NINE TO FIVE

Name Deborah Saunt, 33 Occupation Architect Salary pounds 1,500 per month Address Clapham, London
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Talk us through your morning

I wake naturally at 6.45am. Breakfast is tea and a vitamin tablet. I start work early - between 8am and 8.30. I'm often going out for meetings with clients or visiting a site first thing. Every other day I swim. A couple of days a week I go to Cambridge University where I teach. This morning a BBC camera crew were here filming me for one of their digital channels.

Ah, the glamorous world of architecture

Yeah! I've wanted to design buildings ever since I was 10. The only other thing I've ever wanted to be is a fashion designer. My grandfather was a bricklayer so it must be in the blood. I remember my parents employed an architect to transform a house they'd bought that was dark, pokey and in a poor state of repair. He made it into something that was modern and exciting. I could see how this work could radically changed the way you live. I sat the right A-levels before taking the seven-year course and qualifying and setting up my own business.

Are there many female architects about?

About 10 per cent in all but not all of them practise. So there aren't many of us at all. But being a woman isn't an issue for the men I work with.

What are you currently working on?

My business partner David and I have been together for 18 months. We're working on various residential and commercial projects. We've come up with new concepts like a hairdresser's that has a bar attached, and we've designed a multi-faith chapel in a north London hospice. We've been trying to get into the education sector and have been short-listed for a project in north Lambeth, south London, which would involve amalgamating two primary schools. Basically, you have to come up with conceptual ideas and find the best ways of working with the community.

All sounds very touchy-feely...

Well, we see ourselves as collaborators rather than people who try to impose our ideas on others. We might ask people to fantasise how they would design a dream building with a budget of pounds 1m and get them to draw it, or we might ask them to bring along photos and images of things they like. For the hairdresser/ bar in Islington we invited the public to come along and find out how we did it. The shop was converted into a multi- media gallery showing what the building looked like when you were passing it on a bus, a car or on a bike and the work we had done to transform it.

And who designed the interior?

We did - the furniture and the light fittings. You'd expect an interior designer to be involved with a retail concept like this but we had to re-configure the building and plan for an extension at the rear to be built at a later date.

Is your house a DIY design job then?

Actually, I live in a Victorian terraced house in Clapham, south London. I share with friends and have lived in it since I was a student 10 years ago. It's very simple and unmodernised.

So, er, no boyfriend on the scene?

I think I'm exciting enough without having to reveal anything about my sex life!

All right, only asking. Tell us something "exciting"

Well, recently I was invited to a reception at Windsor Castle. I started the day on a building site; then there was a business meeting at lunch before going to a reception with the Queen. It's a fun way of life. There are always challenges and you learn new things every day.

Isn't there anything lousy about your life?

Sometimes, when I'm doing too many things at once, but that's also the best part of it. During December and January, it gets very quiet as the whole building industry switches off at Christmas. But usually there are a huge number of deadlines to juggle.

Oh yes, the pressure!

Mmm.There isn't much free time when you're working for yourself. I usually work until 7.30pm or 8pm and one day over the weekend. I love old films and go to the National Film Theatre - Barbara Stanwyck or James Stewart movies are my favourites. I'm also an opera lover. Give me Handel or Britten any day.

PETER CROSS

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