International Women’s Day – how women have inspired our work


Again, our studio is celebrating International Women’s Day which helps raise awareness of women’s achievement and highlights bias, stereotypes and discrimination, looking to a world that is more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

We are proud to say that our studio has a gender balance of 50:50



Here three of our Maccreanor Lavington women explain those women who inspired them in life and career:


Jane MacCuish, New Business

From an early age I have had the presence of Tove Jansson in my life – an open minded, adventuress, a painter, writer, illustrator, and political cartoonist. Inspired by family and loved ones, set within the backdrop of the Finnish landscape and culture, she has been a voice for accepting difference and human diversity.

As a child I read the vivid tales of Moominland, where she concentrated on her characters’ personalities, presented not only through her written word but through her wonderful illustrations. In the years following, her adult writing was translated into English and provided further insight into Tove’s creative world.

Her connection to and love of nature has been a constant inspiration to me. Her choice of home on her beloved Island in the Finnish Archipelago, remind me of the qualities of landscape close to my own heart in Scotland and Ireland. She considered herself above all else, a painter and her dreamlike early work tells stories of fairytales and paradise subjects followed by later work of family and self-portraiture.

As International Woman’s Day is marked this year against a backdrop of the war in Ukraine – I am reminded of Tove’s uncompromisingly pacifist views. She saw war as a bringer of destruction and misery informed by her own family’s experiences and her voice from the past still feels particularly relevant and painfully pertinent today.


Jessica Ellis, Architectural Assistant


It is difficult to choose just one inspiring woman, when I have been lucky enough to have so many in my life. However, someone who stands out as an early inspiration in my career in architecture, is ceramic artist Hitomi Hosono. I came across her work during my first studio design project at university. The brief was to design a house and studio for an artist of our choice to live and work within the Yorkshire sculpture park.

Though simple in scope, it encouraged us to consider the human being that we were designing for. To study their daily habits and needs and to understand how we as designers can support and enhance their experience. I was inspired by Hosono’s attention to detail, careful observations of the natural world and methods of working. The commitment to perfecting her craft is evident in every piece, each one as intricate and considered as the next. Her work, and the early input of my wonderful tutor, Liz, informed my first and all subsequent experiences of architectural design and also inspired me to learn the art of ceramics myself.

Years later, I still think back to that very first project and find it shapes the way I work today.

Erin Towsley, Architect

When asked to prepare a few words for international women’s day on someone who has been a professional inspiration, there was an uncomfortable realisation that I have never had a female team leader throughout my career to provide mentorship and insight. Nor could I quickly come up with a shortlist of female-led practices in the pool from which I continually draw references.

I sat with these uncomfortable feelings, while knowing that there are many glimpses of hope that the industry is transitioning towards a more inclusive profession where architects from marginalised groups are welcomed into positions of influence, their works celebrated and re-evaluated. I think of Grafton Architects’ powerful civic architecture that balances timelessness, vision and rigour with materials and detailing that speak to the sensorial, haptic experiences of inhabitants. Their curation of the Venice Biennale also marking the first women partnership to curate the leading architectural exhibition since its inauguration.

In a field where, once upon a time, partnering with a man might have been an astute commercial decision to boost credibility women-led practices are finding independent success across the global: from of the rising success of talented architects like Tatiana Bilbao, the continued delight and formal play of Alison Brooks Architects, to Toshiko Mori’s responsiveness to local culture and context. It is my hope that towards the end of my career (in many, many years), when I reflect upon this same question, not only will I have an instant and more extensive catalogue to draw from; it will be a time when their gender is no longer worthy of remark.

Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson
Hitomi Hosono
Hitomi Hosono
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Grafton Architects
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Grafton Architects