NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

Ken Lustbader

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is a cultural heritage initiative and educational resource documenting historic sites connected to the LGBT community in New York City. Historic preservationists Andrew Dolkart, Ken Lustbader, and Jay Shockley founded the project with initial support from the National Park Service Underrepresented Communities Program. The project builds off of the nation’s first map for LGBT historic sites in New York City, which they helped create in 1994 while part of the Organization of Lesbian and Gay Architects + Designers (OLGAD).

The project’s mission to make an invisible history visible includes publishing historical narratives on its website, researching and nominating LGBT sites to the National Register of Historic Places, curating walking tours, presenting lectures, engaging the community through events, and developing education opportunities.

The project website features a map with over 150 diverse places from the 17th century to 2000 that are important to LGBT history and illustrate the community’s influence on New York City and American culture. Last year, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project worked with the National Parks Conservation Association to develop the LGBT History Tour, Greenwich Village NYC. This printed tour and map is being distributed at the Stonewall National Monument, which memorializes the Stonewall Uprising of June 1969, considered a key turning point in the LGBT rights movement in the United States. More recently, in partnership with the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the project completed the Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York City, which will be used as a guide to help future advocacy and evaluation of LGBT place-based history.

The project disseminates its content through social media channels, community presentations, and walking tours in order to show the public that LGBT history is American history. This has helped influence new research projects and raise awareness about pre-Stonewall LGBT place-based heritage. It also fosters a sense of pride among LGBT youth. The project is part of a new group of independent projects throughout the country and internationally that are looking more closely at LGBT place-based heritage.

Palladio’s Sister

Sally Levine

I always admired Virginia Woolf’s short 1928 essay, Shakespeare’s Sister. There, she postulates the struggles gifted women surely faced throughout history through a tale of an imagined sister to the famed bard. While a work of fiction, it illustrated an ongoing truth. In thinking about my profession, it occurred to me that the architectural parallel to Woolf’s essay would concern Palladio’s Sister—and that contemporary women architects represented the descendants of this imagined woman—whom we named Judith. This became the impetus for an exhibit that aimed to move the discussion of women and architecture forward.  

While women’s progress may be slower than many of us would like, we have made progress. There are more women architects than ever before and increasing numbers of female students and faculty. By contrast, the works of women architects are barely visible in architectural textbooks and monographs, nor are they shown as examples of design principles in architectural presentations. The exhibit Palladio’s Sister aimed to address this disparity in serious, academic recognition and consideration. Various female and male architects prepared analytiques (visual analyses) of significant works of architecture by women. These analytiques were printed on 12 x 36, 48 or 60-inch fabric, were hung with the help of garter clips, and were first shown at the National AIA Conference in Boston in 2008. The introduction to the exhibit started with this rewrite of the Woolf essay:

With apologies to Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own):

“It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have designed the buildings of Palladio in the age of Palladio.

“Let us imagine, since the facts are so hard to come by, what would have happened had Palladio had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let us say. Palladio himself was, it is well known, a wild boy who apprenticed to a stonecutter in Padua when he was 13 years old and broke his contract after only 18 months. That escapade sent him to seek his fortune in Vicenza. He had, it seemed, a taste for architecture. He was engaged by Gian Giorgio Trissino, one of the period's leading scholars, where he read Vitruvius and Leon Battista Alberti - and learnt the elements of art, architecture and design. Very soon he began designing villas and soon became a successful designer of churches. He lived at the hub of the universe, meeting everybody, knowing everybody, practicing his art on the drawing boards, exercising his wits in the streets, and even getting access to the palace of the pope.

“Meanwhile his extraordinarily gifted sister, let us suppose, remained at home. She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she would not have apprenticed and not found a mentor. She had no chance of learning art, architecture and design, let alone of reading Vitruvius and Alberti. She picked up a portfolio now and then, one of her brother's perhaps, and studied the drawings. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with drawings and papers. They would have spoken sharply but kindly, for they were substantial people who knew the conditions of life for a woman and loved their daughter - indeed, more likely than not she was the apple of her father's eye. Perhaps she sketched some plans up in a tomato loft on the sly, but was careful to hide them or set fire to them. Soon, however, before she was out of her teens, she was to be betrothed to the son of a neighboring wool-stapler. She cried out that marriage was hateful to her, and for that she was severely beaten by her father. Then he ceased to scold her. He begged her instead not to hurt him, not to shame him in this matter of her marriage. He would give her a chain of beads or a fine petticoat, he said; and there were tears in his eyes. How could she disobey him? How could she break his heart? The force of her own gift alone drove her to it. She made up a small parcel of her belongings, let herself down by a rope one summer's night and took the road to Rome. She was not seventeen. The birds that built nests in the hedge were not better at design than she was. She had the keenest eye, a gift like her brother's, for the design of space. Like him, she had a taste for architecture. She stood at the studio door; she wanted to draw, she said. Men laughed in her face. The master builder - a fat, loose-lipped man - guffawed. He bellowed something about poodles sawing wood and women drawing - no woman, he said, could possibly be an architect. He hinted - you can imagine what. She could get no training in her craft. Could she even seek her dinner in a tavern or roam the streets at midnight? Yet her genius was for architecture and she lusted to feed abundantly upon the spaces that housed the lives of men and women and study their details. At last - for she was very young, oddly like Palladio the architect in her face, with the same grey eyes and rounded brows - at last Nick Greene the architect-builder took pity on her; she found herself with child by that gentleman and so - who shall measure the heat and violence of the architect/artist’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman's body? - killed herself one winter's night and lies buried at some crossroads where the omnibuses now stop outside the Roman Forum.

“That, more or less, is how the story would run, I think, if a woman in Palladio’s day had had Palladio's genius.”


ALICE Through the Glass Ceiling

Sally Levine

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The success of CARY’s More than the Sum of our Body Parts clearly demonstrated to me the power of exhibits to spark conversations about important social and professional issues. I was certain that this would not be my only effort to confront issues affecting women in architecture.  

In 1994, I was invited by New Langton Arts, a San Francisco art gallery, to continue my installation work addressing the status of women in architecture and professional women in general. The result was Architecture Lets In Chicks, Except…(ALICE) Through the Glass Ceiling. With this new multimedia show, I wanted to expand my investigations to recognize the progress women had made while acknowledging that women continued (and continue) to face many challenges in the workplace.

ALICE knew that the very metaphor of the glass ceiling indicated that women had made gains. After all, if women had not gotten their collective "foot in the door," they would not be able to see the ceiling at all. But like a ceiling of glass, women’s progress has been fragile, and it was (and is) imperative that these gains not be taken for granted. In Alice Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen notes that “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.” Entering the exhibit through strips of mirrored mylar, this ALICE’s wonderland was a series of seven playful, interactive, three-dimensional installations showing that women still needed to run at least twice as fast.

The vignettes confronted the ways statistics can be interpreted, the differences between media portrayals of women architects and the real work of women architects, the ambiguity of affirmative action programs, the ways that women are made to be invisible, and the challenges of climbing the corporate ladder.

In Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, I asked a number of questions about women’s status within the profession. Keeping the meter of the Wicked Stepmother’s question, text like “How many women architects in all?” and “Who’s the best paid of them all?” was inscribed on the outside of hinged panels. Upon opening the panels, which were connected to a mirror adhered “on the wall,” the viewer saw two answers—one indicating that progress had been made (written legibly) and the other showing the limits of that progress (written to be read in the mirror). The answers to the first questions above were: “There are 23,662 women architects in the US” (right reading) and “Women architects comprise 15 percent of the profession” (mirror image). The second pair read, “Male architects earn $1.00” and “Female architects earn $0.75.”

Rose Colored Glasses juxtaposed the rosy media versions of women architects and the reality of their actual architectural work. I drafted buildings by nine pioneering women architects—Ruth Adams, Han Schroeder, Alberta Pfieffer, Minerva Parker Nickels, Julia Morgan, Eileen Grey, Marion Mahoney Griffen, Eva Kuhleft-Ekelund, and Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter—and framed these 24 x 36 inch drawings in rose-colored plaster frames. These were contrasted with nine miniature images of women portraying architects—in films, on television, in magazine fashion spreads, and in print ads—clipped to thin cable strung from ceiling to floor. The next layer was composed of nine viewing devices held on stands made of steel plate, coil, and reinforcing rod. Various magnifying glasses, binoculars, monoculars, and telescopes, all covered with rose-colored gels, were connected to the stands. They were focused directly on the media images, placed in the gallery relative to their magnifying capabilities. Whether a woman showing architectural prints to a client whose string of pearls had broken or Elise Keaton (mom and architect) in Family Ties, none of the images came close to the accomplishments of the actual women. As the viewer looked beyond the media mystique, the real work became most prominent.

Ambiguity was the central theme of Shining Armor. Even though the whole notion of knights in shining armor is antithetical to professional ambition, it doesn’t necessarily make the concept of such a knight unattractive. Similarly, I had ambiguous feelings about affirmative action. The program offered opportunities to women but often limited these opportunities to consulting with larger, male-owned firms. As the piece evolved, I became interested in times when women wore their own shining armor, and I presented information about affirmative action within a historical context of women taking on their own battles. This large triangular sculpture corner was a patchwork of copper, bronze, steel, aluminum, wire mesh, and perforated metals. It stitched together a history of affirmative action alongside examples of women’s movements, from a twelfth-century harem revolt in Persia to a seventeenth-century riot by women bread bakers in Paris to marches in Washington, D.C.

I wanted to express my concern for the ways women have been made to feel invisible in the workplace, whether they are being denied credit for an idea or being left out of a meeting. This led to Smoke and Mirrors, Now you see her, now you don't, and Pick-a-Card, Any Card. In the former installation, slides were projected through gray “clouds of smoke” covering a platform that supported a projector and tape player. A mirror was placed in front of the projector lens to transmit the images horizontally onto another platform suspended from above, appearing to float. The projections were presented in pairs, allowing the viewer to “see her” before she became invisible. For example, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown were shown as professional partners, but then Robert Venturi was shown alone as the recipient of the Pritzker Prize. These slides were accompanied by an audio tape with a magician’s voice revealing tricks used to make women disappear.

Adjacent to Smoke and Mirrors, long white-gloved hands were perched on pedestals clad with red satin. One hand cradled blank Red Queen playing cards, inviting gallery visitors to share their experiences with “sleights of hand.” The other glove held the ever-growing hand of cards, where visitors could pick a card to discover other tricks that had been performed on women visitors who had been made to disappear.  

In The Glass Slipper, I replaced the metaphor of the glass ceiling, pointing out the treachery and fragility of advancement made by women while wearing shoes made of glass. Couples’ dance steps were painted on the gallery’s floor, leading to a pyramidal ladder reaching from the floor to the ceiling. As a few glass slippers ascended the ladder backwards, more fell behind into a pile of broken glass and mirror. Throughout the gallery, women’s dance steps were the reverse of the forward movements of the men’s, suggesting, as it has been said of Ginger Rogers in respect to Fred Astaire, that “she did everything that he did, only backwards and in high heels.”

I have always thought that Crystal Ball was ahead of its time. I wanted to create a means for communication beyond the gallery walls. Small “crystal” beads were strung on silver string, along with a message charm that read, “What do you see in our future? Email ______” and then my email address. Purely conceptual in nature, this piece provided souvenir bracelets, placed in a crystal bowl for all to take. Today I would ask for tweets at #alicethroughtheglassceiling. No one sent an email, but the feedback I did receive assured me that this gallery show struck a nerve for both women and men.

Women in Design Awards

Sally Levine

In the late 1990s, Boston Society of Architects (BSA) president Rebecca Barnes thought it was time to re-energize a focus on women. This resulted in the creation of the Women in Design (WID) Network. Concurrently, on the national level, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) decided to merge the Women in Architecture and the Minority Architects committees to form the Committee on Diversity. I was pretty sure that women’s voices would be lost in that scenario; yet in Boston a group of women wanted to give women’s voices a place to be heard.  And not just “A” (architect) women—but the broader category of “D” (design) women. I was impressed.

As the network took shape, Gretchen von Grossman stepped forward with the suggestion that the Conversations—monthly programs sponsored by the WID Network—be given a wider audience. In 2000, she put together the first Women in Design conference, and the event has grown each year since then.      

I think the last thing the architectural field needs is one more awards program. In fact, I think architecture gives out too many awards. Yet here I was, suggesting to Gretchen, Rebecca, and others that we develop a WID awards program. I wanted to accept a challenge that had been articulated five years earlier. In the introductory essay to CARY’s More than the Sum of our Body Parts exhibit catalog, Dr. Roberta Feldman, professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, stated that architects “cannot expect architecture to become more inclusive without confronting how all architects are educated and kept informed about what is happening in the field as well as how architects receive commissions, carry out their work, evaluate its consequences, and gain recognition.” With a new awards program, I saw a framework by which to confront how architects gain recognition.

Over the next several months, I met with many women from the building professions to discuss their definitions of success, their thoughts on what made for a successful career, and what they considered worthy of recognition. Together, we analyzed the criteria used in existing awards programs to get a handle on the underlying assumptions embedded in the criteria for those awards. Was there something about the criteria that, up until that point, made the awards a better fit for men than women? These awards programs included the Pritzker Prize, the AIA Gold Medal, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Gold Medal, and the AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. We asked: was success achieved solely through a singular body of work? Did success come as the result of a well-defined linear path?  Was success competitive or collaborative? What makes a career successful? And what makes that successful career worthy of recognition?

We identified many shared criteria; additionally, we identified notable omissions from the aforementioned awards’ listed standards: process, collaboration, inclusiveness, and ethics. We wondered if these traits were more apparent to women or more important to women; what we did know was that those concepts were important to us.

The results of our research and conversations were summarized in the four “P”sthe four criteria developed for the WID Award of Excellence.

