Mrs. Dean: The scandal of no female leaders in architecture schools

A dean is the person with a significant authority over a specific academic unit. There is no female form. That is originated in the constructs of patriarchate and male domination convenient because there are also practically no female in that position in Architecture Schools and Departments throughout Europe. An appalling equation formulates that the closest to the top, the less women there are around. This equation is materialized in a visible way by the almost total absence of female deans.

As Alejandro Zaera-Polo  abruptly stepped down from his post as dean of Princeton’s School of Architecture to “devote greater attention to his research”, in reality over some plagiarism allegations just two years after taking the post,  we wish that the position – now occupied by  the school’s former dean, Professor Stanley T. Allen  as acting dean, will be filled by a female dean.

If the glass ceiling has been broken a few times, in Architecture Schools and departments, it is still very much sexist-central.

In honor of Amale Andraos, new Dean of Columbia’s GSAPP, i embarked on an investigating tour of  the Mrs Deans in our  sexist macho beloved discipline.
This time, i took the  Domus Compilation of Europe’s top 50 schools in architecture and design as reference database, and extracted from each of these schools’ web pages the gender and the name of their Dean in charge as for August 2014. It is ironic that the cover depicts 2 girls and a boy, because content is nothing like that.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 12.33.01Because this is an European selection that does not take into account North and South Americas where there are a few more women in leading positions like Sarah Whiting at Rice or Andraos at GSAPP, it’s a complete disaster sad list. Typically, in all these schools, not only is the highest position hold by a man, but all the three immediate lower positions are also occupied by men, like in Stuttgart, with a few exceptions (e.g., Vice Direttore Valentina Orioli in Bologna, Manager didattico: Dott.ssa Sara Fortini in Ferrara, Florence Ibarra directrice adjointe of ENSA Paris-Belleville, and the direttore generale  Anna Maria Cremonese at the IUAV Venice).  The supporting administration staff is then largely female. More administrative work, lesser or no spotlight and a substantially lower pay, it’s a job for the girls. I know how this sounds, and it’s true.

Here is what i looked at:
-German, Austrian, Ex-Yugoslavia Universities at the position of Dekan and Dekanin or Präsident , Rektor (Aachen, Berlin, Dortmund, Städelschule Frankfurt, Innsbruck, Munich, Nuremberg,Belgrade, Stuttgart, Angewandte Wien, TU Wien)
-Danish and some Belgian Schools, Norwegian schools at the position of Rector (Aarhus, Leuven, Oslo)
-Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch Schools, Russian schools, at the position of Director and Presidente (Barcelona, Berlage, AA, ETSAM Madrid, Strelka, Porto)
-Italian universities at the position of Dirretore or Coordinatore, Rettore, and Preside (Bari, Milan, Rome, Torino, Venice)
-Belgian and English Universities, Swiss-Italian schools, Swedish Institutes, at the position of Dean or Deputy Dean (TU Delft, Bartlett London, LMU Cass, RCA London, Kingston, Mendrisio, Stockholm)
-French and Swiss-French Schools at the position of Directeur/Directrice (Normandie, Lausanne, Versailles)
-Israeli, English, Finish Universities at the position of Department Head, Head of Department, Head of School or Dean of Faculty (Jerusalem, Glasgow, Haifa, Helsinki, Sheffield)-

NB: (Zagreb is missing)

Here are the Female Deans i found on the  top 50 Schools : 6/50– in no particular order.
* The Deane of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation (Copenhagen) is
Lene Dammand Lund.

Lene Dammand Lund is a graduated architect from Aarhus School of Architecture. She is partner at the landscape architects  firm SLA A / S .

6960314234_d64a3f87d4_z Large_gron_m_dreng

* The Dekanin of the TU Munich (Germany)  is Prof. Hannelore Deubzer. Hannelore Deubzer is graduated from TU Berlin, and founded the office DeubzerKönig in 1988. She was a recipient of the Villa Massimo Stipendium in 1991.


