Ursula McClure is one of many architect professors at the University. As of April 3, she’s the only female architect in the U.S. to be acknowledged by ArchDaily’s list of leading women in architecture.
ArchDaily, a web platform about architecture, named McClure as one of 13 top female architects around the world. ArchDaily created this list to celebrate International Women’s Day, and candidates were chosen based on designs, work ethic and dedication to the profession.
McClure first found out she won a week before ArchDaily notified her, when a former student congratulated her. Enough time had gone by since she’d submitted her application that she had forgotten about it, so the award was a pleasant surprise. Besides excitement, she also felt more introspective about her status as a female architect.
“I’ve gotten a lot of awards. I’ve worked very hard for them and I’ve been very opportunistic and looking for them," McClure said. "But this is an award I think goes back to the role model. I’ve never thought about being particularly a role model as a female, I just thought I was a role model as a good architect. This acknowledgement makes me realize that I should be more serious about that identity than I have before.”
She said making the list caused her to more carefully examine her past, to think about differences in treatment and how she had to fight to be heard.
“I didn’t really acknowledge or notice it until I started building buildings, and the contracting profession — which has even less women in it — treats you very differently than it would treat your male counterpart in building buildings,” McClure said. “So I sort of grew up learning how to stand in the mud with everybody else and have them listen to me in the same way that they would listen to a male. It’s just sad that you have to fight that battle, but it’s true.”
McClure hopes that she’ll be able to help and inspire future generations of female architects as a result of being listed. She added that she wanted to be more of a role model for her female students and to encourage them in the field that she’s been immersed in for years. McClure has worked on more than a hundred projects, in various areas like building, speculative work and article writing, among others.
McClure's high school guidance counselor first directed her to architecture, but she used to spend hours drawing extremely detailed rooms as a child. Her favorite picture books were ones that showed how things worked, with many pictures of designs. Years later, she won a college scholarship by making buildings out of legos.
Now, she balances working for her firm with teaching. McClure teaches classes within the Master of Architecture program and seminar courses that focus on Louisiana culture and architecture. She also works as the founding partner of the emerymcclure architecture firm.
While she says that managing everything is sometimes difficult, she ultimately finds teaching to be a rewarding learning experience. McClure credits teaching as part of her inspiration and creative process.
“Every generation that I’ve taught, I hold all their knowledge and then the next generation I’ll teach or the next group I teach will bring me their knowledge, and so I’ll just suck it all up," McClure said. "And that’s what helps me be creative, the fact that they’re constantly challenging me to absorb new information."