Person

  • A living person who works or has worked in the New England area

  • Ethical, confident, exemplifies exceptional excellence

  • Brings multiple experiences to work in the design of the built environment

Process - Celebrates the "long and winding road"

- Shares responsibilities and information and cares for others’ well-being

- Invites and encourages participation; opens doors for others

Product

  • Demonstrates exceptional excellence and reflects process

  • Content of design and built work:

    • Formal design issues and programmatic experience in equal measure

  • Content of nondesign and nonbuilt work (i.e. writing, teaching):

    • Formal design issues and programmatic experience in equal measure

Position

  • Success has been achieved well and then used well

  • Affects change in the design community and the public at large

  • Position/success is part of an evolving career

We wanted to be sure that we lived up to our commitment to inclusivity. We decided that the best way to assure that we met our goal was to present the award to more than one person each year. Typically, we recognize three people. Over the years, the selection committee has chosen:

  • Architects

  • Landscape architects

  • Interior designers

  • Writers

  • Educators

  • Advocates

  • Artists

  • Graphic designers

  • Engineers

  • Community Leaders

Many, if not all, of the recipients fill more than one category.

I cannot tell you how many people asked me, “Why not just give the award to one person?”  The answer was simple. This decision allowed us to celebrate the many ways individuals contribute to the built environment. What we did not anticipate was that the shared experience of each class of recipients elevated the meaning of the award. In contrast to the single-winner award, recipients of the WID award often have expressed how honored they feel to be in the company of that year’s cohort.  

The annual awards luncheon during the WID conference is joyful and inspiring. Some awardees always knew their professional goals and reached them, some were dissuaded from their goals but found their path back, some explored many avenues before discovering their direction, and others practically fell into the positions that have brought them so much satisfaction.  

Has this awards program confronted the way architects gain recognition?
Has it had an impact on the ways we think about success? Or honor success?

For me, these are the ongoing questions. I hope there has been some positive impact—I leave that for others to decide. In the meantime, I am confident that there are many women who continue to be successful and meet the criteria of the WID Award of Excellence.

SAY IT LOUD: The Distinguished Minority Designers of NOMA

Pascale Sablan

At time of writing, there are approximately 2,224 licensed African American architects in the United States—roughly 2 percent of the total population of licensed architects in the US. This is staggering in today’s world, where diversity is supposedly more than a buzzword. Studies show that including people of different backgrounds and races benefits everyone—something that is certainly true for architecture. Exposure to a diverse pool of contributors can enrich the field and generate more unique and innovative ideas. Over the past three years, curator Pascale Sablan has established an initiative that shines a spotlight on the impact of architects and allied professionals of color in the architecture and design community as well as the greater community at large. These individuals blazed a trail that is rarely acknowledged. In 2015, the New York chapter of National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), New York Coalition of Black Architects (NYCOBA), created a Membership Highlight initiative to acknowledge the work and accomplishments of these talented individuals on a monthly basis. The highlighted members range from sole practitioners to commissioners of city agencies to AIA fellows. This ongoing initiative has become a full exhibit that has been displayed at New York’s Center for Architecture, the United Nations Visitor Centre, and at S9 Architecture during the 2018 AIA National Convention.

The SAY IT LOUD exhibition elevates the work of minority architects, engineers, and designers of color in a culture that often omits them and their contributions to the built environment. The exhibition features projects by twenty-one designers and includes quotes and video interviews on their experiences. The concept of this exhibit, according to Sablan, is “To see our faces, hear our voices, feel our impact within the colorful tapestry of our heritage.” This initiative has become an international movement, with local SAY IT LOUD exhibits slated for numerous states, conferences, and United Nations Information Centers worldwide.


Pascale Sablan, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP, is a Senior Associate at S9 ARCHITECTURE, the 2017–18 historian for the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), and the NOMA Northeast Now What!? Exhibition Planning Grant 18 Regional Vice President for 2018–19. Pascale is past president of the New York Chapter of NOMA, serves the AIA National Planning Committee for the 2018 Design Justice Summit, and is a member of the AIA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Pascale was selected as a 2018 AIA Young Architects Award Recipient and was featured in the CTBUH Research Paper: “Ratios - Voices of Women in the Tall Building World.” She was recently named Building Design + Construction 40 Under 40 and was featured on the cover of the September issue of their magazine. She has lectured at universities and colleges all over the US. In 2017 she curated the Say It Loud: Distinguished Black Designers of NYCOBA | NOMA exhibition at the Center for Architecture in New York City. She is the 315th African American female architect in the United States to attain her architectural license. As of 2017, there are only 400 women who hold this distinction.

Blacklines of Design

Kathleen Ettienne

Blacklines of Architecture originated in a publication by a few ambition visionaries, resulting in about four issues. Printing costs were very expensive, and eventually the idea was put to bed until 2011, when I decided to revamp the concept. The focus shifted to include other related trades, such as landscape architecture and lighting design. I also shifted the project to an online publication called Blacklines of Design.

My vision for Blacklines of Design is for it to be a channel for diverse and developing architects and designers of color to showcase their contributions to the global architectural community. The quarterly publication acts as a resource for those seeking to learn about the diversity of style and design that can strengthen the foundations of modern design as well as further an understanding of historic architecture.

The online publication was received well by many designers who welcomed a place to finally exhibit their work. I was just as excited—but very nervous at the same time, as I was alone in the undertaking. I had to finance the project out of pocket.

My first online issue included an article on a hot topic: hip-hop meets architecture. As a graduate student of cultural studies at the University of Minnesota, Craig Wilkins was struck by how people defined space at hip-hop raves.

A group of college students started this dialogue at a National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference by a group of college students. It was a thought-provoking session to ignite a conversation about how hip-hop culture influences the built environment. The fresh discussion earned a positive response, and Wilkins went on to further investigate and document the relation between the dynamic shared components of the urban art form and design.

400 Forward

Tiffany Brown

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Growing up in Detroit’s inner city, I didn’t see much art or architecture of any kind. I attended school in what was considered a failing district. I didn’t have many professionals coming to my schools for things like career day.  

I’ve recently realized I was indirectly exposed to something I would grow to love. I was good at drawing, art, math, and creative writing, which I would eventually learn are related to architecture.  Against all odds, I managed to receive three college degrees, as well as become an adjunct professor in the college of architecture at my alma mater.

My journey toward architecture inspired me to make the road easier for girls following the same path I did.  In August 2017, the 400th living African American woman became licensed (as of 2018,there are over 110,000 licensed architects in the United States). My goal is to seek out the next 400 women architects through 400 Forward.

Through this initiative, I can show girls in our inner cities they can accomplish anything, and that they can make needed change in our communities. I use my story as a tool of empowerment to create the next generation of women leaders in architecture. I aspire to be the face I was looking for growing up and look forward to using this initiative to shape the future of our profession while promoting social change.

Sybil Griffin, the woman who saw something special in me and gave me my first job in architecture, inspired me to make a difference in my profession. The work and research of Roberta Washington on black women in architecture is also a source of motivation. These women and many others encourage me teach the next generation to change our world for the better.


Tiffany works diligently to raise awareness on how planning and design makes a significant social impact in urban communities, and seeks to examine the influence of the built environment and its impacts on culture, behavior, and health. She is dedicated to rethinking architecture education for the traditionally underserved.

