Get to know: Theja Jayalath

Theja is an Architectural Graduate who joined Ignite in 2017. An integral part of the Aged Care team, Theja has also been an active member and leader in Architecture + Women NZ for a number of years, helping to launch notable events with the association. Get to know more about Theja below.

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What first inspired you to start a career in Architecture?

Growing up, I was always drawing - any spare time I had I was scribbling on paper, and so I always knew I wanted a creative career. In high school I also enjoyed the more technical subjects and problem solving -architecture seemed like a great combination of both sides. I spoke to a friend who was studying architecture at the time, which really sparked an interest.

Studying, and later working in the industry gave me a deeper appreciation of craft: what’s involved in creating meaningful spaces for people and seeing design turn to reality.

Studying, and later working in the industry gave me a deeper appreciation of craft: what’s involved in creating meaningful spaces for people and seeing design turn to reality.

Tell us about your involvement with Architecture & Women NZ

In university, I took a paper which was led by A+W NZ co-founder, Lynda Simmons, and Dr Sarah Treadwell. It looked at the biases in how history is recorded and focused on gender as an underrepresented group in architectural history. We studied the A+W NZ Timeline1, which highlights women in architecture throughout NZ history, and I interviewed a contributor: Shelly Gane. I really enjoyed learning about her life and insights.

From there I started going to the monthly meetings and eventually stepped into the Events Lead role – this was invaluable experience and I gained skills which apply to my work now.

1 Created by Marianne Calvelo, with Joy Roxas (Designer) and Lynda Simmons (Curator).

 

What was your favourite event that you organised?

I enjoyed helping organise a range of events, including speed mentoring, the A+W NZ Dulux Awards and a discussion panel called How do you practice?

I’m currently organising an event I think will be my favourite. It’s an exhibition in Nelson and will include the A+W NZ Timeline mentioned earlier, and the first physical exhibition of the Tātuhi Drawing Architecture: Sarah Treadwell Archive, which is a record of drawing styles and influences.

 

What surprised you about entering the industry?

There’s quite a leap between architecture school and working in a practice! You learn all the wider considerations that go into a building, which was a steep learning curve. But now I embrace it, I like getting into the details.

 

What are you working on now?

The main project I’ve been working on is a retirement village in Hobsonville. I’m across a few different buildings, including a small pavilion for the residents, which will start as a sales office but turn into a lounge and function space that can be hired out for events.

It’s exciting on site at the moment – they’ve poured the slab and put up the glulam posts. There will be a beautiful raked ceiling with exposed trusses – it’s meant to be very open and have a coastal feel. I’m excited to see it come together!

 

What advice would you give to new graduates, entering the industry for the first time?

I would say try to get involved where you can. There are lots of organisations you can join - go to events, network, meet new people. And in the workplace, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Try to get experience across all phases of a project.

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