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Leading women architects protest harassment and inequity

Architects, curators, and allies gathered offline at the Venice Architecture Biennale to voice their dissent on the industry’s longstanding gender inequity.

Leading women architects protest harassment and inequity
[Photo: Flickr user Dage]

Last Friday, on the eve of the Venice Architecture Biennale’s opening—a glitzy, international affair that draws top talent from countries around the world—women architects and curators took to the streets for a flash mob at the central pavilion of the Giardini, one of the event’s two main venues. The protest was a show of public solidarity and dissent against the profession’s notorious and longstanding gender inequity, harassment, and discrimination.

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The meet-up was organized by Caroline James, an architectural designer based in Boston, and promoted by world-renowned architects that included Odile Decq, Jeanne Gang, Toshiko Mori, and Farshid Moussavi, in the days leading up it. New York design curators Paola Antonelli of the MoMA and Beatrice Galilee of The Met were also among the more than one hundred attendees who attended that morning—by way of an email that had been translated into five languages and circulated organically among peers and allies.

As the group convened, Martha Thorne, the executive director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, read aloud a group manifesto titled, “Voices of Women,” featured here in full:

We, as Voices of Women, are building conversations and taking actions to raise awareness to combat pervasive prejudices and disrespectful behavior that appears to be systemic in our culture and discipline. We are united in denouncing discrimination, harassment and aggressions against any member of our community. We will not tolerate it. We will not stand silent.

Women are not a minority in the world but women are still a minority in the architecture’s field and we want that it could reflect better the world in which we live.

The Venice Biennale 2018 Freespace is a crucial moment of awakening to promote equitable and respectful treatment of all members of the architectural community irrespective of gender, race, nationality, sexuality and religion. We will join hands with co-workers, students, clients, collaborators, and our male colleagues to create a new path forward toward equitable work and educational environments that promote respectful discourse and open exchange of ideas.

Be a fan of Voices of Women. Make a vow to uphold fairness, transparency, and collaboration in architecture NOW.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement’s delayed arrival to architecture—ignited this March with several accounts of sexual misconduct by Richard Meier that spanned decades, and a crowdsourced “Shitty Architecture Men” spreadsheet that surfaced and spread like wildfire shortly thereafter—the seemingly old-fashioned form of protest was a welcome congregation of allies for a movement that had largely grown anonymously and online. The significance of the event was bolstered by the fact that this year’s edition of the Biennale, which will last through November 28, is directed by two women: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects. Prior to Farrell and McNamara, the Biennale had been curated by a woman architect in only one other instance, in 2010, when SANAA’s Kazuyo Sejima directed the festival’s 12th edition.

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About the author

Aileen Kwun is a writer based in New York City. She is the author of Twenty Over Eighty: Conversations On a Lifetime in Architecture and Design (Princeton Architectural Press), and was previously a senior editor at Dwell and Surface.

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