Meeting: the Organization of Women Architects

The Organization of Women Architects (OWA) was founded in 1973 by a group of bay Area (California, USA) female architectural graduates and architects.
On February 28, 2017, I was invited to attend a meeting in Oakland, California, at which the architect Wendy Bertrand was to tell the attendees about the conference she recently attended at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden: Architecture and Feminisms. This conference is one of the annual Architectural Humanities Research Association conferences.
The conference was too vast for Wendy Bertrand to be able to attend every meeting, and there was also too much to tell in one evening. A few highlights:

  • At registration to the conference, attendees started by embroidering at a kitchen table and reflecting on what their mothers shared with them about survival. It was a Nuestras Madres (Our Mothers) workshop and ritual led by the art collective, The Institute for the Decolonization of Art.
  • The architecture school in Sweden has a 50-50 policy, i.e. every project must equally represent both genders.  As per Wendy, “Architect Malin Åberg-Wennerholm is the Program Director at the School of Architecture, KTH Stockholm, and was recently awarded the 2016 KTH “President Gender Equality prize.” Her goal is to create a better world at the School of Architecture. She is working to integrate gender issues in Architecture’s undergraduate education and has started a Gender Equality Society for students. In October 2016, she published a Gender Equality and Architecture small book to be handed out to everyone – students, teachers, and employees and conference attendees. It includes rules for gender equality., and a self-evaluation program as well as a position of 50/50 as the new normal. Students’ wishes and criticism for a more equal college are taken seriously, and on the basis of her position, she is driving to realize projects that achieve real change.”
  • The first Keynote speech was: PARLOUR: WOMEN ARCHITECTURE ACTIVISM from Australia, introduced by Lori Brown, who teaches at Syracuse University School of Architecture. History of and by four members of the award-winning website Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture.

    Wendy Bertrand attended the 8th Taking Place Breakfast. To attend the breakfast, it was required to write a question along with the application for the conference, and these questions were listed in the program for discussion.

Wendy Bertrand provided the lists of books she discovered at the conference:
Recommended reading for the conference:
– Three Ecologies: mental, social, and environmental, Félix Guattari
– Relational Architectural Ecologies, anthology edited by Peg Rawes
– Behind the Straight Curtain, Towards A Queer Feminist Theory of Architecture, Katarina Bonnevier,, 2007, 2011
Additional books:
– Feminist Futures of Spatial Practice, Meike Schalk, Thérèse Kristiansson and Ramia Mazé Feminist Design Power Tool, Hélène Frichot
– Transgression: Toward an expanded field of architecture
– Architecture and Culture: Journal of the Architectural Humanities Research Association. (There are calls for articles.) The November 2017 issue will feature this conference.
– Architecture a Gendered Profession: A Question of Representation in Space Making

Her takeaways at the end of the conference:
ECOLOGY has mental and social elements, not just physical.
DIVERSITY need not argue any specific contribution.
BELONGING or transgressions have enormous impact.
SOCIAL FACTORS are undervalued, like Capitalism, relationships, culture.
PAY ATTENTION, rather than depending on experts.
TEACHING equality, ethics, criticism and activism is essential in architecture.

The meeting, with twenty-two attendees, took place in a wonderful colorful home in Oakland. Below a photo gallery: