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Claudia Ng on On The Fringe
11 November, 2023
Gwendolyn Wright explores the historical challenges women face in the field of architecture. She highlights how architectural practice is influenced by rigid sexual stereotypes and how women tend to have segregated roles in the periphery. She dissects the experiences of women from discriminatory hiring, salary, and advancement opportunities to double standards like discrediting domestic architecture and interiors as professional even though women are discouraged from doing anything else.
The chapter investigates the origins of these challenges and then sheds light on the different roles of women in architecture including exceptional women, anonymous designers, adjuncts, and reformers. In particular, the author highlights the contributions of Catharine Beecher and Julia Morgan as exceptional women. We get a glimpse of their determination to navigate the constraints of societal and professional barriers and significantly contribute to the built form theoretically and technically. Catharine Beecher had no architectural training yet challenged traditional spatial organization and proposed innovations for domestic environments. While Julia Morgan was the first woman to attend l’École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, commissioned to design an estimated 800 buildings and a trailblazer of user-oriented design. Many other women who were completely unaffiliated or working on the fringes of the profession also impacted key movements and helped alter the design discourse.
In summary, despite being relegated to supporting roles, Wright examines the pivotal roles women play in shaping the trajectory of American architecture in the educational and professional sphere. This chapter provides a historical account of the perseverance and efforts of women to achieve gender equity in the profession