The Crisis of the African American Architect: a Fifteen-Year Retrospective

Melvin L. Mitchell, FAIA, NCARB, NOMA, James Silcott Chair Professor of Architecture, Howard University & Pres./CEO Bryant Mitchell Architects

Harold Cruse’s magisterial 1967 book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual continues to inform much of my worldview about the black struggle in the US. One of the questions I posed was, “How would Cruse’s analysis of the role of black architects apply to the time between 1900 and the year 2002?”

Through a Crusian prism, I argued that black architects had been in a serious state of cultural and socioeconomic estrangement from Black America since the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. I found that no such state of estrangement existed between 1893 and the 1920s. That was the period when Booker T. Washington charged a band of black architects—led by Robert Taylor—with designing and building the Tuskegee University campus in Alabama while also wanting to create a similar type of development in Harlem.

Black architects often cite the fact today only 2,000 out of 120,000 (1.7 percent) of America’s  architects are black. But closing that gap, while necessary, is nowhere near sufficient. The burden of training the next generation of black “culture and power” grounded  architect-entrepreneurs and community developers falls to the nation’s small band of  HBCU-based architecture schools. Up until the 1970s, that cohort of schools was reputed to have produced nearly 50 percent of the nation’s licensed black architects.

I find it ironic that the only front where the “culture and power” estrangement between black architects and Black America decreased is in the African American museum building phenomena of the past twenty years. A parallel argument in my book is that the late-20th century maturation of the IT and communications revolution irrevocably transformed the basic business model for the practice of architecture. We are now on an accelerating trajectory of obsolescence over the next several decades.

Project Pipeline

Lorin Jackson

Project Pipeline Organizational Diagram, Image Courtesy of Lorin Jackson, 2005

Project Pipeline Organizational Diagram, Image Courtesy of Lorin Jackson, 2005

In order to support students who otherwise would not find entry into architecture an obvious or easy path, the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) founded Project Pipeline in 2005. NOMA designed Project Pipeline to encourage students’ pursuit of architecture through hands-on experience and exposure to the field. Initially, this was accomplished with summer camps hosted by local NOMA chapters and small workshops at schools. This model enabled participants to have direct mentorship from those who had recently passed through the same stage of development. The first ten years of Project Pipeline brought hundreds of participants annually across various cities including New Orleans, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

In 2017, the Illinois chapter alone hosted 150 participants at its Project Pipeline Summer Camp. Additionally, it organized a dozen workshops at schools in the North, West, and South sides of Chicago. This chapter has expanded “the Pipeline” to encompass all stages of development, from the earliest age a person can decide to pursue architecture through becoming a licensed architect. I-NOMA piloted a sixteen-week design-build program last year for early high school students. These students then matriculate into a local partner organization. After high school, student chapters at Illinois universities support students throughout their college years. Finally, those preparing for licensing are supported with resources through an initiative launched in 2017.

It is important to note that working professionals accomplished all of this. Seeing themselves in the younger generation or a peer compels them to help others realize their goals. One member, Christian Pereda, wrote in a testimonial, “Born to undocumented parents from Mexico, I saw myself as an inspiration to young students that are living with the same challenges but want to succeed. I was able to step into leadership roles and make a commitment to help my community.”


Lorin Jackson (BFA Interior Architecture, NCIDQ Candidate) is a designer providing interior architecture and design services primarily in Chicago with Inhabit Interiors. She has been a member of I-NOMA since 2016 and serves as co-marketing coordinator. She looks for ways to leverage her roles to create community benefit and develop solutions for urban living in underserved communities.
www.linkedin.com/in/lorin-e-jackson

The Directory of African American Architects

Brad Grant & Dennis Mann

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The Directory of African American Architects identifies and highlights licensed African American architects who practice in both the private and public sectors, who teach in higher education, who work in associated disciplines, and who have left the field of architecture but maintain their license.

We began the first edition of the Directory in November 1991 to account for and identify all of the African Americans who were professionally licensed as architects. At that time, we suspected that the estimated numbers we came across in various publications were not accurate. The first directory established a baseline with which we could begin to plot the demographic changes among African American architects over time. We also used the data collected from the first edition to facilitate our research profiling the roles that African American architects play in education and in practice, including those who are owners of firms, those who are partners in firms, those who are employees in both the public and private sectors, and those who are educators. The second edition of the directory (1996) continued our efforts to provide an up-to-date and accurate listing of licensed African American architects.

By now both Whitney M. Young's admonition to architects attending the American Institute of Architects' National Convention in 1968 in Portland, Oregon, and the Kerner Commission's June 1968 report on urban unrest have become important historical documents. Robert Traynham Coles, FAIA, a noted practicing architect and a past Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, cited both of these documents in a Progressive Architecture editorial entitled "An Endangered Species" (July, 1989). Based on his observations over a period between 1968 and 1989, Coles bemoaned the dismal growth in the number of African American architects. Coles quoted Young, who said that architects had shared in the responsibility for creating "the white noose around the central city," where much of the urban unrest of the late 1960s occurred. Coles also cited the Kerner Report, which concluded that the nation was rapidly developing into two societies, one black and one white, separate and unequal. These factors, as well as the dismantling of federally supported housing programs, the reduction of federal support for the maintenance and development of physical infrastructures, and the attack on affirmative action policies, along with other discriminatory practices, inhibited the success of African American architectural practices.

Major reductions in grants, scholarships, and guaranteed loans for underrepresented students led Coles to conclude that the African American architect was an "endangered species." Coles noted that "the number of black architects had grown from about 1000 to about 2000, remaining at about two percent of the total (of all architects)," notwithstanding the fact that African Americans represent more than 12 percent of the population. Coles' data was taken from statistics collected by the Department of Labor, which counted everyone in the field of architecture without distinguishing licensed architects from interns, technicians, or even designer/builders. Coles found it difficult to substantiate that there were two thousand architects in current practice based on his own observations and experiences with African American architects between 1969 and 1989.

The architectural press continued to report weak African American representation in the profession. This is true not only for practice but also for architectural education. The National Architectural Accrediting Board reports that for the 1993–94 academic year, 6.3 percent of students in accredited B. Arch and M. Arch programs were African American. In that same year, only 3.6 percent of the graduates from both of those programs were African American. African American women are even less represented in practice. We listed only eighty-four women in the 1996 directory. No recent statistics tell us how many graduates remain in the profession as interns or continue on to licensure.

Recent studies of the role of gender and race in the architectural profession and in architectural education suggest that weak demographic presence has a negative effect on African American architects and other underrepresented architects in the field (see Kathryn Anthony’s Shattering the Glass Ceiling). Conventional architectural history reflects this bias. Historians have been slow to incorporate African American contributions to American architecture into their work or into architecture curricula. Most students of architecture have never heard of Benjamin Banneker, who assisted Pierre Charles L'Enfant in the planning of Washington, DC; or Julian Abele, who designed the Widener Library at Harvard University; or Robert Taylor, the first African American to earn an architecture degree and who worked with Booker T. Washington on the design of Tuskegee Institute.

The African American architectural tradition continues today. African American architects are actively involved in all levels of professional practice, from the design of high style interiors to that of large international airports and major museums. African American architects are also senior partners in majority-owned firms, deans in prestigious architecture schools, and administrators in governmental agencies.

