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Newsletter | Jan/Feb 2017

Volume 45:1
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If you would like to see corrections to this newsletter or to submit articles or suggestions for future newsletters please contact the Newsletter Editor.

In this issue:
Note from the Editor - Rebecca Friedberg
Official Business - Rebecca Friedberg
2017 Programs - Rebecca Friedberg
** Membership ** - Rebecca Friedberg

Note from the Editor

by Rebecca Friedberg    |    Share #1194

As previously decided, this first newsletter of the year will be the print issue for the year while all others will be digital only. Look for it in your mailbox in the next couple weeks. Extra copies will also be available at OWA+DP events.

Looking to Our 50th Anniversary - A Book to Tell Our Story

by Jean Nilsson    |    Share #1185

Collection of archived OWA newsletters and Fifth Anniversary fold-up cube

Our history is an important story to tell and to record in book format, not only to celebrate the organization's 50-year history in 2023, but as a contribution to social history, women's history, and organizational history.

Hundred of newsletters, published continuously from 1973, records of initiatives, meetings, retreats, mock exams, posters, and celebrations marking the 5th Anniversary, then the 10th, 20th, 30th and 40th anniversaries, together provide a rich picture of the organization. Looking to the 50th anniversary, we have renewed work on a digital newsletter archive and begun to explore and define the scope of a book project.

We now have a History Forum on our website available as a place for members to post and share information and ideas related to the group's history or the 50th Anniversary book project. Use this link to let us know if you have materials, suggestions, or a piece of history you'd like to share:

Happily, this first 2017 newsletter is issued in both online and print editions, and anyone reading it who prefers to contact us by mail can do so at: Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals, PO Box 10078, Berkeley, CA 94709. We look forward to hearing from you.

Assessing the Archives, Getting the Book Started

by Ingrid Audette    |    Share #1186

Left: Ingrid & Mui with original paste-up from the 1970's Right: Ingrid examining microfilm of 1973-1987 newsletters at UC Berkeley

Most of the year I live in Vermont as a history student at Bennington College, but my home is in California and for the past two months I have been interning here for the OWA/DP. I've been working on the proposed 50th anniversary book chronicling the history of the organization and the context of feminism and women in architecture.

My job was to get the ball rolling, as it were, by finding out what resources were available. I started by reading through old newsletters and talking to early and current members, all with the goal of compiling records of my findings and suggesting important topics the book could cover.

I am not an architecture student, and some of you may wonder what my business with this project is, but the answer to that is the same as the answer to the question “Who will want to read this book?” I study history, and I’m particularly interested in women’s involvement in it. The OWA does not live in a box and its history is the history of feminism, women, architecture, organizations, and the experiences people have had.

One woman I talked to during my work told me that when she asked her employer about the discrepancy between her salary and that of her male co-workers, his response was, “Well, there are certain inequalities.” Another women told me she went to the construction site of the project she was designing. She had a roll of drawings under her arm. One of the workers approached her, smiling, friendly, and asked, “Are you looking for your father?” “No,” she said, “I’m the architect.”

My mother always wanted to be an architect, but she told me that when she headed to college to study architecture she had no inkling that things would be any different for her because she was a woman. Which, in a way, is logical enough. Why should she have a harder time just because she’s a woman? All the same, I was shocked to hear this.

Several years before this, on the other side of the country, Mui Ho, Wendy Bertrand and Mary Lelayan were meeting for the first time. They conferred over exactly the topic my mother had the luck not to be aware of yet: the lack of women in the architecture field, and the sexism against those who were in it.

Thus began the Organization of Women Architects.

I didn’t have any expectations when I began researching the OWA. What I found was a group of women, across four decades, all very different from one another, but all vibrant and determined to make it happen for women in the architecture profession.

I began my research with what was immediately available to me, physical copies of nearly all of the organization’s newsletters from 1973 to 1987. I studied the newsletters carefully because they tracked exactly what happened in the organization from year to year and gave a vivid impression of the group.

One of my professors often comments on the importance of language to history, and especially the importance of writing things down. After all, if it isn’t written down, how will anyone who comes along later know about it?

At the moment there is little risk of forgetting the OWA’s origins. There are too many written records, and many of the original members are still active and vocal in the organization. However, the records are not particularly accessible, and they are not the whole picture.

OWA+DP Members at January 28th Meeting Photo: Richard Spencer Standing row, left to right: Cameron White, Inge Horton, Christy Coffin, Rachel Slonicki, Mui Ho, Naomi Horowitz Seated row, left to right: Wendy Bertrand, Ingrid Audette, Suzan Swabacker, Darlene Jang, Marda Quon Stothers, Jean Nilsson, Carol Mancke

On January 28th we held an informal gathering to discuss the book and the directions it should take. Many important points were made, and seemingly agreed upon. One was that the book must include context of what was happening with women’s issues and with architecture at the time. It is clearly important that the book include a mixture of stories, both personal and as pertains to the organization itself, as well as a certain amount of concrete facts. The stories of personal experience are, to me, the most interesting. I feel stories are a means to communicate facts in a way that is memorable to a diverse audience.

