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Celebrating Women in Architecture

September 15, 2015
The glass walls surrounding the School of Architecture Gallery were no match for last Thursday’s “Celebrating Women in Architecture” lecture series kick-off reception and opening discussion.

The semester-long lecture series aims to increase the visibility of women leadership in design and to raise awareness about gender issues in the architectural practice, while discussing incredible work created by female architects.

“Architect Denise Scott Brown said recently, ‘I say to young women today, don’t cast out feminist awareness. When the glass ceiling hits you, you will think it is your fault unless you know a bit about feminism, and it will destroy you,’” said Sherry Ahrentzen, research professor at the Shimberg Center and one of the guest speakers at the Thursday’s reception.

Ahrentzen addressed topics such as the “hidden curriculum” and the “hidden supply chain,” which involved the unspoken culture within the architectural practice and education.

“Let’s look at those empty spaces, and look at those things that are hidden,” she said. “I think that’s what any good feminist does: looks at the ‘spaces between the studs’ that are hidden, the things that are invisible, the things that are often not said, and tries to find out why that came to be, what are the consequences — and also as a good feminist, how do we change that.”

Sarah Rutland, a fourth-year architecture student, with a minor in Women Studies, is responsible for putting the kick-off reception and lecture series together.

“As architects and as students studying the built environment, we spend a lot of time analyzing systems,” Rutland said. “I think it’s compelling to take our analysis and thoughtful understanding of gender and apply it, not only to our designs, but to our offices and our schools in order to create a system that can promote equally.”

Lastly, Trysh Travis, associate director at the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, concluded the kick-off with a brief summary of what vital information was conceived during the event.

“We want to raise consciousness about what’s hidden, about what’s overlooked, what’s devalued, what’s not said, what goes without saying, and ask ourselves why is it like this? How did it happen? And what do we have to do to change?” She asked the crowd. “This gives us tools to think about ways of changing our experiences: by shouting out what has been unspoken, by shining a light on what has been in the dark and by saying out loud what has been unsaid, so that then we can say something new and something different.”

The series will continue with: Kathryn Dean, principal of Dean/Wolf Architects of New York City, on September 21; Jamie Maslyn Larson, principal of West 8 in New York City on October 12; and Sanda Iliescu on October 19, artist and associate professor of Studio Design at the University of Virginia. Then on Friday, November 13, Ahrentzen and Travis will host a “bookend” talk looking back at the series and the issues it raised. The series is free and open to the public. For more information on the series, visit dcp.ufl.edu/architecture.

Bottom left photo: As one of the guest speakers during last week’s kick off, Sherry Ahrentzen addresses the crowd.
Top photo: Architecture student Sarah Rutland addresses her colleagues during the kick off about what to expect during the lecture series.
Middle photo: The School of Architecture Gallery seats filled to capacity and left several students standing for the event.
Bottom right photo: Guest speaker Trysh Travis concludes Thursday’s kick-off event.