Architecture is No Longer Just a “Gentleman’s Profession”
By Reed Kroloff
New York Times
September 14, 2018
Photos courtesy Andrew Rowat
Architecture was long called a “gentleman’s profession,” which may have been true if by that you meant one that systematically excluded women for most of its existence. Before World War II, you could count the number of noted female architects on one hand. As late as the 1990s, the percentage of architecture firms owned by women in the United States was still in the single digits.
Today, less than a third of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) membership is female, and a survey of the world’s 100 largest architecture firms by the online design magazine Dezeen found that women occupied just 10 percent of the highest-ranking jobs. The first time a woman won the AIA’s Gold Medal, its highest honor, was in 2014. The recipient, Julia Morgan, had been dead for 57 years.
There are signs of improvement, though. According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), the number of women in the field continues to rise: Women now account for nearly half of the students in architecture schools in the United States; they make up about 40% of those taking licensing exams — up by nearly 50 percent in 20 years.
Two of the projects highlighted in the New York Times’ roundup of architecture practices led or owned by women include a College of Environmental Design alumni team and a Rupp Prize recipient.
Neri&Hu, led by CED alumni Rossana Hu (B.A. Arch. '90) and Lyndon Neri (B.A. Arch. '87) are inspired by tradition, as exhibited in their brick-clad, 17-room hotel in Yangzhou, China, which opened officially last month. The Shanghai architects, whose practice also includes a thriving design store and their own lines of furniture and objects, looked to Chinese urban and residential typologies to create a modern-day “walled city,” a collection of quiet courtyards and enclosed spaces linked by a grid of narrow pathways.
Another of the firm’s projects, the 25,000-square-foot Aranya Art Center in Shanghai, is trying to become an urban destination in one of the hastily built, culturally arid suburban developments that characterize so many modern Chinese cities. “The situation in these developments is far from ideal,” said Rossana Hu, the firm’s co-founder. “We’re trying to create context where there is none.”
Deborah Berke, the 2012 inagural Berkeley-Rupp Prize recipient, recently completed NXTHVN, is an arts center in New Haven, but also much more. Berke, who announced herself to the architectural world with a manifesto entitled “Architecture of the Everyday” and is now the first female dean of Yale’s School of Architecture, has always eschewed the flamboyant. NXTHVN, which opens in December, occupies two former factories that were quietly renovated into studios and a community center founded by the artists Titus Kaphar and Jonathan Brand. A new tower clad in glass and scalloped concrete panels links the two buildings and creates a beacon of renewal for its frayed neighborhood.