q. Do you have any advice for current UNSW School of Built Environment students?
Immerse yourself in whatever UNSW has to offer both within and outside your degree. Take the opportunity to travel or study overseas wherever possible. Seek opportunities to gain experience with great practitioners that align with your values and challenge your thinking. The people and companies you work with can be instrumental in shaping your career path.