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Image 1 – Different Spaces in a de-synchronized world. The speed of architects in the Madrid School of Architecture: ETSAM. [Atxu Amann and Alcocer, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor]

Young, Female and Architect

Gráfica género

Different Spaces in a de-synchronized world. The speed of architects in the Madrid School of Architecture: ETSAM. [Atxu Amann and Alcocer, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor] Graph comparing female versus male presence in the main landmarks along an academic career: from student to Doctor to full professor. Source: Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de MadridObservatorio I+D+i. UPM.

It might be gender and architecture. Or it might just be gender. Gender is what marks the discussion, what marks the difference, what marks exclusion. I write this from the Id, which first and foremost is a woman, and then young, and then an architect. That is the order determining my reality. My id encompasses a discordant reality, perhaps less evident as a student than as a professional once the competitive disadvantages become explicit.

My reality as a student: a profession historically written in male with a clear present in female. My reality as a professional: a profession historically written in male but with gender uncertainty looking towards the future — if the profession has to have a gender at all.

This discordant reality that I am referring to has facts and figures to go with it. As one climbs up the rungs on the ladder of power, women are dramatically less present. In the Madrid School of Architecture (ETSAM) for instance, where in 2013 female incoming students accounted for 56% of the total student body, this year only 39% of the doctoral theses were read by women. Meanwhile, an insulting 5% are full professors and not a single woman has been Director of the School.1

In the face of these statistics, the natural issue of architecture and women arises. The doubt lies in whether we are addressing the question correctly.

Certain arguments dangerously bear their head in this debate defending female over male architects. There is a tendency to recite a whole list of capabilities (generally bearing the hallmark of sensibility) under the slogan “Women’s qualities for architecture”. Are there really qualities that are only inherent to women? And if so, are there then qualities exclusive to men? I studied in a school of architecture in the 21st century where 60% of us students were women, and where I could not say that between my male and female co-students there were different capabilities according to gender. Naturally, capabilities vary according to the individual, but never under a dual gender label. And even less so qualities attributed to gender that justify one type of architectural production or another.

Rather than making a distinction between the capabilities of the two genders, one would need to look and see how they as professionals with a host of different capabilities – all of which are valid and none of which is inherently any better than another – are inscribed in the practice of architecture. The problematisation of the state of play in architecture is therefore not about having or attaining capabilities but rather about the system. An unfair, atrophied system needs to be overhauled for the present day. Although access to training in the system is predominantly female, the attrition rate of female professionals lamentably stands at roughly 50%.

I stake a claim for the importance of women’s presence in architecture, but not by vindicating women’s qualities for architecture over those of men. Instead of an either-or scenario, dissolving this duality should be put at the heart of the issue. If we take this as our starting point in this debate and in a dual system justify duality to stake a claim for equality, then we are doomed to fail.

Here, history has yet to be written. One starting point would be to raise a claim for phantom female architects, bur as Beatriz Colomina writes, rectifying the figures takes more than acknowledging and adding names to this list of architects that went down in history, although that is also necessary. The issue goes far beyond that. Having fully understood the complexity of the system in which the problem is inscribed, it has yet to be written.

Where Are the Women? Measuring Progress on Gender in Architecture. [Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture]


Text translated by Beth Gelb
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Image 1 – Different Spaces in a de-synchronized world. The speed of architects in the Madrid School of Architecture: ETSAM. [Atxu Amann and Alcocer, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor]

Autor:
Maite Borjabad López-Pastor, arquitecta por la ETSAM (2013). Actualmente cursa becada por La Caixa, “Master in Critical Curatorial and Conceptual Pracice in Architecture” en Columbia University. Su práctica e investigación orbitan entre la pedagogía en la arquitectura y la experimentación de nuevos formatos de comunicación e iniciativas de práctica y crítica arquitectónica.

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