Master of Science in Architecture '19 • International Women's Day 2021
Elena Sophia Längle
Hometown: Dorbin, Austria
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It’s a day for our society to celebrate women’s achievements – economically, professionally, but also culturally and socially.
What woman inspires you and why?
As a passionate diver & free diver – and an underwater world lover – I have always admired the marine biologist, Dr. Sylvia Earle. She dedicated her whole life to research a field which was at that time dominated by men. Her persistence and courage allowed her to reach what she intended to.
Why did you choose to study architecture?
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Liechtenstein. However, during my studies, I missed one thing: the human component in architecture. In the end, we should be building FOR people and their needs. I then found NewSchool, which offered its Neuroscience program. Their Master’s Degree was all about how architecture influences us humans psychologically and neurologically. Something that has been important to me ever since.
Why should women and girls pursue an education in the architecture, design, or construction management industry? Why is it important to encourage women and girls?
Designing a building takes a lot of time and effort – and also knowledge of different craftsmanships involved in the process. When I plan something – whether it is a smaller renovation or a whole building, I get together with carpenters, electricians, etc. ahead of time – learn about their work – and include the newly gathered knowledge in my project. That’s how I ensure not just the best outcome but also the best collaborations on site. I never hesitate to ask questions, instead I try to ask as many as possible! So far these fields are more male-dominated, and I think women have a great sense for design, which is why I encourage girls and women to not be intimidated by construction sites – but instead embrace their talents and mix up this world.
What’s something interesting you’re currently working on? Personal or academic.
I have been renovating a lot myself lately. Our family’s glass business was started in my grandma’s house by my great-great-grandfather. After my father built a new building for the company my grandfather used the old rooms as his workshop. After his passing, the rooms haven’t been used, and I decided to turn them into my atelier. It took me about two months to brush off the wooden floors, fix the walls, redo the electricity (together with a professional), restore the old furniture, etc. the most important part however was to keep the space’s spirit alive. I didn’t sand off the wooden floors because I wanted to embrace the patina, nor did I fill up certain marks because they were from workers lifting the glass panels and scratching the ceiling on top. Renovating is not about creating something new, it’s about respecting the history of a building and carefully continuing to tell the building’s story. I enjoy working in my atelier now a lot – especially because I can still see my ancestors’ traces all over the place.
What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women of your age?
Often having to choose between starting a career or a family.
What has you most excited about the future?
How neuroscientific research on human responses will influence future buildings!
On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their education?
Follow your passion!