Profile with Angela Darby

Angela Darby (Australia-at-Large & Christ Church 2012) is a current Rhodes Scholar, studying for a Master of Science at the University of Oxford.  Angela is particularly interested in sustainable development and has previously worked as part of the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, a think-tank in Melbourne, and the University of Melbourne’s Bower Studio.  Angela was the female Australian Modern Pentathlon representative in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and has shared her athletic  experiences as a mentor and speaker, including speaking at schools to promote the ‘Kids Try-athlon’ and mentoring the Active Girls Breakfast Initiative in Victoria. Angela holds a BAS in Architecture, and is due to complete the final semester of her MArch and BPC in Property and Construction from the University of Melbourne after the completion of her Rhodes Scholarship.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?                            

Angela Darby: I’ve lived my life in between the city and the country – my family has a farm outside of Melbourne, but I went to school in Melbourne. So I guess when you work it out, home is somewhere on the freeway in between the two!

Rhodes Project: What’s currently playing on your iPod?

Angela Darby: I went to Glastonbury recently, and ever since I’ve been listening to The Lumineers – all of their songs are on repeat at the moment, so I think most of the people at my college are getting sick of them!

Rhodes Project: When did you first become passionate about architecture and sustainable development?

Angela Darby: For me it’s been a process of small discoveries.  I never really knew where I was going or what I wanted to do, I just kept finding things that I enjoyed, and I didn’t keep track of how much time I was spending on them.  I discovered my love for architecture around the same time as I was setting up to do the Modern Pentathlon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  It was something I’d always enjoyed, but hadn’t initially thought about taking my career in that direction.  As I started to study architecture and planning, I began to realise just how much I enjoyed it.  The thing that engages me about architecture is how people experience space, and I gradually learned that from the inside of architecture, rather than what I had perceived as architecture from the outside – building houses.   As I started to work out which parts of architecture I liked, the discoveries I made along the way led me to sustainable development.

Rhodes Project: Can you tell me about a favourite past project?

Angela Darby: One of my favorite projects, which I became a part of through the University of Melbourne, was to experience working out in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, where there are some very remote indigenous communities. We were working on a project to engage with the remote communities and spent about two and a half weeks working on site, on top of lots of prep and follow up work. It was a truly amazing experience.

Rhodes Project: If you weren’t in architecture, what would you be doing instead?

Angela Darby: I started off veering towards veterinary science - I wanted to go on safari or into the jungle to work with vulnerable or endangered species in the wild.  I took the pre-vet year at the University of Melbourne, but transitioning into the Veterinary Science degree coincided with being shortlisted for the Beijing Olympics. To complete the Vet Science degree I would have had to have lived and studied about 45 minutes outside of Melbourne and it would have made my position on the Australian team near impossible. I was so excited about Beijing that I threw myself into it and did everything possible to make that work.  So if I weren’t in architecture I probably would have run away to the jungle to be some sort of vet or ranger!

Rhodes Project: Can you tell me a little bit about what projects you are currently working on?

Angela Darby: At the moment I’m doing a Master of Science in Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford as part of the Rhodes Scholarship, and am currently writing my dissertation.  My research is looking at how policy actually interacts with the built environment, and how you have to understand that there are so many professions interacting in the built environment - engineers, architects, builders and suppliers – small scale and large scale – all working on projects. Understanding these interactions and engaging as many parties as possible is a key component to make as many houses as possible sustainable.  I’m trying to understand how big a job it actually is.  I’m researching around that area with an existing project at a research lab in Oxford.

Rhodes Project: Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Angela Darby: I don’t know if this would be with a company, or whether this would be with a smaller business from my own venture, but I’d like to be able to work on the precinct level in built environments. Whether that will be across suburbs or across cities, I want to engage a scale where you can look at how things interlink and interact. For example, how these links help a city add to or regenerate its biodiversity, bring back or support native urban agriculture, or even how greater scale cities can create their own energy.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you offer to a woman interested in pursuing a career in architecture and sustainability?

Angela Darby: This is to both women and men because architecture is one of those subjects with a really great mix of people and a great community.  If you love architecture and you love design, you’ll find something that you’ll get out of architecture, and you won’t notice the hours you’re doing.  Follow the direction that you’re passionate about and, if that ends up even having a hint of supporting future generations through the places that they inhabit, there will be something in sustainability that interest you. There are so many exciting things coming up in the field of sustainable development.

Rhodes Project: What does an ideal day look like to you?

Angela Darby: Wake up and go for a run beside the towpaths around Oxford – they’re just beautiful.  Catch up with some friends over breakfast or coffee.  Generally just exploring outside, and catching up with friends as much as possible.

Rhodes Project: If you could have one super-power, what would it be and why?

Angela Darby: I’d like to have one super-power that I’ve always wanted, but people always tell me it’s a horrible power.  I’d like to be able to open a book, flip through the pages really quickly and have it totally memorized.  I’d love that but apparently it’s not a super-power - just an incredibly good memory.  However, if I had another, I’d like to be able to stand in one place and move back and forward through time. I’d love to be able to see what it was like thousands of years in the past, or even in the future, without disturbing or affecting anything!

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