A timely and important search for architecture's missing women
For a century and a half, women have been proving their passion and talent for building and, in recent decades, their enrollment in architecture schools has soared. Yet the number of women working as architects remains stubbornly low, and the higher one looks in the profession, the scarcer women become. Law and medicine, two equally demanding and traditionally male professions, have been much more successful in retaining and integrating women. So why do women still struggle to keep a toehold in architecture? Where Are the Women Architects? tells the story of women's stagnating numbers in a profession that remains a male citadel, and explores how a new generation of activists is fighting back, grabbing headlines, and building coalitions that promise to bring about change.
Despina Stratigakos's provocative examination of the past, current, and potential future roles of women in the profession begins with the backstory, revealing how the field has dodged the question of women's absence since the nineteenth century. It then turns to the status of women in architecture today, and the serious, entrenched hurdles they face. But the story isn't without hope, and the book documents the rise of new advocates who are challenging the profession's boys' club, from its male-dominated elite prizes to the erasure of women architects from Wikipedia. These advocates include Stratigakos herself and here she also tells the story of her involvement in the controversial creation of Architect Barbie.
Accessible, frank, and lively, Where Are the Women Architects? will be a revelation for readers far beyond the world of architecture.
The first woman to graduate from an architecture program did so 140 years ago, and women still "struggle to gain a foothold in the profession" today, according to Stratigakos (A Woman's Berlin: Building the Modern City) in her slim but sharp volume on problems women face in the architecture profession. The author starts by looking at ways in which women have contributed to the field and the rise of modern design movements. When Robert Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1991, scant mention was made of his design partner and wife, Denise Scott Brown. Stratigakos explains that the omission was glaring the husband and wife team had worked together for three decades. Thirteen years later, when Zaha Hadid became the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize in 2004, the press remarked on her character as well as her work, such as Hadid's reputation for being "difficult" and a "diva," terms that Stratigakos argues "suggest a female excess and instability of emotion." Subsequent chapters explore biases "against women as innovative creators" and the dearth of female architects cited in academic texts and online resources. A chapter on the launch of the Architect Barbie doll in 2011 includes both the positive and negative reactions to the doll from the professional architect community, providing an accessible way to explore stereotypes among architects. Though these issues aren't necessarily unique to architecture, Stratigakos's concise, accessible book shows that they are nevertheless prevalent.