Newsletter | Nov/Dec 2014

Missing 32% Symposium, San Francisco Art Institute, October 2014. photo: Jen Tai

Feminism and Architecture: Where To Next?

by Jean Nilsson, Ed. and Wendy Bertrand
Last issue, we reviewed Feminism and Architecture: Intergenerational Conversations, the keynote address that Susana Torre, architect, feminist, critic, and educator, gave March 18, 2014 at The Architectural League NY and Parsons The New School for Design.

February 11, 2015, the OWA Book Circle along with members of the AIASF Missing 32% project committee invite you to a round-table discussion with excerpts of the video of Torre's address that is available on The Architectural League of New York's website. We ask you to view the video beforehand because it is so full of ideas, or you can read the lecture, which is published on Parlour's website in three parts: Feminism in Architecture, Tokenism, and Where to Next?

Torre reflects on the influence that feminism has had on the architecture profession, discusses six significant ways that feminist ideas have contributed to changing architecture and planning (see article in our last issue) and outlines her ideas on how to move forward. What are new agendas for feminism and architecture?

"Today, when we talk about 'women in architecture' we usually focus not on discourse, but on the unfulfilled agendas of salary parity and equal access to opportunities for retention or promotion, or on the difficulty of reconciling the demands of a very exacting profession with those (no less time-consuming) of child-rearing and the production of domestic life, as most women still bear the greater responsibility for both."

Torre gives several suggestions: She reminds us that "the creation of discourse is fundamental for changing a discipline." She urges institutions such as AIA to "lead in the effort to retain and promote the advancement of women in the profession" (as the AIASF Missing 32% committee has done, article above). She urges scholars to continue "redefining the criteria for inscribing the work of women into history, challenging the criteria approved by the male critical establishment" (as OWA members Inge Horton and Sandhya Sood do; see articles below). Torre mentions, a group in New York, but doesn’t say what we in a group like OWA might do. When OWA Book Circle member Inge Horton wrote to Susana Torre about our group's interest in her lecture, she responded right away that she would be interested in continuing a discourse on this important part of architecture with us.

The Book Circle plans to start 2015 by actively viewing and discussing Torre's talk, adding further readings and discussions that engage the issues Torre has raised and pick up on those explored at two recent symposiums, both organized and chaired by OWA members, Gender Matters Symposium honoring OWA's 40th Anniversary, April 2013, Mui Ho, Chair, and the recent Missing 32% / Equity by Design Symposium, Rosa Sheng, Chair.

If you are interested in the interface of Feminism and Architecture, or wonder what this discussion is all about or why it still matters, please join us at our February 11 Book Circle in San Francisco at MK Think, 1500 Sansome St, open to members and friends. Jot down your thoughts as you view the video before February 11 to assure a lively discussion. You may contact Wendy Bertrand of the OWA Book Circle to propose ideas or format for discussion or to get more information. Specific event information will be posted on the OWA and AIASF / 32% websites. Hope to see you February 11, 2015.

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