As a conference on women in architectural education, the image felt even more poignant. Gertrude Stein once wrote, “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing,” (Gertrude Stein, Everybody’s Autobiography (1937), chap. 2.) and this, sadly, is where the core of architectural practice is headed. To be as blunt as possible, women have been barred from the privilege of “doing nothing” in this field and been forced to march off with all the hard parts in a bloodletting exodus that has brain-drained the profession of most of its profitable services and left only inconsequential creativities in its place (fancy teapot anyone?). Corporate architectural practice is filled with women, as are faculties in architectural education: they are project managers, LEED-certified lighting designers, history teachers, proposal and firm bio writers, interior designers, parking specialists, commercial kitchen consultants, environmental systems teachers, design communication teachers, installation artists, photographers. So who is designing the buildings? Well, guess what, folks: men still design buildings. Who is teaching in the design studio? Men.
It is for sure an extremely sticky wicket. The future of the profession depends on whether it can call its prodigal daughters home, because if they are left out in the cold, stuck in the bottom pane of glass, these bachelorettes will take the field with them. In fact, they already have. Come to think of it, the women are doing fine. It’s the men I worry about.
The brightest ray of hope at this conference came, completely not surprisingly, from the youngest women presenters, students in architecture actively shaping a new feminist discourse, citing the #LikeAGirl ad that premiered during Super Bowl XLIX (and if you know what that number is, you are a man) this year. As a jarring reminder of how backward our field remains, our feminist discourse seems to be lagging just behind this new campaign for maxi pads by Procter & Gamble’s Always brand. By now, with effusive praise for the campaign subsiding, we are reminded (by Amanda Hess at Slate) that “it’s a little sad that all of this enthusiasm for women’s stories are leading us directly to a box of maximum protection with wings, while female filmmakers and characters are still so underrepresented at the box office.” And female architects are still so underrepresented in the corner office.