Newsletter | Jul/Aug 2014

Beverly Willis: "I Express Our Collective and Respectful Anger. . . I Express our Collective Joy"

by Jean Nilsson, Ed.

At the AIA's 2014 annual convention in Chicago, Architect Beverly Willis spoke out to remind us of the AIA's history with women architects while also graciously acknowledging its posthumous honoring of Julia Morgan, "Would you believe that as recently as 1978, the President of AIA declared to the press that he would never hire a woman architect?...

It would not be until 1988, thirty-one years later [after Morgan's death], that Sara Holmes Boutelle, an architectural historian, would write the first monograph on Morgan's work. We women, who graduated in the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s, were denied a phenomenal role model, of an incredible designer and successful practitioner."

And Willis' closing remarks: "On behalf of these women practitioners, I express our collective, and respectful, anger. Historically important women designers are still not in the history books. But at this moment - on this day - in the history of the AIA, I express our collective joy."

Beverly Willis worked as an architect for many years in San Francisco and now heads the Beverly Willis Architectural Foundation in New York CIty. See her BWAF website for full text of Beverly Willis' speech.

Julia Morgan Facts from AIA:
2014 Julia Morgan is the 70th AIA Gold Medalist.
1921 Julia Morgan joined the AIA, becoming its 7th woman member.
1904 Julia Morgan became the first women licensed to practice architecture in California and opened her own firm.

For the past year, I have been a mentor with OWA's mentoring program, which I find an exhilarating and rewarding experience. Last summer, I was matched up with two young OWA members, and a third joined our group after the retreat in September. As our mentoring group began our second year together, we added new members from the AIA mentorship program, an ongoing program at the SF chapter, on which the OWA mentoring program is patterned.

Our group is a dynamic mix of AIA and OWA members, within the two mentorship programs. It seemed a natural progression for our group, since several members, including myself, are members of both the AIA and OWA. Our mentoring group meets once a month for a design-related event or activity.

We take turns to identify the next month's event - it may be a gallery show, a museum exhibition we'd like to see, or perhaps a walking tour. Following the event, we find a café nearby to talk about what we saw and discuss work/life issues. We all contribute to the discussion, providing a sounding board and support within a respectful confidential environment.

Visit to "Tilted Plane"

One of my favorite mentoring events in 2013 was our visit to a lighting installation by the artist, Jim Campbell at the Hosfelt Gallery in the city. The exhibit was titled "Tilted Plane" - an entirely black room with rows of single light bulbs hanging from the ceiling on black cords. The lengths of the cords varied across the room, to create an illusion of a diminished perspective, a tilted ceiling plane. We were able to walk between the rows to experience the change in perspective as the ceiling plane changed.

This past May, our group met up at the Berkeley Heritage Alliance's Bernard Maybeck walking tour, for a fascinating look inside homes along Maybeck's Rose Walk development in the Berkeley hills.

The OWA organization has been a source of inspiration, support, and friendship over the years that I have been an OWA member since the late 1980's. So it seems appropriate to support the future of the OWA, by participating in the mentoring program. I believe we long-time OWA members are each responsible for doing what we can to help the next generation of design professionals succeed.

If you choose to participate, there is much to gain as a mentor. You will enjoy the exuberance of OWA's mentees, while staying current with the latest local design trends and local events. I can attest to the value that we mentors gain from our younger colleagues; participating as a mentor in the mentoring program continues to be an inspiring, exhilarating, and rewarding experience.

View this page in your browser