Thursday, 25 August 2011

Book - Architecture: A Woman's Profession

Gender stereotypes have changed in the past twenty years and in many areas of professional live the gap between the sexes has started to close. The western society has started to accept that both men and women can do the same jobs and should be rewarded the same.

According to a RIBA report investigating the reasons why so many female architects leave practice in the UK the right to work as an architect was only established in 1919 with the Sex Discrimination (Removal) Act - women were allowed to become architects. However, after a brief moment at work were sent home to do domestic work until the end of the second world war.

Lisa Iwamoto
Image taken from dailytonic / ‘Voussoir Cloud’ by San Fransisco-based studio IwamotoScott (Lisa Iwamoto) with Buro Happold.

The current most notable women in architecture are arguably Kazuyo Sejima from Sanaa and Zaha Hadid from Zaha Hadid Architects. Both are Prizker Prize winners, Zaha Hadid in 2004 and Kazuyo Sejima together with her office partner Ryue Nishizawa in 2010. Both feature in the media frequently with their professional achievements.

In a new book Architecture: A Woman's Profession published by Jovis, Tanja Kullack Brings together a reference book that looks not only at the current situation, but also at the wider context such as education. The book offers a range of perspectives from individual women professionals on a range of topics.

The way the content is presented is very interesting in so far as it aims to emulate a discussion. This discussion is arranged by topic, not contributor. The individual vies are presented as statements under a summarising topic. This structure produces text that is very much a debate as if you had a round table and everybody there would put in their thoughts.

Some of the topics discussed are: on authorship and genius; on education, graduates and students; on identity; on leadership; on success and career and conditions therefore; on media and the 'society of spectacle'; plus of course many more.

In addition to this every contributing architect also is portrayed through their profesional practice through a photo essay of their designs and work. There is no individual practice description or anything only the statements and the work. This makes it quite a personal setting for not having this professional security shield of achievements put up front, making the discussion much more accessible.

Alison Brooks
Image taken from inhabitat / Wildspace by Alison Brooks Architects - Colorful Factory Building - Industrial Building Design.

The publication points out that even though in the education stage the classrooms are fu of female architecture students, the professional world is not, especially not in leading roles. Education has only recently become female dominated but the participants in this bok very often reflect on their personal education as the defining element and the absence of female role models has its impact. As for example Alison Brooks reflects in the text: ... I wasn't sensitive at the time (to the fact that non of the studio teachers were female). Until recently, we were kind of brainwashed into thinking that men are the authority figures; therefore, they teach, run things, etc. Women have been accepting this for such a long time. Men are raised, or grow up expecting to be in positions of leadership and women do not.

Architecture: A Woman's Profession
Image taken from / Architecture: A Woman's Profession - book cover.

Kullack, T. ed., 2011. Architecture: A Woman’s Profession, Berlin: Jovis.

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