The most salient takeaway was that OWA really is unique among organizations of its kind, both in the resources it provides and the community it fosters. Furthermore, all the members I heard from are deeply interested in this book and believe in the value of the organization. This book can do something similar to what the OWA does by providing women with the knowledge that they are not alone in the challenges they face.

Even members are not always aware of the full history and importance of the OWA. The horizontal and always shifting format of the steering committee is vital to the collaborative nature of the group but it does not allow for memory. The book will help with this as well.

I hope the different perspective I bring to this project, as a student of creative writing, history, and feminism, will be helpful in the formulation of this book. I am not an architect, but I strongly believe that this is an invaluable organization and that its story and the stories of its members should be recorded and read. I would like to thank all the women who made time to speak with me and allowed me to study their archives, as well as my mentors, Carol and Naomi.

Finally, I encourage you all to go to the History Forum link at and contribute your own stories, suggestions, and ideas, and let us know if you have archives or materials to share.

ACE Mentoring and the Laney College Tiny House

by Cameron White    |    Share #1188

Students checking out a tiny house at Laney College

The ACE Mentoring program is in full swing, from now until May. ACE stands for Architecture, Construction and Engineering. It is a nationwide, well established mentoring program for high school students, which serves 8,000 students a year. It is a free, non-profit organization, whose mission is to engage, excite and inspire high school students to pursue careers in the construction industry through mentoring, and to support their continued advancement through scholarships and grants. The program runs from January through May each year. ACE Mentorship reaches out to students at local high schools, and the program emphasizes diversity in the students and mentors.

Top: Tiny House Exterior Bottom: Tiny House Interior

I am serving as a mentor this year in the Oakland group, which is meeting weekly at Laney College. The design project this year is a tiny house, with the goal of finding workable solutions to local homelessness. Since I'm very interested in both mentoring students and new options for housing homeless people, I enjoy learning more about the Laney project while volunteering for ACE.

Leading up to the final design project, the students are learning about precedent through other tiny house designs. They were introduced to the Laney College Tiny House project and the Fab Lab, which has a facility for digital fabrication.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District held a design competition, and Laney College took second place, with their submission of a tiny house prototype. Their current design, called The Wedge, is a net zero design which includes solar panels and a composting toilet. It is built using digitally fabricated plywood in lieu of 2x4 construction. The team developed a kit of parts that could be used for manufacturing more of the units. The budget per unit is in the range of $25,000. Adding solar to it increases the budget by $10,000.

The City of Oakland awarded Laney a grant to build more of the units in an effort to help address the problem of homeless people occupying tents around the city. They're now engaged in developing plans to build more of the units.

A typical ACE meeting has 25-50 students and 10-20 mentors. It starts with a short lecture and ends with a hands-on activity. For the last few meetings, the students and mentors focus on the final projects, which are developed in teams. Each team works on a design, draws it up and creates a final powerpoint presentation. The teams are given programs, budgets and schedules they must work within.

Several years ago, OWADP supported ACE through scholarships and mentor participation (Rachel Slonicki, Christie Coffin and myself). OWADP awarded a scholarship of $1,000 to a female student who was planning to go into architecture. Each year at the end of the term, an awards ceremony is held. It was wonderful to see a worthy young woman receive OWADP's scholarship, to be used for college expenses.

I have asked the Steering Committee if we can sponsor a donation for a student through the ACE Mentoring program again this year and they have factored it into the budget. I believe ACE goals mesh well with our purpose to increase the number of women architects.

ACE's website is If anyone is interested in volunteering this year, it isn't too late. There are programs in several cities.

Women's March Washington DC

by Mui Ho    |    Share #1180

Six of us architects from Berkeley went to the Women's March in Washington this past January. We could have marched in San Francisco or Oakland, but we wanted to make sure our number counted in the Washington march to reach the million. We had a great time. It was good to start our New Year doing our civic duty.

Front row from left : Carol Young under the banner, Mui Ho, Janet Tam and Ellie Ratcliff and Anna Colligan in white jacket behind Ellie

Member Spotlight :: Conyee Chan

 Share #1181

We spotlight a different OWA+DP member for each newsletter. This time, we hear from the lovely Conyee Chan.

Conyee hard at work and traveling

1. What book has changed how you look at the world and why?

Your Best Life Now by Pastor Joel Osteen. Sometimes we are trapped by our circumstances. Having your best life is really a choice and it is never too late, NOW is the best time to start, no one and nothing can stop us from having fulfilling lives!

