Brazilian Architectural Designer's Australian Dream: Life, Work & Becoming a Registered Architect

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

In episode 10 of Think Big, we move on from talking about presentation skills to talking to Brazilian architectural designer Gabriela Fernandes. We discuss her journey from Brazil to Australia and the ongoing process to become a registered architect in Australia and where she is up to in the process.

We discuss:

✨ Learning English as an architecture professional

✨ Different books and resources to learn vocabulary

✨ Architecture Registration in Australia with overseas qualifications

✨ Networking, putting yourself out there and staying connected to your culture

In today's interview, I wanted to know a little more about her story and how she came to be in Australia including all the challenges she overcame. I was so impressed by her bravery and her willingness to put herself out there that I just felt like I had to share her story because I know so many of you go through a similar journey. As well as discussing her story and her connection to Brazilian architecture in Australia, we discuss some of her favourite books for learning architecture vocabulary and her tips for similar professionals and students in her situation.

I want to say thank you so much to Gabriela for being so open, honest and brave enough to share her story. She has been kind enough to offer her contact details to anyone who would like to know more about her story and experience. You'll find her on Instagram here where she shares some of her favourite projects writing her captions in both English and Portuguese.

Instagram - Gabriela Fernandes

Books & Resources

Here is her top list of books:

Vocabulary books:

📚A Visual Dictionary of Architecture, Francis D. K. Ching

📚Introduction to Architecture, Francis D. K. Ching, James F. Eckler

📚Neufert Architects’ Data, Ernst Neufert

📚Metric Handbook: Planning and Design Data, Pamela Buxton

Books that helped to learn more about the Australian Architecture industry as a recent graduate:

📚Building Your Own Home, George Wilkie

📚101 Things I Didn't Learn in Architecture School: And wish I had known before my first job, Sarah Lebner

The Architect Project

Books that Gabriela read in Portuguese and I loved the pleasure to read again in English:

📚Learning from Las Vegas, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour.

📚Atmospheres: Architectural Environments, Peter Zumthor

📚The Death and Life of Great Cities, Jane Jacobs

Overseas Architecture Registration in Australia

✨ Follow me on Instagram:

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull

Brazilian architects shown at the Brazilin Architects Tribute

Lina Bo Bardi

Paulo Mendes da Rocha

Oscar Niemeyer

Arthur Casas

BCMF Architects

Angelo Bucci

João Filgueiras Lelé.

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You know it's time to make a change and you've got to start somewhere. In the evaluation and action plan, you will get my best tips so you stop the self-doubt and start taking action now. Take me to the action plan


to put yourself out there - to do things you're afraid of despite the challenge

architectural designer - may refer to a building designer who is not a registered architect

the day by day - the daily routine

day by day - (without the article 'the' little by little

in the first place - as the first consideration or point - to begin with, or to start with


Quick Find Snippets - Take me straight to these sections

Gabriela's Fun Fact

First job

Recommended books for learning vocabulary Architecture registration in Australia Connecting back to Brazil