After the publication of our second hardbound directory, we realized how quickly information can become outdated in print. We decided to create a website that could be updated instantaneously as we received new information. We also felt that a website would put our research into the public sector and make it available not only to other architects but to aspiring architects searching for African American role models.

Since we began our research in 1990, the number of licensed African American architects has more than quadrupled, and the number of licensed African American women has grown from 48 to 440. We believe that the website alone has helped to publicize who African American architects are and where they practice. The site provides live links to those firms that have websites and publishes research papers, books, job postings, and current announcements. More recently, we have added a listing of licensed landscape architects.

As of September 2018, there are 2,239 licensed African American Architects in the database. We confirm that all licensees are in fact licensed by consulting the state board of architecture registration website for their home state. In addition, the number of licensed women has greatly increased. When we began there were only 48 licensed women. Today there are currently 440. They now make up nearly 20 percent of the total. This year three of the four new FAIA inductees were African American women.

Over the past twenty-seven years we’ve been fortunate to widen our contact network as well as discover that our website shows up first in Google searches for “African American Architects.” When we’ve asked someone who contacts us about being added to the Directory how they discovered the site, their response is often that they didn’t know it existed and they found it after searching for African American or black architects online. Today more and more young interns follow the site—and often ask to be added as soon as they learn they’ve passed the Architect Registration Examination. The site is often a good resource for potential clients, suppliers, and young students looking to talk to an architect in their area.


Chicks In Architecture Refuse to Yield to Atavistic Thinking in Design and Society

Sarah Rafson

In 1992, a collective of Chicago architects and designers founded Chicks in Architecture Refuse to Yield To Atavistic Thinking in Design and Society (CARYATIDS, or CARY). Although CARY’s 1993 exhibition, More Than the Sum of Our Body Parts (MTSOBP), has been largely forgotten, the group leveled critiques that resonate with recent activism and used exhibition strategies that are still provocative today.

A review of CARY’s exhibition in Architecture magazine described how MTSOBP “shatters male myths,” “symbolizes limits,” and “exposes the inequities of pay, position, and power” in architecture practice. A video from the Randolph Street Gallery opening shows a stylish event with artists, architects, and designers enjoying cocktails as a rotating cast of men and women smile and pose through the cutout face of a caryatid. The Randolph Street Gallery was known for showing pioneering performance art, not architecture. While no buildings were on display, the exhibition sent a strong message about what it means to be a woman in architecture and how the profession ought to respond.

CARY was a collective of over seventy architects and designers, both men and women, but three women were at the center of it all. Carol Crandall, Sally Levine, and Kay Janis were all involved in the Chicago Women in Architecture (CWA)—Crandall was just ending her term as CWA president—when they decided to organize a more radical spinoff group in 1992. The following year, Chicago would host a joint convention between the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the International Union of Architects (UIA), the largest gathering of architects ever. What’s more, the AIA’s first female president, Susan Maxman, hosted the historic moment.

CARY needed to reach the upper echelons of the AIA in order to push policies affecting women to the center of the national agenda, and they felt a counterexhibition was one way to do it. Gender inequities that seemed to disappear during the “boom” years of the late 1980s reappeared as layoffs disproportionately left women out of work during the recession of the early ’90s. In light of this, CARY sent Maxman a copy of the MTSOBP catalogue with a formal letter that spelled out their demands:

“Dear Ms. Maxman,

. . . The following issues have been ignored by the AIA:

  • The Wage Gap

  • The Glass Ceiling

  • Family Leave Policies

  • Gender Bias in Treatment on the Job

  • Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

  • Family/Workplace Issues

  • Attrition Rates

We challenge the AIA to formulate specific programs and policies to address these issues.”

Had Maxman visited the exhibition, she would have seen a gallery dotted with large sculptures, each addressing a different aspect of architecture practice. Some addressed problems in workplace policy and ways the AIA could intervene. Just Relax, This May Cause Some Discomfort, for example, was a gynecological gurney covered by a paper printed with the Family Medical Leave Act, which President Clinton signed earlier that year. CARY pointed out that this legislation is ineffective for the 90 percent of architecture firms with twenty employees or fewer—a statistic that is still true today.

Tea and Sympathy displayed the “loosely veiled excuses” women received in the workplace. CARY painted a series of teacups with an excuse (“We didn’t reschedule the meeting just for you”) and decoded the underlying reason on the tea tag (“Because you’re a mom”). This piece expressed the feeling of disposability the women felt, with shattered ceramic and mannequin limbs piled in a heap on the floor below the teacups.

Water Cooler Wisdom: If Only These Jugheads Could Talk was more interactive. CARY’s male members recorded the derogatory comments their female counterparts had received in their workplaces—boardrooms, classrooms, and construction sites. Their voices animated a scene of wire figures with water cooler heads and dim light bulbs shining within. Visitors contributed their own experiences on a bulletin board reading “Employee Notices.”

The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Reader all covered MTSOBP, as did other publications as far-flung as Korea. Even if few of the thousands of convention visitors ventured to see the exhibition just a couple miles away, they were likely aware of it. The group disbanded shortly after the exhibition, although each of the three founders continued their advocacy in different ways. Sally Levine staged a similar exhibition, ALICE (Architecture Lets in Chicks Except) Through the Glass Ceiling in San Francisco in 1995.

CARY crystallized in the early ’90s during the resurgence of women’s rights advocacy in the US known as feminism’s “third-wave,” which came several years after the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated in 1982 and the lively “second-wave” feminism of the women’s movement ended. In 1993, CARY’s tone surely reminded visitors of the Guerrilla Girls who were challenging the art world’s gender biases through posters, postcards, billboards, and protests filled with puns and revelatory statistics. MTSOBP’s expressive sculpture, however, recalled an earlier era of feminist art, like Judy Chicago’s vignette-filled Womanhouse in Los Angeles in 1972.

Despite many recent exhibitions touting the impact and work of women architects, few take on larger political questions as directly as CARY did in MTSOBP. In 2010, Woodbury University hosted 13.3% “an exasperated reply to those who say: ‘there are no women making architecture.’” The show borrowed Lucy Lippard’s strategy of accepting open submissions through the mail in standard manila envelopes. In 2014, the Storefront for Art & Architecture’s Letters to the Mayor exhibition was another cleverly crafted feminist critique, displaying letters by fifty international architects—who happened to be women—addressed “to the political leaders of more than 20 cities around the world.”

As CARY stated in the exhibition with some irony, “The choice of homemaker and home maker is no longer mutually exclusive.” The number of women architects in the US has risen slightly, from 15 percent in 1993 to 24 percent in 2016, and the AIA has inaugurated three women as presidents since Maxman’s term. As Despina Stratigakos reports, women still drop out of the profession in disproportionate numbers, although advocacy organizations like ArchiteXX, the Beverly Willis Foundation, and others throughout the country, hope to change that.  

