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Mayyasah Akour on Women Architects and Modernism in India
25 November, 2023
Desai’s introduction to “Women Architects in India” encapsulates perfectly how similar the discourse of feminism in architecture is across the world. It is not particularly limited to the western world (although many of the regions that reveal a similar fight have in the past been colonized by a western entity). With certain contextual nuances in mind, similar fights for feminism in architecture are in effect globally.
Starting a family and childbearing generally overlapping with crucial career progression, women and “women’s practice” being “almost exclusively associated with domestic architecture and/or interior ‘decoration’” (7, Desai, Madhavi), an obvious gender imbalance in individuals in leading, high-level positions – are some of the struggles women consistently experience in the field of architecture.
Desai’s insights remind me of the documentary titled “Arab Women in Architecture,” where Arab architects, historians, conservationists, landscape architects, and interior designers share their experiences, insights, and achievements in the field. In a similar vein, this dynamic also exists in the Arab world. Suad Amiry, a Palestinian architect who was the second women to attend the Architecture program at the University of Beirut in 1970 recalls how when she entered the program as the second female, the Architecture School was nicknamed “the Guy’s college”. Meisa Batayneh explains how, when her kids became of adolescent age, she had to make an intentional decision to pause the competition projects her firm would participate in, despite knowing the influential recogni8on that said projects would bring.
In an attempt to rectify the little exposure these women have received (for one reason or another), I have listed their names as they appear in the documentary. I see this as a table of contents (similar to the one Despai does in her book). In writing their names, we shed light on these influential women, but also give opportunity for their full stories and narratives to be recovered in the future.
Howayda Al Harithy
Bernard Khoury (speaking of his mother, whose name is not mentioned)
Fadwa Abu Ghaida