Newsletter | Sep/Oct 2014

Fifty Women Architects and Design Professionals Gathered for 2014 Retreat

Oct 21st: 2014 Annual Business Meeting

by Allison Kinst
Please join us Tuesday, October 21st for the Annual Business Meeting of the Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals .

We will be voting on new members to the Steering Committee and the annual operating budget for 2015, and discussing programs and ideas you would like to see for 2015. Please note that if you cannot attend, but would like to vote or contribute an idea or have an issue you would like to see addressed, please contact any Steering Committee Member (current member links below).

Tuesday, October 21st, 6 - 8PM
Preservation Park, Oakland

Robinson House Classroom, 1204 Preservation Park Way
(12th St, between Castro St. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way)

Please see attached PDF’s for directions to Robinson House, and information on the short walk from BART and where to park ("more information" link below). We hope to see you all there.

Steering Committee Nominees
We have three members who have volunteered to serve on the steering committee for the 2015 -2016 term:
Gloria Kim Woo, Naomi Horowitz and Sharon Chio.
Please read their statements below to learn a little bit more about Gloria, Naomi, and Sharon. Candidates will introduce themselves at the meeting. If another member is interested, she can contact us and be nominated at the meeting.

Each year we elect either three or four new members to begin a 2-year term as half of our current Steering Committee (SC) members complete their term. Four of our current SC members will continue next year: Lucia Bogatay, Patty Haight, Allison Kinst, and Carolyne Orazi.

Three members Esin Karliova, Jean Nilsson, and Charlayne Sakamoto will be completing their two year terms and rotating off the Steering Committee.

more information is here

Steering Committee Candidate Statements

by the candidates
We have three members who have volunteered to serve on the Steering Committee. Here are their statements (ordered by length, and coincidentally, last name -Ed.):

Sharon Chio
Hi, Everyone. I am Sharon Chio. I was very glad to join the OWA in September. During the retreat, I was very impressed by everyone’s personality. I feel like learning more about the organization; at the same time, I would like to use my abilities to do whatever I can to help.

A bit of information about myself: I came from Macau, China. I have studied Interior Design at Academy of Art University. After I graduated, I had an internship with Steinberg Architects for half a year. Now I am working part-time with an architect, as well as studying at West Valley College for an architecture program. My goal is to get a master’s degree in Architecture. For leisure time, I like to run, hike with friends, cook, or try out different restaurants! Thank you. Hope to see you guys again soon.

Naomi Horowitz
I am Naomi Horowitz, a licensed architect. I received my Master of Architecture degree from MIT in 2005 and have since worked for architecture firms in San Francisco, Berkeley and Walnut Creek on projects ranging from home remodels to medical clinics to multifamily housing and neighborhood redevelopment projects. More recently, I have started up my own architecture firm and look forward to pursuing my ambitions of building a user-centered, research-based practice.

Currently, most of my free time is devoted to my hilarious, fierce, curly-headed baby boy, but I also enjoy good food, the beautiful California outdoors, and good books (usually about language or neurology).

OWA is a remarkable community, a rare place where we can share both our aspirations and our struggles, in the confidence that our fellow members will offer support, both practical and emotional. After 2+ years of membership, and 3 inspiring retreats, it would be an honor to join the Steering Committee and take a more active role in ensuring a vibrant future for the OWA.

An Inspiring and Improvisational Retreat

by Jean Nilsson, Ed.
Fifty of our members got together the weekend of September 12-14 for a delightful retreat at Westerbeke Ranch. Emily Maya Mills, LA actor and comic extraordinaire (and Kathleen Cruise's daughter) kept us thinking on our feet and laughing in her "Empowering Improvisation" workshops (one session she actually led in the pool, top left photo), later delighted us with a personal stand-up comedy "intermission" between sets of the Baguette Quartet on Saturday night, then facilitated a serious small group discussion on architecture and improvisation on Sunday.

Many thanks to this year's retreat team who put it all together--Janet Crane, who has spearheaded the retreat for many years, Mui Ho and Judy Rowe, who led fabric painting (top right photo), and Kathleen Cruise, Joanne Chow Winship, Rachel Sloniki, Shari Canepa, Karlene Gullone, Debbie Klein, Cammy White, and Heather Sprague--creating a place and time for friends and colleagues to meet, organize, play, create, renew ties... Save the dates of September 18-20, 2015 for next year's retreat.

OWA Retreat - Living Proof that We Can Do It

by Sara Mae Martens

Sara Mae is a young and enthusiastic architect who wrote this article after attending the retreat for the first time. Ed.

