The petition demanding that architect Denise Scott Brown be retroactively acknowledged as a joint recipient of the 1991 Pritzker Prize has surpassed 12,000 signatures. Notable supporters include past Pritzker Prize recipients Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Scott Brown’s own husband and partner of 40 years, Robert Venturi. The success of this Change.org campaign, fueled by two young women of the Harvard GSD‘s Women In Design club, is larger than the one female architect it aims to honor – it is a campaign to rethink the difficult and often unjust position of the woman in architecture.
Read more after the break.
Only two female architects have won the Pritzker Prize in its 34-year history – a staggeringly minute number if one stops to think about it. Pair this with the equally-disheartening fact that only 16% of licensed architects in the US are women, despite there being an equal number of men and women studying architecture in American universities. Zaha Hadid claimed that during her teaching career, women were without a doubt her best students but that after school most would just “drift off” from the industry. The question we should be asking is – why?
The long-winded and sometimes unfulfilling road to the title of “architect” may be to blame. After five to seven years of education, aspiring architects must complete an internship and a pricy licensing exam that takes an average of 8.5 years to complete – all the while working for notoriously low pay.
What makes this process unique for women is that it corresponds directly with their childbearing years, therefore making many choose between becoming a mother or becoming an architect. Only a few women are able to do both – if they have a partner or other caretaker who is willing to stay home with the children.
And that’s not all. In addition to the licensing process and the aura of workaholism that surrounds architecture, many women face sexism and discrimination in the workplace. Almost half the women working in British firms reported receiving lower pay then their male colleagues and 60% reported building industry clients who have failed or refused to recognize their authority.
This authority is limited, as well. A survey by the American Institute of Architects discovered that only 17% of firm principals and partners are women and only two – soon to be three – have served as presidents of the AIA organization itself in its 155-year history.
So what does this gender lopsidedness mean for the architecture industry today? Should we be concerned that so much of our built environment is designed by males rather than females? Would life be different or even better if the spaces we frequent were choreographed instead by the female genius that has been stifled and continues to be stifled by an ancient art in dire need of 21st-century reform?
Tell us your thoughts below and see our continuing coverage of the Scott Brown campaign here.