Women in Contemporary Architecture
by Maggie Toy
The gender issues surrounding architecture are extraordinarily complex and, frequently, highly emotionally charged. Even the title of this book generated controversy:
The original title, The Female Architect, was rejected because it highlighted the fact that the architects whose work is featured here are women, when most want to be considered just as architects. All want their work to be read on its own merits.
Architecture grows and develops according to the challenges it faces. Taking up the challenge of refuting the gender divide and welcoming intelligent input, from whatever source, will benefit a profession that, by definition, is serving the people for whom it works and therefore needs to operate within a collaborative framework, one offering equal opportunities according to talent rather than gender. In the second year of the new millennium, such is not the case.
Gender Inequality in the 21st Century?
Statistics from the United Kingdom indicate that in the years 1909 and 1989, the percentage of architects in Britain who were women was the same — a shocking nine percent! Since 1996, there has been a fractional improvement (estimates range from 10 to 11 percent), but the number is still appallingly low.
If the number of women architects continues to grow at the present rate, their representation in the profession might just achieve parity by the year 3000. In the United States, only 10 percent of licensed architects in firms are women.
Some individuals, of course, have taken action. Annette Fischer, who has been a president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Council in London as well as running her own practices, has championed the cause of both women and minority architects.
This article is excerpted from The Architect: Women in Contemporary Architecture, edited by Maggie Toy, with permission of the publisher, Watson-Guptill Publications.
Night view of the east facade of the Niigata City Performing Arts Center, by Itsuko Hasegawa.
Photo: Katsuhisa Kida
One of the six floating gardens that surround Hasegawa's arts center.
Photo: Katsuhisa Kida
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