Architect of the Month: Sarah Broughton, AIA, Principal Rowland+Broughton Architecture
Since its inception in 2003, Aspen-based Rowland+Broughton Architecture/Urban Design/Interior Design (R+B) has been producing award winning projects. As Principal, Sarah Broughton, AIA, NCIDQ leads R+B’s Denver and Aspen studios. Sarah also serves as West director on the AIA Colorado 2020 Board of Directors. She is especially focused on promoting the inclusion and participation of women in the field, and is personally working to elevate the number of AIA Colorado female members from a low of 26 percent.
1. What sparked your interest in architecture?
The ability for architecture to shape people’s lives. I was spatially aware from an early age and once I understood the emotional impact of architecture, I was all in. After excelling at both art and math in school, I came to the University of Colorado at Boulder and dove into studying architecture at the Environmental Design School with insatiable curiosity!
2. What is unique about your approach to architecture?
Driven by architecture’s unique ability to impact, I start the process with context and site. Architecture’s relationship to its surrounding is as important as the building itself. This is why I love urban design and inherently think at this scale, even when designing a smaller, more singular project. I work hard to get to the root of the design problem so that solutions can have bigger impact. I have an ability to think like the client and this helps build trust, which in turn allows for more creativity and the opportunity to present architecture in a way that clients can rally around.
3. What is your niche/area of expertise?
Pushing excellence in design. Our world has gotten so specialized and I have purposely remained well rounded over the course of my career. I am a very curious person and this passion has allowed me the honor to work on multiple types of projects and at
different scales. Completing projects from conception through construction with a consistent focus and dedication is a skill that I mentor in others.
4. What are some of the most exciting Colorado projects you have been involved with in recent years?
R+B’s historic preservation work is very important to preserving Colorado heritage and legacy. Renovating Aspen’s historic Hotel Jerome, and then the adjacent Aspen Times Building with an addition, was challenging and very exciting, as it set the course for the next 100 years. We own a historic building in LoDo in Denver and recently restored the storefront and completed an adaptive reuse. Being able to give back to our communities ourselves is very rewarding. Completing the ground up W Aspen hotel in Aspen last year was amazing. This multiple-year project fits seamlessly into the community without disrupting the views to the mountain. Its modern design is rooted in historic context.
5. How has your involvement with AIA impacted your career?
I have always been involved and this year as West Director, it is more heightened. I am invigorated by the architectural community and the advocacy that is occurring. It is an honor to be at the table and help guide the future of our important profession. I am even more energized today than when I started my career 25 years ago.
6. How do you work to promote the inclusion and participation of women in the field?
Whether within our team (where women are evenly represented and six of nine members of the executive team are women), or in the field overall, I believe in giving women the opportunity to be in equal positions with equal compensation. Then it is critical to encourage confidence, leadership and participation. I believe that the world has no boundaries and coach breaking down barriers because only you will stand in your own way. Taking “no” for an answer and making excuses should be discouraged, because architecture is desperately wanting inclusivity. No matter what the level, women in the field need to ask what they can do to help and, most importantly, to be perceptive about what needs to be done to promote better design and processes.
7. What do you see as the biggest challenge for architects in Colorado right now?
We need to be at the table helping guide decisions. We are critical thinkers and wired to get to the root of an issue and then rebuild it. This is a valuable skill for shaping our policy and obviously our built environment. Architects also need to keep leading great, meaningful design. This is the ultimate sustainable architecture, buildings that are built to last that contribute and enhance our built environment.