The Status of Women in Architecture
In “The Status of Women in Architecture”, Yeji Yi elucidates the gender bias in architecture. To understand feminism, she cites instances from the life of Denise Scott Brown as references. Yeji further examines the status of women through Brown’s approach for architectural education. She concludes on a positive note by mentioning Zaha Hadid’s 2004 Pritzker Prize as a milestone for a new beginning. -Editor: Suchithra Dhanaveerapandian
Prominent women in architecture used to work in the shadow of their male partners or husbands a few decades ago. Denise Scott Brown, in her essay “Room at the Top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture (1989),” discussed the discrimination that she has suffered as a woman architect and investigated the social system she has struggled against throughout her career.
Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates (VSBA),
Brown described unfair treatment she had received within the field of architecture, even after her superior talents were recognized. For instance, in 1991, Robert Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Prize, but co-founder Scott Brown was not included in the award. The author of the notable book, “Learning from Las Vegas (1968),” was known as Robert Venturi though the ideas in this book were not from him alone but from a collaboration with team members, including his wife, Scott Brown. Journalists also frequently omit women architects’ names. Furthermore, women were not invited to some social events.
Some of Brown’s approaches to counter to the discrimination were dubious; for example, some talks and conferences on women in architecture, which were women only, had a possibility to cause the reverse discrimination. However, she aptly explained the reason why the discrimination was created in architectural field in terms of its cultural environment. She points out some phenomenon, such as kingmaker-critic, star system, and men’s club, as causes. To be specific, the unmeasurable, intangible nature of architecture led the society to pursue a star architect, whose work will provide some rules to follow, and it was typically male. Thus, Robert Venturi was pressured to be turned into a guru, and the wife, Scott Brown, into a footnote.
To solve these problems, Brown proposed how architectural education should be changed. Paralleled with the model of architecture as a tapestry of invention suggested by Sherry Ahrentzen and Linda Groat in their article “Rethinking Architectural Education,” the shift from authoritarian and judgmental educational technique to non-hierarchical, multifocal, diverse, connected to social values, and culturally-based education was emphasized.
Finally, in 2004, Zaha Hadid was honored with the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is referred to as Nobel Prize of Architecture. She is the first woman to be awarded the prize. The proportion of women in architecture has risen in academia
as well as the professional area. Brown is a woman who contributes to the rising generation of women architecture.
Denise Scott Brown, Sexism and The Star System in Architecture (1989).
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