She used basketball skills to become a leader in a profession dominated by men

Daniela Holt Voith, majority partner at Voith & Mactavish Architects, is especially proud of work done on a field house for St. Andrews School in Delaware. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Daniela Holt Voith, majority partner at Voith & Mactavish Architects, is especially proud of work done on a field house for St. Andrews School in Delaware. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 06, 2014

D ANIELA HOLT VOITH, 59, of Center City, is majority partner at Voith & Mactavish Architects, which opened in 1988. Voith, who has degrees from Yale's School of Architecture and Bryn Mawr College, focuses on planning and design for educational institutions. She has taught at Yale, Penn, Drexel and Bryn Mawr and has mentored women. Recently she was named to the American Institute of Architects' College of Fellows.

Q: What sets Voith & Mactavish apart?

A: Our philosophy is thinking about culture and context, architecturally and socially. We try to design and build structures that . . . respond to institutions' internal missions, as well as the specifics of their sites.

Q: An example?

A: Germantown Friends School. Since we started working with them 17 years ago, [GFS] saw some decline and [a past administration] had been inward-looking and defensive. Their buildings are beautiful and we convinced them to be more welcoming to the neighborhood and put windows on facades. We also turned the campus' center court - once green space that became a parking lot - back to community space.

Q: How'd you become a leader in a biz dominated by men?

A: In part, I owe it to playing basketball. I was captain of the Architects League at Yale, and I was the only woman in the entire league. I started playing pickup games with guys. You do that and eventually you understand a guy's mentality in competitive and teamwork situations.

Q: Who are your key clients?

A: University of Pennsylvania Law School, Drexel University and West Chester University have been clients. The independent schools we've worked with include [William] Penn Charter [School], GFS and the Miquon School. I've also worked with Millbrook School, in New York state.

Q: How much are fees?

A: Sometimes we work hourly or for a flat fee or percentage. Ultimately it's tied to the amount, type and complexity of work. For a $5 million to $8 million project, we would be looking at fees of 10 percent. If it's a $50 million project, the fees as a percentage are generally less.

Q: What are some of your most noteworthy projects?

A: A field house I did for St. Andrew's School in Delaware, where "Dead Poets Society" was filmed. I took a historic barn at Millbrook and converted it to a student center. The theater we did for Penn Charter is terrific.

Q: What's been the biggest challenge growing the biz?

A: Ebb and flow of economic cycles. We've been through three major downturns.

Q: Employees?

A: Thirty. Half are women.

Q: How big a business?

A: About $6 million to $8 million in annual revenue.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

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