The first architecture firm I worked for, which employed slightly more women than men, was a lovely work environment. A small firm, we got to know one another well, we chatted every morning, ate lunch together daily, celebrated birthdays and did a lot of wine tasting (we designed wineries). Every year we had a Napa Women’s Weekend where the women rented a house and drank wine, swam, watched movies, cooked, talked about work and architecture and life. Sound familiar?

I was in undergraduate school in architecture at the time and my professors were so pessimistic about the profession – warning that the only way to survive in architecture is if your pure love for form-making overcame the inevitable long hours, low pay, difficult agencies, obstructive neighbors. But every Monday Tuesday and Friday I took BART to the office and it wasn’t anything like that. We were happy, social; it was proof to me that the profession can indeed be enjoyable. I credit my experience at that firm for keeping me in the major and the reason I’m an architect now. If it weren’t for those women cultivating an enjoyable community at our office, I would have left a long time ago and probably would have spent years not knowing what my true calling was. We still keep in touch on occasion.

Fast forward ten years, I’ve now worked for a few different firms, all predictably dude dominated, none with quite the lovely culture I experienced at my first office. When I was studying for the ARE’s I realized that I could count the number of female licensed architects I knew on two fingers. I really needed to find some role models and friends. Through the AIA I got matched with an all-female mentoring group and met Margaret, Esin and Allison, who introduced me to the OWA. They gave glowing reviews of the retreat, telling me how wonderful the ranch was, the company, the arts & crafts, conversations and especially the food! A few more encouraging emails from Patty sealed the deal, and I signed up for the retreat. And just as soon as I sent the check in, I got an email from the women from my old firm who wanted to get together, of course, the weekend of the retreat. Murphy’s law, right? I sadly had to decline but I told them I would report back and probably make them come next year.

The retreat was lovely. For those of you who have been to many of them, please rest assured that it’s a pretty magical experience to the newcomer. It’s so basic, but the best part of the weekend was just seeing, hearing, feeling the presence of women who have done this before. Sometimes at work alone at my desk I think I must be crazy, wondering if I can really put up with this firm, these projects, those contractors etc. It was so comforting to see living proof that a) I’m not the only one struggling with the various issues related to this profession and b) It can be done! Some of you have made it to retirement! It is such a comfort just to know you women are out there, real evidence that it can be done.

I returned to work after the retreat with such confidence. After talking to so many of you who started your own firms, managed your own projects, started firms, switched jobs, created adorable children, traveled, left the profession, came back, it’s all evidence that I can do it too. Whatever it may be. That assurance is actually fairly difficult to find out there. People of like minds getting together in a truly comfortable setting is an extremely special thing.

So thank you for having me; thank you for creating this group and keeping the spark alive for a whopping 40+ years. The OWA is still relevant and valuable to my generation. I look forward to hopefully introducing my old and new friends next year at the retreat.

Girls Who Grow Up to be Architects

by Jacqueline Morgan, Architect

Jackie's 1898 Georgetown house and front parlor office, and her childhood tree house

Jackie, a long-time OWA member at this year's retreat, reflects on childhood building projects and architectural practice.

Perhaps it was the many summer weekends I spent growing up, helping my family build a summer cottage on the shores of beautiful Keuka Lake in upstate New York, that sparked my desire to be an architect. Back in the 50’s and 60’s the buzz words green and sustainable were not known, but my father built the cottage with those principals, using recycled materials.

Every Friday my mother would load us four kids into the station wagon and drive to the train wrecking yard where the car would be loaded with creosote coated 2x6’s from old box cars. Our work for the weekend was taking out the nails from the boards. The boards were used for the floors and ceilings. Homosote (recycled cardboard) was the siding; 6’x12’ windows from an old store were the living room windows; and reused tiles which my mother glued on were used on the ceiling. Every once in a while over the years one would fall to the floor with a big bang.

Most girls at fourteen were out looking for boys but my lake friend Audrey and I scouted up and down the lake road looking for boards from construction sites. We would haul them half a mile up a steep hill behind the cottage where we built what we thought was an amazing tree house.

“Girls can’t be architects; you want to be an interior designer,” my high school guidance counselor told me. Luckily I had parents who encouraged me and a wonderful Girl Scout leader who was an architect who inspired me. Off I went to Syracuse University, and despite a professor who told me women should be home having babies and a curfew for the women the first two years (the men could continue to work in the design studio), I managed to graduate from Arizona State University.