Top 3 tips Transcript

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to Think Big Episode 10

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:12

Hello big thinkers and welcome to Episode 10 of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host Tara Cull, landscape architect, English teacher and communication coach for ArchiEnglish, at ArchiEnglish I coach people in the built design profession as well as students of architecture and landscape architecture. So I lecture in a university in Thailand, and I help them to speak English when English is their second language, and to build outstanding communication skills within the architecture profession, so that they feel more confident to speak up. You can learn more about my coaching programmes and upcoming courses at In today's episode, we're moving on from talking about presentation skills. So I've been talking about presentation skills over the last three episodes. And now we're going to talk about the journey of being a non native English speaker, wanting to live and work in an English speaking culture as an architect or working within the architecture profession. So as a landscape architect, as an urban designer, an interior designer. And I wanted to do this because I really wanted to share the stories of people who have already done it before. They may be something that you may be thinking about moving to an English speaking culture. Or perhaps you work in a culture where you have to speak English occasionally with clients. So I wanted to share the stories of others. And we're going to start today, I first wanted to share the story of Brazilian architectural designer, Gabriela Fernandes. So we're going to discuss her journey from Brazil to Australia, and her ongoing process of becoming a registered architect in Australia. And we'll find out where she is up to in that process. In today's interview, I wanted to know more about her story and how she came to be in Australia. I was so impressed when I first spoke to Gabriela I was so impressed by her bravery and her willingness to just put herself out there that I just felt like I had to share this story with you, because I hope that it inspires others to also take on that bravery and put themselves out there. And I know that there are a lot of you that are going through quite a similar journey. As well as discussing her story and her connection to Brazilian architecture in Australia. We discuss some of her favourite books for learning architecture vocabulary, and also her tips that other professionals in a similar situation, or students in a similar situation, could really try to use as a way of improving vocabulary and improving your confidence in the workplace. Personally, I think it's important to be able to learn and to grow by listening to the stories of others who have come before you. Obviously, we're all on a different journey. We're all in different stages of our journey, but it certainly helps when you hear somebody else talking about how they've overcome a challenge. So I wanted to say a big thank you to Gabriella for being so open. So honest and brave enough to share her story in this interview. She even mentioned to me at the end that she was a bit stressed because she was talking to an English teacher. And I think it's okay. And I think that for me is such an amazing aspect of being able to put yourself out there and really give it a go despite the possibility that you might make mistakes and it's okay, it's okay to do that. She's also been kind enough to offer her contact details to anyone who would like to know more about her story and her experience. So I will put her Instagram contact details in the show notes. So if you want to find her there and you want to ask her questions, you can send her a message. So a little more about Gabriela. Gabriela Fernandez is an architectural designer, and she's working towards architecture registration in Australia. So in just to let you know, as an architect, in Australia, you can only be called an architect when you have done your registration. So that's why we refer to people who work in architecture, who don't yet have their registration they may be referred to as a number of different things. And in this case, we say architectural designer. So let's find out more about Gabriela's story, and I will meet you again at the end of the episode.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 04:54

Gabriella, thank you very much for joining me today on the podcast. It's always good to have an Other voice, especially people who have come from outside of Australia to now be working in Australia, as an architect or a designer, it's also good for people to hear other people's voices. That's not just mine. So, welcome to the podcast.

Gabriela 05:15

No. Thank you very much, Tara. And first of all, I want to say thank you as well, for inviting me to your podcast, I really appreciate what you are doing? It's a it's really important actually, especially, especially for people like me, who came from overseas, and needs to understand a little bit more needs to hear those voices to get inspired.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 05:36

You're welcome. And this is why I do this. Because I know that what what I do is useful for people. And even though I wasn't around four years ago for you, now you can help other people with your story. So I think that's really important. So to begin with, as I begin all of my podcast episodes, could you explain just a little bit about who you are, where you're from, and where you are now? Sure.

Gabriela 06:01

Sure. I am an architect who graduated in Brazil, I am from Bahia, which is my city, I graduated in the University Federal of Bahia (Federal University of Bahia). And nowadays, I am here in Australia, based in Sydney, working for an architectural practice with residential projects, and multi-residential as well.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:23

So before we start too, I think, for me, it's really important because we're not just architects, we're not just designers. You know, we don't just define ourselves as one thing. Could you share a fun fact outside of architecture about you?

Gabriela 06:38

The fun fact about me, I would say, that is I used to hate English, I know that you're going to hate me now.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:50

It's not It's not uncommon.

Gabriela 06:51

I used to hate English when I was a kid. I don't know why it was so hard for me actually. And when I was in university, actually, I received the opportunity to have an a scholarship to you studying in another country. And I could choose I had to like at least, and I was oh my goodness, which one I gonna choose and I and I was so nervous about it. And I choose it something that it was I choose to go to Madrid we spend and Jenna was was amazing, actually, to have the opportunity to learn another language. Really opened my mind and the way that I see the world, and the way that I understand people and was was a big difference for me, like get out of my comfort zone is studying architecture in another university. But then I have (had) to choose the English and these things to in my mind. So even hating in English. When I finished my university, one of the things that was there was like, I need to try that I need to speak it now. I need these for my Career you know, I really want to have like an international experience at some point. And in this global world in the 21st century, I think that English it's one of the most important languages. So I came to Australia to just study English. Was the first point. And nowadays I cannot believe it that I chose my hometown to (as) Sydney. And I speak English like every day. Even more than Portuguese.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 08:28

Wow, it's amazing that you've gone from hating English to now speaking it every day. And I hope that you love it now. Do you love it?