Since 1993, the AIA has done formidable work addressing equity in architecture through its Equity by Design initiative, although recent events signal the ongoing rift between the organization and its membership. Two decades after CARY, the Architecture Lobby staged its own protest to the 2014 AIA National Convention in Chicago, reading a list of demands outside the convention hall on behalf of architecture’s “precarious workers.” This year, the Architecture Lobby takes their advocacy for fair labor practices one step further, launching JustDesign.Us, an accreditation program to recognize compliant firms. The #NotMyAIA hashtag that began trending since the AIA sent a complacent letter to then President-elect Donald Trump is just another indication that although much has changed in the architectural profession, CARY’s complaints reverberate more than ever.  

Note: a version of this article appeared in the Chicago Architecture Biennial Blog.


Sarah Rafson is Ann Kalla Visiting Professor at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture. She is an architectural editor, curator, and researcher and the founder of Point Line Projects, an editorial and curatorial agency for architecture and design. Rafson won the Buell Center Oral History Prize for her master’s thesis from Columbia University. She is a board member of ArchiteXX and editor of sub_teXXt, their online journal. She was a curatorial assistant for Bernard Tschumi’s 2014 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, editorial assistant at the Museum of Modern Art, and editor of two recent books, Parc de La Villette (Artifice, 2014) and Builders, Housewives, and the Construction of Modern Athens (Artifice, 2017).

Ellen Perry Berkeley

Andrea J. Merrett

In 1972, architectural journalist Ellen Perry Berkeley identified a nascent feminist movement in architecture. Her article, “Women in Architecture,” was published in the September issue of Architectural Forum, where she was a senior editor. Relying on anecdotal evidence and the few statistics available, Berkeley described a profession that resisted the entry of women and was not supportive of those who fought their way into the field. She argued that this was endemic across schools, practices, and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Berkeley’s article was not the first on women and architecture in that period. The subject of women in architecture had already received some attention in the press.1 Architectural Forum published an article in 1969 with the same title as Berkeley’s.2 The author, Beatrice Dinerman, was a research associate in the School of Public Administration at the University of Southern California. Her approach to the subject was occupational sex-typing: stereotypes about the requirements of the profession and women’s characteristics kept women from entering traditionally male fields like architecture and were used against the few who succeeded in gaining admission. In her work on women in architecture and law, she countered some of the myths around the professions and demonstrated the barriers and discrimination women faced. She put forward a number of concrete suggestions as to how to encourage more women but stated that these were only effective if the profession was willing to remove barriers to success, including interpersonal discrimination, the practice of channeling women into limited subfields, the problem of the double standard—that women had to work harder to received the same recognition as male colleagues—and the belief that a successful woman posed “a threat to the very masculinity and ego strength of her male colleagues.”3

Compared to Berkeley’s, Dinerman’s article—published only three years earlier—received very little attention. What changed in those three years? Between 1968 and 1970, feminists gained mainstream attention with a series protests and theatrical stunts, culminating in the Women’s March for Equality on August 26th, 1970 (fifty years after the passage of the Nineteenth amendment).4 By 1972, women in architecture were enthusiastic about fighting for changes and were already starting to organize in a way that they had not in 1969. While writing her article, Berkeley was able to draw on a network of women architects. She was a member of the the Alliance of Women in Architecture (AWA) in New York (in fact, she was one of the founding members), and she was connected to women in Boston who had formed Women Architects, Landscape Architects and Planning (WALAP). Not only was she able to report that these groups were helping women overcome their isolation to work together against discrimination, but she was able to go further in her analysis of the problems than Dinerman had. At the time of writing, there was no extensive research on the status of women in the profession. Berkeley reached out to practitioners, students, educators, and the AIA for information. Although much of her evidence was anecdotal, she convincingly grouped individual accounts of discrimination to show the extent of it while also providing stories that women facing similar situations could identify with. Berkeley ended the article on an optimistic note: women were angry but engaged; they “want[ed] ‘in’ to this world.” Not only did she leave the reader with a clear picture of the problems, she provided the means to do something about it, with contact information for the various individuals and organizations already active.

The feedback Berkeley received was immediate, and the article helped to inspire women in other parts of the country to organize. In a letter to Dolores Hayden, dated October 29, 1972, Berkeley wrote, “As a result of the Forum article, there seems to be a great deal more contact in general. Our NY group has a number of letters from around the country, and WALAP may have the same.”5 Hayden wrote back, “The Forum article was a really fine piece of work—I cheered as I read.”6 Doris Cole wrote to Berkeley that she thought the article “was most interesting and informative.” For Wendy Bertrand, a founding member of OWA, the article was a “landmark,”7 and Inge Horton—who wrote a history of the OWA—credited the examples of women’s organization, presented by Berkeley, as inspiration for creating their own group.

1 For example: Rita Reif, “Fighting the System in the Male-Dominated Field of Architecture,” The New York Times, April 11, 1971, 60.

2 Beatrice Dinerman, “Women in Architecture,” Architectural Forum 131 (December 1969): 50–51.

3 Dinerman, “Women in Architecture,” 51.

4 Laura Tanenbaum and Mark Engler, “Feminist Organizing After the Women’s March: Lessons from the Second Wave,” Dissent Maganize, January 25, 2017, https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/lessons-second-wave-radical-feminism-womens-liberation-movement.

5 Ellen Perry Berkeley, Letter to Dolores Hayden, October 29, 1972, Ellen Perry Berkeley personal files (now donated to Smith College). Regi Weile also reported that the AWA received more than 100 letters in response to the article, AWA Steering Committee, Agenda January 10, 1973, Berkeley personal papers.

6 Dolores Hayden, note to Ellen Perry Berkeley, November 2, 1972, Berkeley personal files.

7 Wendy Bertrand, Enamored with Place (San Francisco: eyeonplace, 2012), 158. She expressed this again when I interviewed her. Wendy Bertrand, interview with author, February 13, 2013.


Andrea J. Merrett is a PhD candidate in architecture at Columbia University writing her dissertation on the history of feminism in American architecture. Her research has received support through a Buell Center Oral History Prize, a Schlesinger Library Oral History Grant, and the Milka Bliznakov Prize from the International Archive of Women in Architecture. Recently she has coedited an issue on women and architecture for the journal de-arq: Journal of Architecture (2017), Universidad de Los Andes, and presented her dissertation research nationally and internationally in New York, Stockholm, and London.

Women in American Architecture

Susana Torre

Installation view of  Women in American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective , Brooklyn Museum, 1977. Photo: Norman McGrath. Courtesy of Susana Torre.

Installation view of Women in American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective, Brooklyn Museum, 1977. Photo: Norman McGrath. Courtesy of Susana Torre.

Women in American Architecture: Changing Practice and Discourse

What was the significance of the exhibition and book Women in American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective when they were being put together in the early and mid 1970s?1 We can look at this question through two lenses: First, the project's influence on professional practice and the discourse, and second, the relevance of the ideas it presented.

Regarding professional practice, our main objective was to shake up the status quo that ensured the subordinate roles of women, thus initiating a change in the harsh conditions of women’s practice. We thought this could be best achieved by examining the history of the many invisible professional women working in the design disciplines from interior design to architecture and urban planning, albeit mostly in supportive roles.

