Barcelona Chair, Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich
As in the rest of professional fields, women have had more difficulties to practice as architects or designers in a world traditionally dominated by men, both in relation to constructive guilds (in which the physical character predominated) and more technical profiles, especially since there was also a difficulty for women to access university studies.
If we enumerate a series of historically transcendental architects and designers, surely the majority of students, architects, designers, (and we even dare to include) teachers from schools and universities, will not recognize more than a couple of them. Should we try? Josephine Wright Chapman, Louise Blanchard Bethune, Julia Morgan, Lilly Reich, Margaret Mcdonald Mackintosh, Aino Marsio, Charlotte Perriand, Eileen Gray, Marianne Brandt, Denise Scott Brown (we add direct links to their biographies worth knowing). Many of them have been ignored and kept in the shadow of their husbands or companions. For example, did you know that the Barcelona Chair by Mies van der Rohe was a design in collaboration with Lilly Reich? That the Chaise Longue LC4 by Le Corbusier is actually from her collaborator Charlotte Perriand? Or that the Pritzker Prize of 1991 was awarded to the architect Robert Venturi alone despite the fact that he himself recognized the vital contribution of his partner Denise Scott Brown to the success of his projects?
Chaise Longue LC4, Charlotte Perriand
These are just some of the most important female names in architecture and design but at the same time these are the names that are often NOT named in the design and architecture classes, nor in magazines or books, with some exceptions. And unfortunately there will be a reason… What female architect / designer has not felt a look of superiority from a construction worker or another technician?
Fortunately, now women can access at the same level of education, and begin to have more presence (yet in inferiority to the male) in a sector which hosts more and more female professionals in all phases of both design and execution, something that enriches designs and projects. And that can be demonstrated, after fighting very hard, by names of great architects like Zaha Hadid, Benedetta Tagliabue, Carme Pinós, Blanca Lleó or Kazuyo Sejima and designers like Patricia Urquiola, Ilse Crawford, Nani Marquina or Inma Bermúdez.
“What did I have to pay dearly? The fact of being a woman, immigrant, with the desire of being a pioneer, being rich…all that. The combination of an immigrant woman, Arab, self-sufficient, and who did strange things did not make things easy.”
Zaha Hadid. El País Semanal. Enero 2008.
Documentary Arquitectas – Exhibition Centro Centro, Ariadna Cantis
However, it is our duty as professionals of design and architecture to exercise each day that leading role we have in the design (or rehabilitation) of this new society. Thanks to our profession, the capacity of analysis is implanted in our DNA, and we must use it to observe, compare and design our future. We are responsible for designing a future in equality, where there is no superiority, and all of us are recognized for our work and our abilities, and not for our gender.