I was able to get my first job at a big firm in San Francisco because of affirmative action. Before that I was always asked how fast I can type!!! Several years, jobs, and a teaching credential later, and after three years as a professional freestyle skier, my husband and I moved to his great grandfather’s house, built in 1898, in the small Sierra foothills town of Georgetown, where we could live rent-free. There was no electricity, no running water, no foundation, and lots of buckets in the attic to catch rain. Needless to say, we have been working on it ever since. The second day we were there, my husband walked down the street and got a job helping remodel an old house. The owner had been tagged for not having a building permit, so I also was hired, and we have had work ever since.

I had lost track of my friend Audrey but in the early 90’s I was reading a book review of High Rise, How 1000 Men and Women Worked Around the Clock and Lost $200 Million Building a Skyscraper by Jerry Adler. Imagine my surprise to learn that the chief architect the author followed in writing the book was none other than my tree house building buddy, Audrey Matlock!

Often I had pondered what it be like to work on big projects for a prestigious architectural firm but after reading about all that Audrey had to contend with, I felt happy to have my small one-person firm with small projects that I could manage.

I got in touch with Audrey and she sent me a photo of our tree house. It certainly was not the magnificent structure I remembered! What different roads we had traveled down since the tree house.

Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! Oct 18th

by Jean Nilsson, Ed.

OWA is again a sponsor of the annual symposium by The Missing 32% Project and AIA San Francisco. This 3rd annual symposium, Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! will be held this month at the San Francisco Art Institute. The sold-out event will include large and small sessions throughout the day on a wide variety of equity issues. For more information, see article in our last issue and website link above.

Feminism and Architecture: Intergenerational Conversations

by Jean Nilsson, Ed.

Susana Torre's 1977 Book Cover with House from NY Exhibit

Susana Torre, architect, feminist, critic, and educator, gave the March 18, 2014 keynote address at Feminism and Architecture: Intergenerational Conversations, a program of The Architectural League NY and Parsons The New School for Design. You can view a video of her address on The Architectural League of New York's website or read the lecture, which is published on Parlour's website in three parts: Feminism in Architecture, Tokenism, and Where to Next? Thank you to Wendy Bertrand for bringing this must-see lecture to our attention.

Torre reflects on the influence that feminism has had on the profession since the 1977 exhibit she curated for the Architectural League NY and the accompanying book. The video is part of an Architectural League NY Feature, Women in American Architecture: 1977 and Today, which also includes a 2013 interview with Torre and the full text of A Parallel History, the introduction to her 1977 book (now out of print).

Torre's work presented here is exceptionally informative and thought-provoking. In the interview, she states, "I think the development of design and planning ideas over the past three decades is where feminism has actually been most effective but least acknowledged."

Torre discusses several significant ways that feminist ideas have contributed to changing architecture and planning, including “the development of new building types and the redefinition of old ones...My contribution in this area was the redefinition of the fire station typology with Fire Station #5 in Columbus, Indiana. It was the first to replace the dorm as the place of bonding, where women firefighters would be seen as quasi-but-not-quite males, with the kitchen and the gym as environments in which women and men could see each other as equal, powerful, and capable of conviviality.

"Feminism has also affected the way we conceive of engraving collective memory in the American city. Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial was crucial in making this change happen, not only because it was designed by a woman, but because the [Vietnam Veterans] memorial was not heroic and did not resort to a conventionally male monumentality.

"Finally — and I think this is widely understood as one of the most urgent challenges to confront today — feminism has contributed to the radical revision of our attitude towards the preservation rather than conquest of nature and the emergence of sustainable design as an ecological practice. The change in attitude from domination to cooperation with natural processes is symbolic of the change in status that women have experienced worldwide. . . So, to the question of what has happened in the past 36 years, I think the fair answer would be both a great deal and not enough."

Take time to view this video of Susana Torre, an exceptional thinker and speaker. She also addresses Tokenism: "... tokens are highly visible and serve to create the appearance of inclusiveness... [We] did not anticipate the issues involved in the token’s adoption of the dominant institutional culture in order to survive or succeed ... It may also explain why many women in architecture have supported women’s advancement in the profession as a principle, but have rejected being associated with feminism", and concludes by considering: Where to Next?

Women in Architecture 1974-2014: Nov 7-9, WashU St Louis

by Jean Nilsson, Ed.

