Women are invisible in the field of architecture. This became quickly apparent at the conference ‘De Kracht van de Nederlandse Architectuur' in the end of 2018. There was undoubtedly a fuss, but why? Ten men were invited as keynotes. That was unintentional, swore Harm Tilman, editor-in-chief. According to Tilman, female speakers were 'hard to find'.
The tradition that women are 'hard to find' in architecture must be broken with…Woman as architects must become visible! Let’s start with the works that are attributed continuously to men. Journalists and critics regularly attribute female works to male colleagues, they may or may not do so consciously, but it happens. This struck not only me; but Merel Pit noticed it as well. Merel Pit is founder and editor-in-chief of the architecture magazine A.ZINE, and also the issue of Mevr. Architect. Her premise for this issue was that visibility matters to others. After her graduation, she looked around for examples to start her career. However, there were just a few female architects to get inspired from. While according to her, role models are essential for emancipation in architecture.
In an article of the Volkskrant, she expressed several indications of invisible important female architects. "Consider Scott Brown; she studied at Las Vegas in the 1960s. A duck-shaped grill bar led her to the term duck to help describe buildings whose form symbolizes function, the boxy hotels with front gables she called decorated sheds; terms that grew into classics of architecture. Ultimately, her partner, Venturi, received the Pritzker Prize in 1991 for Venturi's Duck, assuming that he was the genius, not Brown."
Another example is Dikkie Scipio, co-founder of KAAN Architects. She also doesn't always get recognition for her work. "Because of the architectural firm's name ‘KAAN Architects' works are often associated with Kees Kaan. Knowing that her works include: the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the renovated Paleis Het Loo, and she did the finishing touch on renovation of the Koninklijk Museum van Schone Kunsten in Antwerp. Scipio herself responded that she is extremely disappointed about this. Scipio pleaded for a new name for the agency, but men at the office decided they wanted the 'brand' KAAN.”(Merel Pit, Mevr. Architect)
The above quotes could slightly shape the underlying idea that men are very powerful in architecture, with not much room and recognition for women at the top. Constantly fighting to go to the extreme is typical of this profession. Architecture has not yet made room for a change, which makes it even harder for women. Women, in general, spend more time on housework and caregiving than men. In doing so, society still hasn't adapted yet to the double lives (a career and a mom), which gets in the way of making a career in architecture.
The intro to this article began with the invisibility of women. It has become clear that women are often replaced by men, whether overtaken or not in the position to follow the same career path. Another example of the invisibleness of the woman is explained in the book "Invisible Woman". Women are made invisible in their work and in data, which affects their daily lives. This book discusses women's invisibility in everyday life by the lack of so-called "gendered data". There is a significant gap in research and statistics on how women use cities, offices, homes, or streets and how man uses them.
Think, for example, of snow ploughing on roads. Usually, you would think that is not at all sexist... However, the opposite is true; public spaces, including the sidewalk and public transport, are most used by women. How come? Women tend to have more stops in their getting from A to B. These stops, like the supermarket, daycare, picking up grandma etc., are easier to handle by foot or bike. Men, on the other hand, go from A to B, from work to home. They use the car, tracked by computers, producing ‘one-sided’ data. And if that is not the case, that is precisely what is cleared of snow.
If data becomes our future, and will also provide a guiding thread in architecture. Does anyone think of small alleys with no lights between buildings? About security? For men, not that important, I would say. Through new accessibility of female data, much more becomes apparent in mobility, which leads to the urban network lagging, and indirectly making women in the built environment invisible again.
Now that we have talked about invisible women, it becomes crucial that we start working on two things. First, women must be given the opportunity to become role models for the new generation of architects, predominantly female, and this should become the guiding thread for their architecture career. Besides, we see that data determines a large part of our current environment and has a lack in female data. Female architects will have to re-examine the ‘gendered data’ now and in the future.
A call to all women, but also for men! Architecture has a macho atmosphere in the profession, in which women, the figures show, do not thrive very much. Of all architects, 23% are women, and that while the university ratio of men to women has been 50-50 for years. Time for a change, in 2021, women should be as much a role model as men and don't get run over, become an architect and speak up!