* The Dirretore of the Roma Tre Architecture departement (Italy) is Elisabetta Pallottino. She is specialized in restoration and heads several institutions dedicated to preservation.

Elisabetta Pallottino

* The Preside of the Politecnico di Milano, Scuola di Architettura e Società (Italy) is Prof. Ilaria Valente . Ilaria Valente holds a Phd from IUAV on Architectural Composition and has been widely published.

Ilaria Valente

* The Head of School of the Architecture School of the Sheffield University (UK) is Professor Fionn Stevenson

Head of School, Fionn Stevenson is a graduated architect and holds a PhD from Dundee university. She is specialized in environmental issues. She is an open advocate of LGBT Rights.Fionn-Stevenson-high-res-medium-size










59_d8e212bc-2acc-416c-ae9e-a80da98ffbf5_1Fabienne Fendrich Architecture Rouen.jpg

* The Directrice of the ENSA-Normandie  (France) is Fabienne Fendrich

In France, directors are usually administrators, but Fabienne Fendrich is a highly-diplomed graduated architect, landscape architect, and engineer. (DPLG architecture, CEAA jardins historiques, DEA Territoires et paysages, Diplôme d’ingénierie, architecture et développement durable). Does it says that women are only recognized if they gather more proof of their capacity? To be meditated. With Xavieer de Geyter, she designed the Ile St-Maurice exterior spaces.

MG_3840 seraji

Edit: One dean i had forgotten to mention is an essential one. Since March 2006 Professor Nasrine Seraji (AA diploma, RIBA) has been Dean of ENSAPM (Paris- Malaquais). Nasrine Seraji  has been a practicing architect since many year ( Atelier Seraji in 1990), and she is a recognized teacher and researcher. She also directs the Institute of Art and Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

The perpetual clichés about how good the Scandinavian countries are performing at gender equality is only argued for by one case, as actually  the most advanced countries are Italy, with 2 deans and France with 2 deans too. Germany, Denmark and the UK each have a single female dean, the rest of Europe has none.

If there seem to be some general awareness on the lack of female role models in leading positions, this epiphany did not  reach European universities, nor their architecture departments, who continue to base their leadership circles on all white-male-over-50 rotting boards and self-indulging committees, and are very far from being proactive about promoting and facilitating the hiring of female students as assistants and lecturers, at PhD Positions, at professors positions, save to mention at Deanship. In part, this status-quo is partially helped by women at subaltern positions that are not pushing for more female colleagues.

Female taking the lead in offices and on site-projects and with female architects stepping up for more spotlight, representation, recognition of the work accomplished behind others. Women in charge of influential blogs, online magazines, publishing houses, curators spaces, etc.There are hundreds of those, and those should wake up and push for more representations of female work. Against this unfair fact of being underrepresented, one will always hear the argument of quality! Ah yes quality, let us hear about that criteria, used and abused to push away hundreds of female candidates at the door of prominent schools, and professorships given to men, on ground of quality- WHAT F***ING QUALITY? The quality of talking over everyone? The quality of having gotten the right project at the right moment? The quality of knowing that guy very well? The quality of family connections? The quality of having money and having built stuff with that money? The quality of arrogance? I’m sick of this.

Sure, men are unapologetic about taking credit for work they did or did not do, something women seems reluctant to do. I’m not saying one should push oneself up through at all prices, i just think more credit taking and giving would help. I also wish for more female solidarity in general.  Finally, “Women don’t have as many female role models and female mentors. When you think of the innovators and entrepreneurs of our generation (and especially when you go back a few generations), you still see a male-dominated landcape. (…) Mentors and role models enable women to see what is possible through their eyes, their gender and their experiences. Women who have “made it” also need to be committed to paying it forward.”

If you know of female Deans i missed, please let me know and i will be glad to update the sad 6/50 ratio.

Updated 7/50 (oct.2014)

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