Women Gutted by Architecture
(Design by Wivi Lönn for Finnish Girls’ School, Tampere 1902 drawing: MFA)
So I was pleasantly surprised to see a pingback on my article about the building E1027 and the story that surrounds it E.1027: What Happens in E.1027 Stays in E.1027 especially so seeing that there are so many posts on the interwebs about it.
It came from an architectural podcast Gutted Architecture so of course I gave it a listen. Here is a link to the episode in question.
They didn’t just talk about Eileen Gray and E.1027 either but also some of the other early female pioneers in the profession of Architecture especially in the U.S.A. that had to battle the system at every turn.
Sophia Hayden Bennet the designer of The Woman’s building in the 1893 Chicago World Fair and Marion Mahony Griffin a female architect in Frank Lloyd Wrights office who was responsible for the style of perspective for which FLW is so well known and which helped to bring him to world fame. So a famous man taking the credit for something he didn’t do..who knew this was possible!
They also talked about Denise Scott Brown also who deserves a special mention for the shit she had to put up with although being an equal partner in the practice she founded up with Robert Venturi.
Natty and Coco presented the podcast with the breezy familiarity of two great friends bouncing ideas off each other, so a strong recommendation from me to give them a listen!
In my adoptive home country while clicking around the list of female architectural pioneers I came across the name of Signe Hornborg the first official female architect in the world, and a Fin. She received her diploma in 1890, and her earliest building that survives, the Porvoo Voluntary Fire Brigade House (1890) is the earliest building officially designed by a woman that’s still standing.
Wivi Lönn was the first woman to establish and run her own architectural office in Finland. She got the commission design the Finnish Girls´ School (1902) in Tampere just two years after her graduation and four years before female suffrage in Finland the first country in Europe to give Women the vote.
Of course while the tip of the iceberg of Women in architecture is knowable, the lost history of their contribution probably unimaginable.
Some Personal Reflections
Anyway that episode coming as it did at the time of International Women’s Day along with events in the UK around the brutal murder if Sarah Everard and it’s reprocussions, got me thinking about the privilege of being a male in the current world and how far we are away from the aspiration of ‘equality’ in any meaningful way.
Often public space is coded against women by nature of the appalling harassment they receive and the workplace suffers from the same problems. Finland I feel is more equal in the workplace while suffering violence against women outside work in a surprisingly casual way. Just some things I’ve seen off the top of my head;
- My first year at architecture school the intake of ’90 was historic as being the first time women outnumbered men in the architecture school intake. That didn’t last though, by the second degree women were (I guess from memory) about a third of the intake. In practice currently it’s 33% for the UK and US is 17%.
- Told to ’get the coffee’ type moments. I am happy to say I see this type of behaviour much less now. I don’t think it would be acceptable for instance in our office in any form. The number and range of incidents in this category is quite wide, from minor to really unprofessional.
- Times I have heard of women being sexually assaulted at work in the office in which I worked at the time. In none of those cases was the perpetrator brought to account.
- Times in normal life I know of women that have been intimidated or assaulted by a man.
Thinking about the nature of the threat its constant possibility even from the males closest to them means we have to acknowledge how different a world women live in. We must stand against it whenever we see it, whoever we are and whatever form it takes.
- The Changing Careers of Women Architects | ark
- Gendered Perspectives on Architectural Practice | ark