“Someone once told me architecture is like a basketball game. If you always dribble the ball, then there is no game, so you need to know when to dribble and when to pass.”
– Sarah Broughton
Sarah Broughton and John Rowland are partners in both life and work. After working at separate firms, they finally had the opportunity to make their dream a reality by combining their talent and love for architecture (and each other) into their own firm, Rowland & Broughton Architecture.
Fast forward 12 years, and many sleepless nights, and you now find them successfully juggling their Aspen and Denver firms with 34 staff members whose focus is equally divided between residential and hospitality designs.
As Sarah shares their secrets to success, one cannot help but see their real success is the winning combination of their work-hard/play-hard mindset and their constant drive to set new goals, continually raising the bar and surmounting it.
Q: Describe the moment you decided to become an architect.
A: I have always been intrigued by design. Even as a child I found myself sketching spatial plans, and in high school I excelled at both math and art. Somehow, in college I realized I could put the two interests together into a degree in architecture.
Q: Aside from your natural interests, are there aspects of your childhood that influenced this choice?
A: Definitely! I’ll never forget “the great remodel” we lived through as my parents did an addition onto our 1920’s English Tudor home. We stayed in the house during the remodel and I was greatly impacted as I witnessed the construction and design process. It intrigued me and I think it influenced my decision to go into architecture.
Q: Describe the day you first opened the doors to your company, Rowland & Broughton Architecture.
A: It was after 9/11 and John and I were working at different firms. The profession was looking very grim during this time, so we both decided it was a perfect time to follow our dream and venture out on our own. What did we have to lose? We literally started with one client and worked out of our condo in Aspen for the first three years. We then bought the live/work loft in Denver where we began to hire employees. We slept very little during those years. You would often find us up at 2 am working.
Q: What skills do you need to not only work in your field, but to be a female in your field?
A: This is a funny question because I have never looked at myself as a woman (at least when it comes to work.) Essentially, it boils down to being studious, hardworking and patient. You need to trust that it will come with time and lots of work. And of course you need to be good at what you do, allowing the rest to naturally fall into place.
Q: With that being said, is there one piece of advice you would give to women who are just getting started in this field?
A: You have to take and create every opportunity possible. Be the one to volunteer, look for opportunities to take on important roles, be a sponge. For example, when I started in New York, I was only 23 years old and I volunteered to take on a large project. During that time, I was always listening. I listened to my colleagues talk on the phone in order to glean everything and anything I could about the way this business worked. To this day, I am still studying, learning and bettering myself. Blur your life and your profession and you will find success and fulfillment.
Q: Is there a technology in your industry you totally geek out on?
A: Now that we have staff, I am really into project management and leadership training. I actually have my own leadership coach, and I am excited about mentoring leadership within our team. So, the one thing that comes to mind in terms of technology I am excited about right now is this new project management software we are testing. It will hopefully be a technology used to make our jobs easier. All technological systems should be tools that allow more time to design; they are means to an end.
Q: If you could go back in time and fix a project what would it be and what would you do to fix it?
A: I would fix the relationship and how you get there. By this I mean, you don’t always get great project managers or clients. This has caused us to really look at our personal company goals and ask ourselves who are the people we want to bring into our culture. This is also a cause for great personal excitement because as we create this environment, I see more amazing projects coming our way. We are making goals and getting them. Plus, we are seeing a new level of emerging leadership advance within our firm, which is very exciting for both John and me.
Q: If could be handed any project in the world, what would your dream project be?
A: Oh, I’d love to do a museum! I just love the experience of being in a museum, especially the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver. I find it transformative; the art layered with the form of the building. You leave a different person than when you walked in. See, just now I have created a new goal for the company, and I bet we will accomplish it!
Q: With all of these goals, how are you gauging your success?
A: I think it’s really nice to be recognized, and I think it’s important to recognize others. We are even holding an appreciation event whereby everyone at the firm goes around and tells what they appreciate about each other. It means a lot to people when they hear how their work has been recognized, and it motivates them to do more.