Gabriela 08:36

Yeah, I do. I do. Actually, It was really hard in the beginning. And I will tell you like when you're learning and you will like you're struggling and you want things it's you can be hating the language. But yeah, but now I like it and you know, have the opportunity to research in more than one language let get the opportunity to know people and understand the jokes. And it's it's just another world that opens for you.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:06

Yeah, I can definitely resonate with that having you know, when I moved to France, I didn't speak any other language other than English. I never imagined that I would learn French. I did French in school and I hated it like you. And now I can't imagine not speaking French and you know, it's hard but you put yourself out there you do it, you step outside of your comfort zone. It's like this journey that you go through but you know that it brings something more to your life. I love what you were saying about how when you went to Madrid it really opened up your your world and then again when you went to Australia. So you arrived in Australia after being in Madrid and studying in Madrid. So maybe talk us through that what happened when you first got there.

Gabriela 09:49

So yeah, I want to have this international experience. I chose Australia because I've I don't know was just far and different and and my idea was to have six months learn English. Enjoy, leave. And that's it and come back to my country. But, then my whole life changed in my first week here, actually. So everything happens in my first week

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:20

That was quick.

Gabriela 10:21

That was really quick. So I came to here without knowing (how to) speak English without not knowing anyone here, and no plans at all. Like the only plan was literally just learn English. And just to kind of understand my level of English at this moment, I could not speak really well. But you know, I memorised a few things. I learned how (to) introduce myself. And I subscribed myself in an architecture exhibition. So in my first Well,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:54

From Madrid, or in Australia,

Gabriela 10:56

No. From Brazil. So I went, I had my exchange in Brazil, I had my exchange in Madrid sorry, I come back to Brazil. I finished my degree there in 2016, December, and two months later, I organised everything to (for) a second exchange in Australia. So 2017, four years ago, I came to Australia, and the focus was learning English, and come back to Brazil. Like, come back to my family, to my work and to everything that I've heard and has everything set up over there you know, like, but as I told you, everything changing in my first week, so I got a job in my first week in architecture area. Wow. Yes. And okay. And they also meet (met) my my partner as well in my my first week, and I'm still working.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:54

Wow, and is he Australian? Or Where's he from? He's from Brazil, actually. Wow, that's such an incredible story. You went all the way to Australia to meet your partner, who is Brazilian in Australia.

Gabriela 12:07

I know. I know. I met him my first day here. Yeah, in my first couple of hours. I was lost on the street, I hear some people speaking in Spanish. And I knock (on) his door because I did not know my address. I did not have internet, I did not have anything. And then who open the door, him. He's speaking Portuguese. And I was like what am I doing here? Yeah.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 12:35

Okay, well, that's that's a pretty amazing aspect of the story. Um, and I guess what I'm really interested in is the fact that you got a job in your first week of being in Australia, and you said, You didn't really speak very well. And you felt like you're not at an advanced level. So could you tell us how you got your first job?

Gabriela 12:55

Definitely. So I subscribed in these. In exhibition here. It was like a construction exhibition. That happens every year here in Sydney. And I memorised a few things that I should tell (say) like, how to introduce myself. Who, I was. I printed some business cards. And I went there by myself. And I started to talk to people. So they have a few lectures. They have a few presentations over there. So of course, it was there, like a couple of CEOs of big architectural companies. And I just talked to people like, Hey, how are you? I'm Gabriela. This card and at some point, when the conversation is thought to be more complicated that you say, oh, excuse me, I'll grab some coffee. And that's it. When I get away of the difficult part, I already gave my business card. I already introduced myself, I already said who I was, and I was looking for an opportunity. I used to say that my first opportunity was lucky because I understand I was a recent graduate, I did not have any English skills. And I did not know like how architecture working here the way of the construction legislation, Australian standards, whatever everything that I need now to work as an architect. Um, but I was not shy and I had the courage to speak with people. So I gave my business card to lots of people and two of them called me they gave me an, one of them was out of Sydney and I could not take it but the other one was really nice and I worked at for 10 months, was not as an architect was as a draftsperson. But it was really good to start. And these people were so patient with me actually because I could not speak, but I was very good with the software. And they used to do like markups. They used to write for me what I what I should do. And I, you know, I learned like I translated, I bought some books, I talked to people who (were) was in the same situation as me or already got the first opportunity and already was in a business market. So I stayed 10 months working as a, as a drafter for a couple of developers, builders and engineers. And then they got me the first, the first opportunity to have an interview in an architectural practice.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 15:42

So I guess for me, like listening