Renewed Interest in the Status of Women Architects Despina’s article is titled "Why Architects Need Feminism" and states: “Whether ‘old’ or ‘new’, feminism remains an inherently positive approach: it insists not only on the necessity but also on the possibility of change. Feminism weds theory to practice and encourages us to rethink the relationship between architecture schools and the larger professional world. By linking individuals to systems, feminism allows us to perceive structural limitations and to envision dissolving barriers. And feminism's attention to practice — and not just to practitioners — fosters new ways of understanding and experimenting with process. “For those of us who have long fought for greater diversity in architecture, the slow pace of change is less alarming than the emergence of cynical voices, both male and female, that dismiss the viability of architecture as a profession. At the final Van Alen roundtable, Dagmar Richter relayed the opinion, expressed by some in the field, that the declining status of the discipline is reflected in the growing presence of women in architecture schools —in other words, women are making headway because men are bailing. This stance suggests the impossibility of both a strong and integrated profession. Embracing a broader definition of feminism undermines this zerosum, winner/loser dynamic by making clear how architecture in toto gains from addressing ‘women’s’ concerns, which — as it turns out — belong to everyone.” For those women who prefer a group setting over reading an article there are many opportunities for meetings. This year the Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals owa-usa.org will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a symposium where prominent speakers will address the topic Gender Matters on Saturday, April 13, 2013 in the Wurster Hall auditorium on UC Berkeley Campus. Another series of events exploring issues related to women in architecture is the OWA Book Circle, initiated a year ago by Wendy Bertrand. Eight women and men have been reading and discussing books about women and architecture, sharing their insights in the OWA newsletter, and gifting the books to public libraries and libraries of high schools and colleges to spread the information.
The American Institute of Architects is slowly taking note of women in the profession and established a Diversity and Inclusion program that celebrated last year’s Women’s History month with a webpage showcasing eight women architects. The AIA San Francisco recently hosted an event, The Missing 32%. It referred to the gap between 50% of female students enrolled in architecture programs and only 18% licensed persons are women. Participants talked about women’s architectural practice and presented their sometimes opposing assessment of the situation and what can be done about it. The AIA East Bay aiaeb.org is actively engaged, and sponsors the Women in Architecture Forum which meets at their office at 1405 Clay St Oakland, CA 94612 at the second Thursday of the month for discussion of relevant issues within the design and construction industry. The meetings are open to all. The next event will be a joint meeting with OWA on February 12, 2013 at 6 p.m. featuring Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita, College of Environmental Design and author of a memoir Iona Dreaming - The Healing Power of Place (Lake Worth, FL, Nicolas-Hays, 2010), and Wendy Bertrand, retired architect and author of a memoir Enamored with Place – As Woman + As Architect (San Francisco, Eyeonplace press, 2012), discussing and reading from their memoirs about place. Looking forward to 2013, I hope that the many beginnings in new and provocative thinking will multiply and result in changes to the status of women in the profession of architecture and to women’s contribution in establishing a new or revised model of architectural practice. In the Epilogue of her book Enamored with Place, Wendy Bertrand envisions a new model called placitecture for practicing architecture in a socially and environmentally equitable way. I would wish that these ideas will find wide dissemination, discussion, and eventually implementation.
Inge Horton Retired City Planner turned Architectural Historian