Neither women nor computers are oddities in today’s architecture industry. This is due in part to pioneering minds like Bertha Martinez, a principal with ZGF Architects.
For the past 41 years, Martinez has fought for progress within the industry, both technologically and socially. “When I was the only woman in the room, I wouldn’t even notice because I knew that I belonged there,” Martinez said of her early career.
She specialized in computer-aided architectural design in grad school, situating herself at the forefront of the industry’s technological innovations. “A lot of the time, I had to convince my peers and colleagues that (computer-aided design) is a really cool tool, and that we could do great things with it,” Martinez said.
While the technology saw significant pushback at first, a basic proficiency in these programs is now expected among college architecture graduates, according to Martinez.
Progress of any kind takes time, and throughout her career, Martinez said, she has witnessed the incremental changes amount to something that more closely resembles gender equality. “I do believe that this generation is definitely seeing a lot of the changes that some of us had to fight hard for,” Martinez said. “(Gender) is not something that’s holding people back the way it used to.”
Despite the obstacles she overcame in the early days of her career, Martinez hopes to be acknowledged on the basis of accomplishments — and there are many. Most notably, Martinez has left her mark on several buildings at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, and now is working on the tech giant’s campus-refresh project. Other prominent Eastside projects include Safeco Redmond, the Bellevue Regional Library, and SECO Development’s Southport office development in Renton.
“People ask me sometimes, ‘What is it like to be a female architect?’ My immediate reaction is (to say), ‘Just ask me what it feels like to be an architect. Because that’s what I am,’” Martinez said. “The fact that I am female, the fact that I am Cuban — it really shouldn’t be what makes me who I am in my profession. We should be looking at merit based on what people do, not what people are.”
Turn the page to see what this awesome architect does on an average day.
Photos Courtesy of Bertha Martinez
Alarm goes off. I hit snooze two or three times, and dash to the bathroom to get ready for work. Then I’m on the road (or online) around 8:15 a.m.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, I typically have meetings on the Eastside at Microsoft. If the meeting is later in the morning, I check email from my home office until it’s time to leave.
Out the door, in the BluBlur (my car), with Starbucks on my mind. My go-to order is a white chocolate mocha and a croissant.
On site at Microsoft, discussing their major campus-modernization project. It’s exciting to be part of a project that will leave such a legacy.
Afternoons are often taken up by more meetings. It could be an owner/contractor meeting, an internal team charrette, or a work session with other disciplines.
I start my day late, so I eat lunch late. I stop by the kitchen to see if there are leftovers from lunchtime meetings. If I need a break, I search for the newspaper to relax with a game of KenKen.
Monthly, I visit the Southport construction site on the shores of Lake Washington to check on the progress. The final office building for SECO Development will be finished this spring.
Meeting with the project architects to plan for upcoming tasks on the schedule and review staffing assignments for our team.
Every two weeks, I participate in the ACE Mentorship Program, helping mentor high school students and inspiring them to pursue careers in design and construction.
By now the office has quieted down, the phone stops ringing, and I can concentrate on finishing my tasks for the day. I’m not an early-morning person, so I make sure to get everything done before I go home.
My husband does all the cooking and dinner usually is ready when I get home. I shoot for 8:30, but there are days when my dinner goes in the warming drawer.
I lay out my clothes the night before so as not to wake my retired husband in the morning. Less to process when it’s early, and confirms my shoes will actually match.