Sexist Myopia: “The Images of Architects”

It is this time of the year again, when the Venice Biennial of Architecture is around the corner. Before discovering the new one, “Fundamentals”, it is time to reflect on the inherent sexism of some of our profession (and colleagues), hoping for a less unequal representation of female architects .

In 2012 at “Common Grounds“, the beautiful table of Valerio Olgiati at the Arsenale was displaying the images that inspire architects .

But not any architects: The most unique architects living today.”

His list comprises the 44 of those happy few:

David Adjaye, Francisco Aires Mateus, Manuel Aires Mateus, Alejandro Aravena, Ben van Berkel, Mario Botta, Alberto Campo Baeza, Adam Caruso, Peter St John, David Chipperfield, Preston Scott Cohen, Hermann Czech, Roger Diener, Peter Eisenman, Sou Fujimoto, Antón Garcia-Abril, Go Hasegawa, Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Steven Holl, Anne Holtrop, Junya Ishigami, Arata Isozaki, Toyo Ito, Bijoy Jain (Studio Mumbai), Momoyo Kaijima, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto (Atelier Bow-Wow), Christian Kerez, Hans Kollhoff, Winy Maas (MVRDV), Peter Märkli, Jürgen Mayer H., Richard Meier, Glenn Murcutt, Ryue Nishizawa, Valerio Olgiati, John Pawson, Cecilia Puga, Smiljan Radic, Richard Rogers, Kazuyo Sejima, Jonathan Sergison, Stephen Bates, Miroslav Šik, Alvaro Siza Vieira, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Peter Wilson (Bolles + Wilson), Peter Zumthor.
Among these, only 4 are female. Are we to conclude there are less unique female architects? Certainly so, according to the arbitrary choice of the curator. It is particularly irritating that in the case of offices with partners, the choice of V. Olgiati went to the male partner of the office: Why not Nathalie de Vries of MVRDV? Why not Julia Bolles from Bolles + Wilson?
The sexist myopia of Valerio Olgiati’s installation is symptomatic of an attitude  frequent among our colleagues that consist in negating the very existence of “good” female architects.
No matter how much lists and panels and works of these brilliant practitioners one would display in front of their eyes, the myopia persists.
We hope this tragic underrepresentation is not to be witnessed again this year. After all, it’s not like we did not warn the curator this time.
Here are video conferences of the few “unique architects” and the ones who are not that unique.

Nathalie de Vries:

In 1993, Nathalie de Vries founded MVRDV in Rotterdam, together with Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs to work in the fields of architecture and urbanism. Early projects such as the headquarters for the Public Broadcasting Company, VPRO, and National Dutch Pavillion for the World Expo 2000 in Hanover brought MVRDV international acclaim. Recently realized projects include the public library of Spijkenisse, the Netherlands. Currently the practice is working on international commissions such as the Market Hall in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; the Baltyk tower in Poznan, Poland; the China Comic and Animation Museum in Hangzhou, China; the RockMagneten (Danish Museum for Rock and Culture) in Roskilde, Denmark; and urban designs in the Netherlands, Korea, China, and France, among locations. De Vries has been Guest Professor at the TU Berlin and Visiting Professor at IIT Chicago, as well as Supervisory Architect for the Nederlandse Spoorwegen /ProRail. Nathalie also serves on the Supervisory Boards of the Institute for Dutch Creative Industry, the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi), and the Museum of the Image (MOTI).

Julia Bolles

Julia Bolles was born in Münster (Germany) and studied at Karlsruhe University and then the Architectural Association of London. She has taught at Msa|münster School of Architecture since 1996. She is a member of the ‘DASL Deutsche Akademie für Städtebau und Landesplanung’ and the Salzburg Design Council, and she has been Dean of the Msa|münster School of Architecture since 2008.  Julia Bolles with  Peter Wilson founded Bolles + Willson in Munich in 1989.  Their designs range from housing projects to offices, from cultural facilities to shops, in search of a formal idiom that transforms the building’s functional and typological needs into creative inventions. Over the decades the practice has worked on projects all over the world, from Europe to Lebanon, from Japan and Korea to Australia, with a strong emphasis on intense teamwork with local consultants and partners.

Kazuyo Sejima
After studying at Japan Women’s University and working at the office of Toyo Ito, in 1995, Kazuyo Sejima with Ryue Nishizawa (born in 1966) founded SANAA, the Tokyo architecture studio that has designed innovative buildings in Japan and around the world. Examples of their groundbreaking work include among others, the Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne, Switzerland; the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion in Toledo, Ohio; the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, NY: the Serpentine Pavilion in London; the Christian Dior Building in Omotesando in Tokyo; and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. The latter won the Golden Lion in 2004 for the most significant work in the Ninth International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale.

Cecilia Puga
Cecilia Puga received her architectural degree from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, having already studied restoration at the Università degli Studi “La Sapienza” in Rome. Since 1995 Cecilia Puga has her own practice in Santiago de Chile where she has undertaken different scale designs projects, such as family houses; social community housing; educational and industrial equipment and urban design. In 2010, 2G International Architecture Magazine dedicated a monographic number to her.  Besides other academic activities, in 2007 she was a visiting professor at the school of architecture, University of Texas, Austin; she was invited to lead a Studio at the GSD at Harvard, Cambridge.
Momoyo Kaijima
Momoyo Kaijima received her undergraduate degree from the Faculty of Domestic Science at Japan Women’s University in 1991 and both her graduate (M.Eng.) and post-graduate degrees were from Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1994 and 1999. She was also a guest student at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH) from 1996-1997. In 2000 Kaijima became an Associate Professor at the Art and Design School of the University of Tsukuba. She was a visiting faculty in the Department of Architecture at Harvard GSD and between 2005 and 2007 she was also a guest professor at ETH Zürich. She founded in 1992 with Yoshiharu Tsukamoto Atelier Bow-Wow, a Tokyo-based architecture firm.
and a talk by and about Women in Design with Denise Scott Brown
whom needs no introduction.