You can’t be what you can’t see – a graduates take on women in architecture
In celebration of International Women’s Day, CoDesign Studio Graduate Project Manager Maya Le Bransky muses on the current state of women in architecture.
I am currently undertaking my Masters of Architecture and identify as female. For me the increase in the visibility of women in the architectural profession and discourse has stealthily driven my participation in, and enthusiasm for the discipline. In a seemingly infinite Melbourne scene of cultural events and dialogue,
I am constantly drawn to women as a source of intellectual stimulus and importantly as an example.
Women are positioned at the helm of more architectural institutions than ever before and head up many Victorian design schools. With architect, Monique Woodward being awarded the National Emerging Architect prize for 2018 and people like Justine Clark, editor of Parlour which promotes gender equity in architecture, it feels as though there is a palpable shift in the visible players happening for the architectural scene. It may seem like I am just swooning at the feet of success – and I am – but what this conversation speaks to is that you can’t be what you can’t see.
There are still huge disparities between men and women, especially in the workforce. Too many individuals and groups are yet to see proportionate or inspiring numbers of people that they identify with succeeding on a public stage, leading to a feeling of isolation that extends into every facet of life and most notably for those identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQI+. I am unoriginally contending that visibility and the voice that goes with it is a powerful driver of personal and social change.
Enabling those who are missing to enter the picture should be a priority.
As an architecture student working for CoDesign Studio, I am not only learning a great deal, but am also inevitably framing all that I do and see through the lens of my architectural education.
I have noticed direct correlations between my experience as a woman educated on the long history of men and humanities tendency to gravitate towards people you identify with. Members of the community are undoubtedly more enthusiastic when they can recognise themselves in the design of projects or the people running them.
A mentality of ‘not speaking or acting on anyone’s behalf’ is so important for balancing the scales of power in community building, architecture, urban planning and society.
As an enabler of people, CoDesign’s work bridges the gap between what architects philosophically promise and what is designed. Architects, as professionals, have ethical obligations, not only to the interests of their client, but to the wider community. That means the architect should be ensuring that community desires and concerns are uncovered and that the expectations for the design, as an expert, are surpassed.
Every piece of architecture has a civic responsibility but determining what that role might be cannot be discovered from behind a desk or from a site visit. Conversations with community should always play a major part in the design process and importantly the design outcome.
In our rapidly evolving world architects are constantly defining and redefining their role in shaping it as well as the systems by which we do so.
We can already see how employing and learning from community-minded practices can disrupt traditional building models for the
The Nightingale Model is a popular example and not without good reason. The model enables architects to foster the active participation of prospective buyers in the design process and unpack the possibilities of the building’s community contribution with future tenants and the wider community. The outcome produced endeavours are socially, environmentally and economically sustainable and present new opportunities for living a cohesive life.
Importantly, the model pushes an architect’s obligation to community interests out of the realm of intention and rhetoric and into action.
I have seen first hand how CoDesign works as a multi-disciplinary practice and a cohesive microcosm of society, drawing from the collective and impressively diverse professional and personal backgrounds of the team to build networks Australia-wide that support the goal of enabling people to shape the places that they live in.
A community minded approach is one that puts the little or the suppressed voices first, where it is those voices and the visibility of the groups they belong to that will help balance governing powers as more and more people find a sense of affinity and a source of inspiration.