2. How has someone’s mentoring made a difference in your life or career?

My mother is a strong woman and always recreating herself. Growing up, I saw her as a professor, social activist, speaker, TV host to a politician, writer and painter. She is intelligent and can adapt to any new situation but most importantly, she has a fearless attitude with lots of confidence. She showed me how believing in yourself is most important and that you can achieve whatever you aim for.

3. What is your next big goal for yourself, personally or professionally?

I am trying to have a bigger positive impact not just in my circle of life, but also in the society. As an architect, I travelled to Egypt and Uganda to design a children's home and community center, respectively. I am new to the Bay Area, so I'm trying to find out how and where I can contribute most and regularly devote my skills. I would love to meet liked-minded women in OWA to start making a difference!

Conyee volunteering her skills to improve communities in Egypt and Uganda

4. In a parallel life, what would be your line of work and why?

A medical doctor. Nothing beats saving lives everyday!

5. What has changed since you started in your field?

I do love design, and I used to work happily up to 3 or 4 am. Now I'm focusing on a work-life balance and a purpose-driven work process more than the design itself.

6. Has your career path been shaped by being a woman, and how?

I never thought about it much, actually, although I am constantly the only or one of few woman in the entire meeting room of more than 20 people. Interestingly enough, I was not aware of the gender difference at all while working in Shanghai and Singapore for the past 12 years. It seems the gender issues and oppression are more apparent in US. When I joined the OWA retreat in 2016 for the first time, I was so surprised to hear so many horror stories from older women architects, I have so much respect for those that made it through such harsh circumstances.

Some of the projects Conyee has most enjoyed working on

Official Business

by Rebecca Friedberg    |    Share #1190

Steering Committee Transition Meeting

On January 15th, 2017 the old and new steering committee members met at Cafe Bistro in San Francisco for the annual transition meeting. We discussed the various steering committee positions’ responsibilities for the new members and each person chose her new or continuing role.

The new steering committee chairs are as follows:

Policies & Procedures: Hannah Chatham
Programs: Carol Mancke, Spring Friedlander
and Aziza Zare
Public Relations: Conyee Chan
Membership: Helen Vasquez
Newsletter: Rebecca Friedberg
Information Administrator: Cynthia Bathgate

We also said a heartfelt thank you and sad goodbye to those members rotating off the steering committee: Gloria Kim, Naomi Horowitz and Sharon Chio. We’ll miss them at the meetings but will see you soon at an upcoming OWA event.

We then reviewed the goals from the 2016 Visioning Retreat and gave updates on progress. We reviewed and approved the 2017 budget, as well as the minutes from the previoius meeting. We discussed membership strategies and potential upcoming programs. (See Programs)

Finally, we set the Steering Committee meeting dates and locations for the 2017 calendar year. As usual, we will alternate between San Francisco and East Bay. As a reminder, OWA members are always welcome at any Steering Committee meeting.

Logged-in members may always view complete, approved meeting minutes on the OWA+DP website at

2017 Programs

by Rebecca Friedberg    |    Share #1191

We have a variety of events, talks and tours in the works for 2017. See below for some of the events already set up, and stay tuned and check the calendar for more to be added!


Tuesday February 28th, 7p - 9p
Wendy Bertrand will lead a conversation about the Architecture and Feminisms Conference she attended in 2016. This is the kick-off to our informal Pizza and Wine series this year, in which members host casual events in their homes. OWA+DP provides pizza and wine. This will be at Carol Mancke’s home: 6312 Florio Street, Oakland 94618.

Saturday March 25th, time tbd
Kriss Raupauch will give a very special presentation on forensic architecture at the offices of Madsen, Kneppers & Associates, Inc: 100 Pringle Avenue, Suite 340, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

Friday Sept. 29th - Sunday Sept. 31st
Annual Member Retreat in Sonoma

Tuesday October 24th, 6pm
Annual Business Meeting, location tbd

Sunday December 10th, 4-7pm (tentative)
OWA+DP Holiday Party


We’ve already had one exciting event: an informal OWA History and Archive Project meeting on Saturday January 28th. The project celebrates the Organization’s fast approaching 50th anniversary. See articles above in this newsletter for complete story

** Membership **

by Rebecca Friedberg    |    Share #1193

Welcome New Members!

Nelita Antezana
Micol Biagioni
Julia Cota
Dicerie Joy Gepitulan
Anita Hsieh
Tiffany Kan
Janifar Lopez
Dmitry Martynov
Stewart Ouis
Sara Peschel
Kalan Rutstein
Stephanie Reed

Time to Renew

Remember, it’s a new year! Please renew your membership if you have not already done so, at

Perks of Membership

- Enriching year-round programs & tours
- Networking and mentorship opportunities
- Annual retreat in heavenly Sonoma, CA
- Access to industry compensation data
- Online portfolio hosting
- Career opportunities and job listings
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- Access to collective wisdom of your peers
- Bi-monthly newsletter online or by email
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