Discover Germany, Issue 86, Architecture Special, October 2021

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Discover Germany  |  Architecture Special

WOMEN IN ARCHITECTURE “We need the holistic female view” We spoke to German architect and former president of the Federal Chamber of German Architects (Bundesarchitektenkammer, BAK) Barbara Ettinger-Brinckmann to discuss the past, present and future of women in an industry that is still somewhat dominated by men.

First of all, why did you decide to become an architect? What fascinated you most about the profession? B. E.-B.: When I was 16, I studied in the USA and lived with friends of my parents. The husband was the architect of the house in which I was allowed to live, and it completely inspired me. That was my key experience – the elegance of how the building blended into the landscape and respected the tall trees, the fascinating floor plan that ingeniously combined the private and the open. Until then, I had wandered back and forth with my career aspirations but after that, I had a fixed goal. Fortunately, I lived up to the cliché at the time: the subjects I was best at were indeed art and maths. I have never regretted this career choice. After all, is there actually a more fascinating and varied job that is important and valuable at the same time if it is carried out responsibly? We meet people's basic needs – for housing, home, security and create places for social interaction.

What’s the beauty of architecture for you? What are you trying to achieve with your work? B. E.-B.: Architecture is a unique discipline. We are building for a specific benefit, at a specific time – for people.

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We combine technical and creative aspects with poetic and artistic dimensions of space. Architecture has an extensive impact on our social life – it begins with the city with its houses, streets, squares and parks and accompanies us into the most private corners. I couldn't imagine a better job. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to design and build spaces that are used, appropriated and valued by people. Carefully planned and sustainably built buildings in lively quarters with attractive open spaces are of elementary importance for an open and self-determined society. Almost all current and future challenges – climate and resource protection, careful and socially responsible handling of land, demographic change and migration, digitisation, mobility transition – are directly relevant to our professional activities. The quality of our built environment must be the model for all construction professionals. Because architecture is never just private, it is always also public.

When you started to work in the industry, did you have any problems to assert yourself because you are a woman? I finished my studies in the mid1970s and then gained experience

in various areas – first in science, at the university, later in various offices as an employee and in administration. This gave me a very comprehensive insight into the many facets that the job offers. In 1980, after six years of gathering experience, I finally decided to be self-employed, initially as a partner with appropriate support in an existing office, later in a new configuration, but also in partnership – with a male colleague. Our focus included urban planning, building construction (from residential construction to hospitals) and, as a speciality, the management of architectural competitions. The competitions, including my own partici-  pation in them, are particularly close to my heart, as they are the best tool that we, the entire profession, give building owners to find the best solution for an urban or structural task. Today I can look back on 40 years of independence and see the office in good hands with our successors. But you are asking about the problems: It is true that, from my point of view, I had to do more, especially with clients, especially at a young age, in order to convince. It was especially difficult when my daughter was born and I had to reconcile my desire to give myself completely to this little be-