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'Woman of design' receives honors.

Julia Monk, president and principal of Brennan Beer Gotman/Monk Interiors says she has never been a member of the "glass-ceiling" set.

Coined in the 80's, glass ceiling is the term given to the invisible barrier that frustrates some female executives after they have risen to a certain rung on the corporate ladder only to find they cannot surpass it.

"I put myself in positions where people always supported me or I just got lucky," says the architect.

Brennan Beer Gotman Monk/Interiors is an off-shoot of Brennan Beer Gorman Architects. Though separate companies, the two often work side-by-side on the same projects as well as pursuing their own.

While Monk says she did not face the same adversity as other women, she is nonetheless being recognized for her achievements as a woman and an architect. Late last year, she was one of 134 female CEOs honored by the YMCA of the City of New York at its Annual Salute to Women Achievers luncheon.

She is also one of 32 female architects featured in a new book Women of Design, written by Beverly Russel. The book highlights the work of these architects and interiors and how each distinguished themselves. The debut of the book was celebrated with an exhibit in New York in October that later moved on to Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Miami.

Among the pages of Women in Design, Monk said, she finds herself in some extremely good company.

"I think [Russel] wanted to celebrate women in design," she said, "since it has been pretty much a male-dominated field."

Accompanied by four color pages of her work, the description of Monk h ighl ights her recent and past projects.

Among her recent successes is having a lead role in the $100 million restoration of the St. Regis Hotel. Brennan Beer Gorman Monk/Interiors received the contract for the exterior renovation, building system coordination, and space planning and programming for all spaces. Its sister firm, Brennan Beer Gorman Architects, was also part of the project team Graham Design did the fixtures, furnishing and electrical.

The aim of the project, commissioned by owner ITF, was to replicate the original hotel, built for John Jacob Astor in 1004 and lator added on to in 1927 by a new owner, Duke Management.

The old marble floors were revealed and refurbished in the foyer and corridors. Ceilings were re-exposed and goldleafed. Paneling was refurbished. Building systems were updated.

The guest rooms were gutted and the number of keys was reduced from 436 to 363 to make for some larger rooms. The fixtures in each room were modernized to serve contemporary travelers.

Four new rooms were added for private functions, and other function spaces, like the famous St. Regis Roof, were rebuilt. The hotel has a newly created two-story space, the Astor Court, around which revolve a new entrance, living room area, King Cole Bar and Lespinasse, the restaurant.

Monk's face beams with pride when she speaks of that project, which was unveiled in 1991.

"I wish there was another one like it," she said.

Other recently completed projects includeThe Sutton, a residential hotel on East 56th Street in Manhattan. This was a joint project of Brennan Beer Gotman Architects and Brennan Beer Gorman Monk/Interiors. The entire interior was demolished and Brennan Beer Monk/Interiors created 84 one- and twobedroom suites with an eye on creating a "homey' feel. The assignment also included a new lobby, a restaurant, swimming pool and health club.

The firm has also designed five of the eight Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Houses. Funded by a private foundation, the houses provide affordable, extended stay for active duty military personnel and veterans being treated at U.S. military hospitals and their families. Eaeh house contains communal dining and living space and eight bedrooms accommodating up to 16 individuals. Twentyfive of these "comfort homes" are planned and Monk said her firm is bidding for two others.

Brennan Beer Gotman Monk/Interiors is also currently engaged abroad. Projects include three spaces -- a chinese restaurant, a health club and a beauty salon -- in the 40O-room Penninsula Hotel in Bangkok being designed by Brennan Beer Gorman Arehitects. In Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia, they are designing a corporate apartment within an office building and they are negotiating with a major chain to do the interiors for a new hotel.

Some additional ongoing projects are: A Japanese restaurant in the Essex House, where Brennan Beer Gorman Architects oversaw the complete architectural and interior renovation, and a dormitory at Coppin State College in Baltimore, Maryland, that is being designed by Brennan Beer Gorman Monk/Interiors. They are also adding a health club in the Sheraton New York where Brennan Beer Gotman did the architecture.

Other interiors that bear the Brennan Beer Gorman Monk/Interiors seal include: The headquarters for the World Wrestling Federation in Stamford, designed by Brennan Beer Gorman Architects; the offices for Hammerson Properties at 420 Fifth Avenue; the Gateway Plaza in Newark; interior redesign of the Sherry Netherland in Manhattan; the Sheraton Plantation; a life safety upgrade and ADA installations at Washington, D.C. 's Laylayette C enter, which was designed by the firm's partners 12 years ago; and interior repositioning at the Quality Hotel Central, Inc.

New York via Chicago

After graduating from Ball State University in 1978 with a degree in architecture and environmental design, Monk says, she wanted to move to a city. She decided on Chicago, where she was born and lived before moving with her family to Indiana. In Chicago, she took a job as a design draftsperson with Welton Becket Associates. She was promoted to project designer and in June of 1982 she was transferred to New York as a p roj ect designer and she later became a senior project. designer :..Her..assignment there included: The Newport City Master Plan and projects for Lever Brothers and The Bank of New York.

In 1984, she was asked to join Hank Brennan, David Beer and Peter Gorman, former architects with Welton & Beckett in New York who had recently forged out on their own. Monk made the move to Brennan Beer Gorman Architects and became their first employee. In 1986 she was named the first associate architect of the firm, which had by then grownto 70 people. A year later, she was given a proposition: A 3 percent stake in the architectural partnership or an equal share as president of the new interiors firm. After much deliberation and consultationwith her father, an architect and civil engineer, she decided to take advantage of what she considered a "once-in-alifetime" opportunity.

In light of the disappointments some women have had in their career, Monk has indeed had some unusual experiences. Between 1982 and 1983, whileat Welton Beckett, Monk agreed to work on the Juffali Headquarters Office Building in Jidda Saudi Arabia. The parmers warned her that due to the country's different beliefs on women her direct contact with the client and the project would be minimal.

"I was told when I got the assignment I would never see the project and never meet the client," she said.

Monk did go to Saudi Arabia, making three trips as a guest of the Sheik Juffali's wife, who, ironically, was an active participant in the plans. She attended meetings with the sheik in which she was the only woman and she offered her advice for the project.

Though Monk feels fortunate to have this opportunity, she concedes it is important to be aware of the client's sensibilities.

The modest architect does take some credit for her ability to excel and she attributes it to an understanding of arch itecture and the design process. According to Monk, a professor in college told her "designers were a dime a dozen ... To be really good in architecture, you have to understand the full breadth of what the architecture represents and not [just] the design element of it."
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Title Annotation:profile of architect Julia Monk
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jan 13, 1993
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