Women’s History Month: In Conversation With Martha Franco

As we continue our month-long series celebrating the accomplishments of trailblazing women, we are delighted to introduce Martha Franco, a pioneering figure in architecture and design. Here, Franco delves into her most cherished project, shares invaluable advice for aspiring female architects, and tells us about the inspiring women who motivate her.

What has been your proudest interior or architecture project to date?

“Our latest project has quickly become one of my favourites. We’ve been honoured to work on a bespoke heritage renovation and restoration of a turn-of-the-century mansion and have been using an integrated approach encompassing architecture, interior design, custom furniture and landscaping on this project to blend a respect for the history of the space with contemporary luxury standards and a touch of European sophistication. And it’s so exciting to see it come together in a way that reflects timeless elegance.”

As a leader in your field, what advice can you offer aspiring female architects and designers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, who are navigating their career paths?

“I don’t see the ability to produce quality architecture as a matter of gender or ethnicity. Although it’s true that the profession has long been dominated by men, throughout my education and professional journey I’ve seen efforts by schools and firms to promote gender equality. But there’s still much to do in providing equal opportunities. For aspiring female architects, I would offer the following advice:

Believe in yourself and stay true to your values. There is room to make a difference for everyone with talent. As women, we create life and nurture homes, and with our unique and different backgrounds, we have a special ability to understand the project needs and achieve outstanding results. Create your own opportunities by seeking out ways to showcase your work.

Develop your leadership: Advance your ideas with confidence, and with respect, while making sure to give credit where it’s due. Challenge the status quo and add value to every project you’re involved in. Be persistent and resilient, there may be obstacles, but don’t let setbacks stop you. Consider how you can have influence in your area of expertise.

Communicate effectively: Express your views clearly and without fear. While there may be a perception of risks in speaking out, the rewards are worth it.”

What specific experiences in your career or personal life have made you feel the most empowered?

“Establishing my own architectural and interior design firm has been a fulfilling enterprise, enabling me to create my own practice, build my vision, and live my passion which is to design and implement exceptional spaces, understand my clients’ needs and make their dreams come true. Having pursued my career journey in Canada after leaving my firm in Colombia, I take immense pride in every project I undertake, transforming aspirations into reality. The feeling of being able to do this empowers my life every day!”

Have you been influenced by any significant female figures in your life?

“My two remarkable sisters are role models for me. One was a fashion designer who studied and worked in France and other countries, while the other is a photographer and artist with an incredible ability to capture beauty. Their eye for quality has greatly influenced my own approach to architecture. I am also inspired by the pioneering work of Phillys Lambert, an iconic architect, philanthropist, and leader in heritage preservation. Her creation, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montréal, is a beacon for the advancement of architecture.”

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

“It is a once-a-year global opportunity for men and women to take a step back and celebrate women for their role in society and their achievements. We have come a long way but much more needs to be done to achieve equality. For me, International Women’s Day is an occasion to acknowledge the pride I feel of being a woman leader and the opportunity I have to inspire other women to never give up and stand for their goals.”

Photography courtesy of Martha Franco.