Rachel Haugh
© Paul Wolfgang Webster

Rachel Haugh founded SimpsonHaugh and Partners with Ian Simpson in 1987. It was named Office Architect of the Year in 2014 in the Building Design awards. Rachel Haugh was shortlisted for the 2015 Woman Architect of the Year Award.

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

As a child I repeatedly said that I wanted to be different. I now take that to mean that I wanted to make a difference. My architectural ambition was fuelled around the age of 14 by a passion for drawing, reading about Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier — and careers advice against it.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Marple Hall, a state school in Manchester — I was one of the first intake. I spent six years at Bath University. I chose it because it was, and still is, innovative; the course combines architecture and engineering. I studied under Patrick Hodgkinson and Peter Smithson.

Who was or still is your mentor?

It has to be my architectural partner, Ian Simpson. His intention is always about raising the bar, never acknowledging constraints to our aspiration or our vision. That’s extremely liberating.

How physically fit are you?

Fairly! The only thing that gets me into the gym is knowing my loyal trainer, Jamie, is waiting for me.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Real success needs both talent and raw drive. In architecture, you also need the ability to work all hours.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?


How politically committed are you?

As architects, we help to support the politically driven agenda by trying to achieve investment, new jobs, regeneration and so on.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Certainly, in my work. In terms of me personally, I walk to work, I cycle, I use public transport. I do, however, admit to really enjoying driving and flying.

Do you have more than one home?

I have apartments in Manchester, London and Switzerland.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A cat.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

My home in Montreux. The lake view is spectacular. I feel instantly at peace there, ready to recharge my batteries.

Montreux, Switzerland
Biggest extravagance: home in Montreux, Switzerland © Dreamstime

In what place are you happiest?

High in the mountains, on skis.

What ambitions do you still have?

I’ve got huge ambitions for next year: it’s our 30th anniversary, though it feels as though we’ve only just started. The momentum in Manchester is very exciting.

What drives you on?

Enjoying what we do. The transformation of the drawn line to built form is amazingly rewarding.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Building up a business from nothing; from us two with two drawing boards and a borrowed typewriter, waiting for the phone to ring.

Greatest disappointment: Not getting my pilot’s licence © Dreamstime

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Not achieving my pilot’s licence. My father was a Spitfire pilot.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

“I must keep going: it’s all going to be worth it.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

We almost did in 2009 at the start of the recession: we lost 95 per cent of our clients overnight. We had to cut right back but we kept calm and had faith.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes, absolutely. My life, my death, my choice.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

No. I think this is it. Life is precious.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Eight and a half.

Photographs: Paul Wolfgang Webster; Dreamstime

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