Speakers and organizers of Leaning Out III | On Women in Architecture and Education.

Leaning Out III: Back to School

At the third annual Leaning Out program, organized by AIANY Global Dialogues and AIANY Women in Architecture, comments from the audience ranged from laments over workplace conditions to excited clamor over the number of women enrolled in architecture programs. At 43%, the percentage of women in architecture schools is nearly equal to men, yet the proportion of women who go on to achieve licensure, top management positions, and national recognition wanes after graduation. Focused on women, architecture, and education, the panel of four women drew on their experiences as architects, students, and educators to relate issues of gender in the field.

On the number of women in architecture programs, Pratt Institute Professor and Gans studio Principal Deborah Gans, FAIA, was firm in her conviction that degrees are not the sole path to change: “Change in the profession is slower. I think it’s not going to happen immediately. I see two things in architecture schools. One, there are not an equal number of women faculty. And while I love this moment in architecture, the technological exploration, it has created ‘math veer’ – some women veer away from scripting or the more mathematically driven parts, and it’s an issue.” Drawing on another traditionally masculine field, construction, Lynette Widder, founder of Aardvarchitecture and a professor at the Columbia Earth Institute, encouraged the inclusion of women on construction sites and in building science, which she makes a point of teaching: “If women realized that if they take the tech courses in school a lot more seriously because they’re super empowering and get out on the job site, that would totally transform the way people practice.”

Reflecting on the limitations of her own education, co-founder and partner of Weiss/Manfredi and Penn Design Professor Marion Weiss, FAIA, said that she returned to teaching to investigate broader questions of urbanism and culture, questions that entered the field along with women: “What came out of it for me, though, was the recognition that the set of questions we were given were insufficient to the larger questions that architecture could engage. And that’s the reason I chose to teach. I felt like I came out with a weaker education than all those young Yale graduates, and the only way to rectify that was to continue to teach while practicing.” For most of the panelists, the university studio remains a place for thought, experimentation, and alternative research, which may or may not make its way back into their commercial practices. “It is liberating to go to a teaching environment,” said Kim Yao, AIA, Barnard professor and principal of ARO, “to get into studio and not work with a client, not have to deal with the realities of construction and the timelines. It is gratifying, intuitive, creative, and renewing.” University studios are not only labs for creativity, but are commonly highly social and collaborative, requiring the development of communication skills across gender, and preparing students for the ultimately public work of architecture practice.

Event: Leaning Out III | On Women in Architecture and Education
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.11.15
Speakers: Kim Yao, AIA, Principal, ARO, and Professor, Barnard College; Deborah Gans, FAIA, Principal, Gans studio, Professor, Pratt Institute; Marion Weiss, FAIA, Partner, WEISS./MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, Graham Chair, Professor of Architecture, Penn Design, University of Pennsylvania; Lynette Widder, Founder, Aardvarchitecture, Professor Columbia University; and Jane Smith, AIA, IIDA, Partner, Spacesmith, Department Chair, Interior Design, School of Visual Arts
Organized by: AIANY Global Dialogues Committee and AIANY Women in Architecture Committee
Sponsored by: LERA Consulting Structural Engineers, Microdesk, Langan, Frank Miller, Indianapolis Woodworking International