But we had another aim beyond rescuing the work of women architects from oblivion; we also wanted to show the opposing ideas of women designers and theoreticians. Some had been complicit in shaping the spatial distribution of homes and neighborhoods that continued women's domestic drudgery and social isolation, while others had presented and were continuing to present influential alternative designs to liberate them from those patterns.2 For this, we wanted to reintroduce housing and neighborhood design3 into the discourse of the discipline in the United States, which was at the time entangled in a pseudodispute4 between the so-called Whites, architects working on versions of Neo-modern design, and the Grays, followers and colleagues of Robert Venturi, interested in reintroducing history and context in design.

The widespread attention the exhibition received in the national media and professional journals was critical in achieving these objectives. The New York Times published three articles, including a review by architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable. Ms. Magazine, Newsweek, Art Forum, and other newspapers and art publications also provided prominent coverage. There was a special issue of Progressive Architecture—then a leading professional journal—exclusively devoted to the exhibition and book, earning the attention of gatekeepers in the professions. The initial exposure was further amplified as the show toured cities—traveling across the United States and the Netherlands for a full decade of after its opening. In each new setting, the exhibition changed with the addition of work by women architects in that city or region. Moreover, the exhibition panels could be printed as blueprints on demand, allowing schools of architecture to mount them inexpensively and to save the un-mounted panels afterward in their libraries as an oversized publication. In the first showing, at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, our targeted audience was the general public—we even included a portable playground by artist Sheila Berkley so mothers could bring their children, while in other cities the organizers generally aimed at more professional and academic audiences.

The book published alongside the exhibition was meant as a freestanding project, not as a catalog. Seeing that no single scholar could write the ongoing history of women in architecture, I commissioned essays that would explore historic and contemporary issues, which I organized both by theme and time. The brief essays at the end of sections on specific individuals were included not because those women were exceptional, but rather as examples of the questions raised in the chapters. The collective result—a choral work on the history of the conditions of practice, the historical alternatives to those conditions, and contemporary conditions—emphasized the wide range of forms that women were exploring outside conventional professional practices. These included experiments with soft materials, collaborative design, a feminist critique of historical monuments, and theoretical investigations of matrix-like spaces.

Forty years later, the book continues to be a reference for scholarly work on women in architecture.5 However, the expected changes were slowed by the political and economic contexts, not only in architecture but also in all social and cultural matters. The late 1970s and early 1980s were the beginning of the political era of conservative Ronald Reagan and anti-feminist Margaret Thatcher, both bent on cutting social welfare programs, privatizing industries, and reducing trade union power. Many college women believed, with Thatcher as prime minister, that women’s rights had already been won, and the limitations suffered by the women shown in our exhibition were no longer relevant to them and their careers. Some accepted the role of “token” woman, granted access to the opportunities and privileges enjoyed by men as individual exceptions, as long as they adopted the institutional values that continued to obstruct women’s professional development. Schools of architecture began to feature a few women in their lecture series, and professional associations like the American Institute of Architects included women, primarily in those positions and tasks that required a great deal of unpaid effort. Also, interview lists for prestigious architectural commissions used women as “window dressing” to show inclusion. But women almost never got the jobs after spending enormous amounts of effort and money to make themselves competitive, leading to bitter frustration and withdrawal from such experiences.

Along with other publications in the late 1970s, the book and exhibition helped spur a movement toward the identification of women in architecture6 and their inclusion in historical surveys that continues to this day. This inclusion, however, has mostly been the type historians deride as “add women and stir,” little more than amplified tokenism that fails to challenge the continuing gender bias. And feminist ideas about interiors, buildings, and cities have been simply co-opted into the architectural discourses of the past decades without explicit acknowledgement of their origins.

It is also important to recall how the exhibition's contents and installation design constituted a critique of exhibition practices at the time. The sponsoring organization, The Architectural League of New York, had assumed that it would include only a handful of "exceptional" women—those whose work would be acceptable to the dominant “one-at-a-time” access system. But the complex thematic/chronological structure of an exhibition that included urban design proposals of communistic societies and kitchen-less houses of the cooperative housekeeping movement, along with the built work of professional architects, obliged the sponsor to accept ideas well beyond the comfort zone of most of its board members. The installation at The Brooklyn Museum also challenged architectural shows' exhibition standards. Instead of wall-mounted large photographs—sometimes in backlit boxes—and carefully crafted models—with brief labels identifying the architect and building’s name, date, and location—our exhibition consisted of 30 x 40 inch blueprint panels and a single conceptual model. The panels—inexpensive reproductions our bare-bones budget could afford—were mounted as the tops of drafting tables low enough for children to read, though the amount of text was more demanding than usual. Rejecting the “exceptional woman” approach, all work was treated non-hierarchically, though with extra panels for more prolific architects, such as Julia Morgan. The “drafting room” installation allowed viewers to follow a meandering path of their own selection rather than a prescribed linear order.

The male board members of The Architectural League and other prominent New York architectural figures were not alone in their criticism of the structure of the exhibition and book. Members of our own Archive of Women in Architecture group also questioned them, having envisioned a show limited to professional architects on the “exceptional woman” model. Though they also wanted to use the exhibition as a tool for improving the work conditions of women in the professions and enlarging opportunities and recognition for them, they wanted to achieve these without challenging the professions’ values and structure, including men’s power in the assignment of unequal salaries and subordinate supporting roles. Indeed, the preferred model for exhibitions and publications in the following years continued to be that of the patriarchal institutions and professions, with activist alternatives seeking structural change receiving scant attention. The publications on women in architecture that appeared in print or online every six years or so, including biographical profiles with no in-depth discussion of the work, distinguished themselves from one another only by the different names of the women featured each time. Women-only awards created more recently to validate women’s work and professional trajectories in architecture simply reproduce the procedures and structure of similar awards controlled by men, in some cases including well-known male practitioners in their juries as the ultimate corroboration of value. These awards do offer validation in developing careers and obtaining commissions, demonstrating that the professional reputation of women is no longer exclusively dependent on men. Still, the award categories tend to emulate a structure of power that is male and hierarchical, unprepared to reward the ethics and aesthetics of collaboration that characterize feminist design. New structures of practice and reward categories for excellence and exemplary work are needed to design and construct buildings and environments responsive to the needs and desires of people in all their diversity and to achieve recognition of the collective, choral voice that creates all works of architecture and urban design.

1 This essay is a response to that question, asked by the curators of Now What?! Advocacy, Activism & Alliances in American Architecture Since 1968, forty years after the opening of Women in American Architecture. A Historic and Contemporary Perspective.

2 The advocates that promoted the design of cooperative apartment buildings in New York without kitchens in the individual dwellings at the turn of the 20th century proposed one such alternative. Food preparation following the latest nutritional standards would be prepared in commercial kitchens such as the “Rumford Kitchen,” built by Ellen Swallow Richards as a demonstration at the Chicago World Exhibition of 1893. See Dolores Hayden’s A Grand Domestic Revolution, for more alternatives.

3 Martin Pawley trenchantly analyzed this situation in his 1971 book Architecture Versus Housing.

4 The passage of time has proved that this dispute had been a means for publicizing the work of architects in both groups, orchestrated by Peter Eisenman, one of the Whites, and Robert A.M. Stern on behalf of the Grays.

5 Fortunately, there will be soon a book on the history of women in architecture, authored by Andrea J. Merrett.

6 Wikipedia Edit-a-thon events organized by New York-based ArchiteXX, where volunteers help write female designers, architects, and planners into Wikipedia and the “Un Dia, Una Arquitecta” website, also staffed by volunteer scholars, are two major initiatives.

Broadening the Discourse

Martina Dolejsova

Pages from the catalogue of  Broadening the Discourse , an exhibition and conference, Santa Monica, CA, 1992. "Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals Records, 1965-2005," Ms1988-080, Special Collections, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.

Pages from the catalogue of Broadening the Discourse, an exhibition and conference, Santa Monica, CA, 1992. "Organization of Women Architects and Design Professionals Records, 1965-2005," Ms1988-080, Special Collections, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.

Broadening the Discourse, an exhibition on women designers in California, opened its doors on January 24, 1992, to the onlookers and pedestrians of Santa Monica, CA. This exhibition was part of an annual statewide conference of the same name for women in design hosted by the California Women in Environmental Design (CWED) and cosponsored by the Association for Women in Architecture (AWA) and the UCLA Extension School for Environmental and Interior Design. The main symposium of the conference, titled Women in Environmental Design: Reconsidering Feminist Issues, included the panelists Susana Torre, Jacqueline Leavitt, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, and moderator Ann Bergren. They addressed the relationship between feminist visions of architecture, space and the gaze of the profession.

At this conference, Torre reflected on the progress of women in architecture, from her early work in 1972 to her observations in 1992, and made her claim to the continued necessity of the category of “women” in the profession and the frustration regarding this as not an identity of acceptance but a distinction of “otherness” and trouble in the profession.1 This distinction is one that has informed women’s practice, class identities, and social positions. Broadening the Discourse demonstrated the changing discourse in feminism and practice found in the 1990’s as it began to question how to define roles of gender, its relationship with space and how feminist theory inserts itself into architecture. The AWA/CWED exhibition looked at the terms of vision in feminist theories, in which there is “visibility” vs. “invisibility” and the “visions” of work informed by a “gaze.”

AWA President Lian Hurst Mann explained the conceptual premise behind the exhibition and its title as one meant “to actively broaden—as in stretch, disturb, displace, wrench, re-envision—the point of view (the ‘gaze’) of the discourse that dominates.”2 Architectural historian Beatriz Colomina stated in Sexuality and Space that “architecture must be thought of as a system of representation in the same way that we think of drawings, photographs, models, film, or television, not only because architecture is made available to us through these media but because the built object is itself a system of representation.”3

The exhibition catalog stated it was “Broadening the Gaze” by attempting to acknowledge these systems and challenge or refuse them. This gaze is a constructed view of the modalities that feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey established as the male gaze, maintaining and controlling women and their sexuality as subjective objects.4 The woman is thus an object to be looked at for pleasure and controlled according to this gaze which associatively translates to objects that are associated with femininity and sexuality. This gaze informs social and power structures, and architectural structures become the visions of production and fetishization of these social models. The vision, claimed Mark Wigley in his essay, “Untitled: The Housing of Gender,” is the political and “often the most privileged.”5 Vision is representation, and what visualizations are enacted and seen reflect the gaze that is upon them. How gender varies, and how one refuses to be the category subjected by the gaze, is also demonstrative of what visions of representation are privileged.

The exhibition was an open submission to all women architects in California (as opposed to only women within CWED’s membership). An all-female jury selected projects, sustaining the CWED’s historic premise of creating visibility and validation within a female gaze.6 The jury intended to challenge the relationship between how people believed women designed and what was being designed (commissions), as well as how feminist ideologies were considered in design.

This focus on visibility has also been part of the writing of women’s architectural history7 and the women entering into institutions and achieving positions of authority—be it within universities, publications, or other organizations. Visibility is also deduced through institutions, such as the American Institute of Architects, which performed surveys that showed percentages of women in the profession.

At the same time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, visible bodies within institutions were directing and challenging gendered assumptions. In 1990, Adele Santos became the first women dean in an architecture school at the New School of Architecture at UC San Diego. CWED symposium panelist Sheila Levrant de Bretteville was named the head of the graphics department at Yale in 1990, and Susana Torre became the chair of the environmental design department at Parsons in New York in 1991. Participants of Women in Environmental Design: Reconsidering Feminist Issues reviewed existing feminist theories. These discussions surrounding representations in architecture that facilitated new perspectives into how women’s work has been viewed and categorized regarding representation, space, sexuality, and gender.

The exhibition and the conference discourse attempted to confuse and neutralize the gaze, so as to interpret new meanings. These events posed a different construction and idea of gender—terms that took hold at the level of subjectivity and representation, in the micropolitical practices of daily life and daily resistances that afford agency, and in the cultural productions of women and feminists that inscribe that movement in and out of ideology.

1 Kevin McMahon, “Observations from the Gender-Free Zone: Broadening the Discourse 5th Annual Conference (co-sponsored by the AWA),” LA Architect Magazine (March 1992), 14.

2 Broadening the Discourse catalog, “Broadening the Gaze: Feminist Strategies for Exhibiting Women’s Work. Lian Hurst Mann Talks with Darlene Crosby,” 7.

3 Beatriz Colomina, Sexuality and Space (New York, NY, Princeton Architectural Press, 1992).

4 Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, Visual and Other Pleasures (New York: Palgrave Macmillion, 2nd ed 2009).

5 Mark Wigley, “Untitled: The Housing of Gender,” in Sexuality and Space, ed Beatriz Colomina (New York, NY, Princeton Architectural Press, 1992), 362.

6 Despina Stratigakos discusses in her book A Women’s Berlin how the Women’s Club validated their work for exhibitions. “The use of male judges, which became standard practice at both the London and Berlin clubs, sent the message that women artists had received the most stringent seal of approval – that of their male colleagues.” Despina Stratigakos, A Women’s Berlin: Building the Modern City (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 27. Torre states that by the 1970s “the work is judged by the women themselves and by others on its own merits: through this evaluation women raise their own demands about the quality of their work and finally validate their image as professionals for themselves.” Susana Torre, “Women in Architecture and the New Feminism,” in Women In American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective, ed. Susana Torre. (New York: Billboard Publications, 1977). The performance of validation slowly changed as women were judging and qualifying their work, yet the questions in the 1990s of quality were still in the culture languages of how women’s work was viewed.

7 Examples of such histories are Gwendolyn Wright’s “On the Fringe of the Profession: Women in American Architecture,” in The Architect: Chapters in the History of the Profession, edited by Spiro Kostof, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 280-308; and Dolores Hayden’s The Grand Domestic Revolution: a History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1981).


Martina Dolejsova (MSc critical, curatorial, and conceptual practices of architecture, Columbia University) is the communications coordinator at Studio Libeskind in New York City. She has contributed articles to the Architect’s Newspaper, Archinect, PIN-UP, and Artillery magazine and curated the pop-up series, A Picture is Worth 500 Words.