1974 Symposium pin by Elise Friedman Shapiro, from webite

It's not just California and New York where Equity in Architecture conversations are happening. Washington University in St Louis is holding a Women in Architecture 1974 I 2014 Symposium on the 40th anniversary of their 1974 Symposium when "students, scholars, and practitioners from across the country came to Washington University in St. Louis to have courageous conversations about the status of women in architecture and allied fields. On the 40th anniversary of this symposium, there are many achievements to celebrate, questions yet to answer, and compelling reasons to continue the conversation."

Nasrine Seraji, Founding Partner of Atelier Seraji, Paris, will give the keynote address: As a Woman I Have No Country, As a Woman My Country Is the World of Architecture.

The agenda includes Panels on: Feminisms: Now and Then; Crossing Boundaries: Exploring shifting demographics; Women in Architectural a major force in design education; and Women in Design Practice: Celebrating women's achievements as practitioners, acknowledging the persistent leadership gap for women between education and practice, and identifying the ways we can transform the industry to eliminate the gap.

The Symposium will also feature Conversations On Practice, including: Negotiation; Work/Life Integration; Working with Diversity; Running a Practice; Navigating a Complex Firm; Mentors & Mentoring; and Studio Culture.

This 3-day symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, or to register for this Symposium, visit:
Thank you to Inge Horton for bringing this symposium to our attention. If any of you are interested and able to attend, please report back to us.

GPPA Accessibility Seminar - SF, Nov 1

by Jean Nilsson, Ed.

Gilda Puente-Peters Architects (GPPA) will present a 5-hour accessibility seminar on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, 9:30am-3:30pm

315 Bay Street, San Francisco

OWA member Gilda Puente-Peters, an architect and accessibility expert, will cover Universal Design concepts, their creative application and the benefits of mainstreaming Universal Design and update you on current federal and state accessibility codes, changes to the 2013 California Accessibility Code and the 2010 ADA Standards, covering key technical requirements and California's more stringent requirements.

This training seminar provides the mandatory 5-hours of Continuing Education for license renewal with the CA Architectural Board, and meets AIA and other CE requirements. Cost is $150 / $120 for OWA members. Registration information and additional details are posted on our Forum,

Documentary Honors Lutah Maria Riggs

by Inge Horton and Jean Nilsson, Ed.

LUTAH film poster

LUTAH A Passion for Architecture: A Life in Design premiered at the 2014 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The recently founded Lutah Maria Riggs Society is presenting the documentary film which is receiving rave reviews.

Interestingly, this woman architect was the subject of a little booklet In Celebration of Women in Architecture that Nancy Baker and Mui Ho prepared in 1982 for the 10th OWA Anniversary. They had visited Lutah shortly after her retirement, meeting at the 1926 home/studio she built for herself near Santa Barbara, and they include in the booklet their personal descriptions and photographs of Lutah’s house and the reminiscences she shared of her 61-year practice. You can read the full text and view this 10th Anniversary Brochure on our website.

The Lutah Maria Riggs Society website describes Lutah's life and work as shown in the film directed by Kum-Kum Bhavnani :

LUTAH explores the life of a little known architect who left a big legacy. She designed iconic buildings such as the Lobero Theater [pictured in poster], Vedanta Temple, and the Botanic Garden and was integral to rebuilding a damaged Santa Barbara after the 1925 earthquake. Lutah designed exquisite homes in many styles for some of Santa Barbara’s greatest philanthropists, and she spent hundreds of volunteer hours laying the foundation for the Santa Barbara Landmarks Commission. She did all of this as an independent woman at the turn of the 20th century.

"Lutah Maria Riggs navigated her way through the male-centric world of architecture and brought a fresh take to the established architectural styles of Southern California.”

You can find more information on the film and this remarkable early woman architect at the Lutah Maria Riggs Society website and in the interesting and well-illustrated article in Santa Barbara Magazine.
Charlayne Sakamoto Has New Baby Boy!

by Jean Nilsson, Ed.
We are happy to announce the birth of Charlayne's baby boy, Adrien Takeshi Sakamoto.
Charlayne is an active member who has served on the Steering Committee the last two years and contributed her energy and talents to our mentorship program and other projects. We have several members with babies or young children, and the conversation on equity for design professionals who are also mothers continues. We wish Charlayne and her family all the best!

Save the Date: Dec. 6 OWA Holiday Party

by Jean Nilsson, Ed.
Mark your calendar for Saturday, December 6 to join your friends and colleagues at our annual holiday party. We're planning a great party in San Francisco, and as in past years, will be donating gifts to Hamilton House. We will send an email invitation and post final information on the website.

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