Women in Architecture

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Women in architecture have always existed, perhaps not as professionals but always as influencers at many levels. Then during wars in the absence of men, women took on the traditionally masculine roles of design and construction easily. The river Thames is graced by a bridge built entirely by a female workforce. But the acceptance and the presence of female architects alongside male architects took a long time to be realised. Finland was the first country to introduce the formal education of women in architecture around 1860s. However, Ethel Charles (1898), the first British women to gain the membership of the Royal Institute of Architects, went on to design `cottages' even though she was the first woman to win an International prize for architecture and the RIBA Silver medal winner. Many women worked in various capacities as influencers up to 1970s and 80s- teaching (Teolinda Bolivar, Venezuela), in government responsibilities (Olajumoke Adenowo, Nigeria), interior or furniture designers (Eileen Gray) and as activist (Arundhati Roy, India). Some of the female architects also worked with their husbands (Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry) and other male associates. Somehow it has always been easier to study than to practice architecture for women. The jump from being influencers to front-liners was not an easy transition, even in the `West'. But changing socio-political times, the globalization of practice and a bold willingness to disengage from past constrictions did indeed change the nature of women in architecture. Things have improved materially for women employees because of social and legal changes (Equal pay, maternity leave, basic pay, etc.) but particular issues of being a woman in architecture remain. The numbers of female-led architecture firms also remain very small compared to other professions such as law, accountancy and medicine. There has also been a question raised about whether there is a feminine style of architecture. These volumes explore four themes - History, Work, Influence and Practice. The set offers a holistic and non Euro-centric view of women in architecture, with good practice and inspiration from all parts of the world.