Women in Architecture: The Good, The Bad… What Next?

Mon 4 Mar 2019
Sheila O'Donell

In the run up to International Women’s Day, there was good news and bad for women in design, planning and building.

The good news was the win for Sheila O’Donnell in the Architects’ Journal Women in Architecture Awards. The bad news was the RIBA’s International Women’s Day cookery class for parents. It was hastily scrapped after howls of protests. The architects’ institute apologised but architect Katie Holt, on Twitter, accurately summed up:

‘Come ON. How tone deaf could you possibly be to think this was a good idea.’
The O’Donnell + Tuomey co-founder saw off competition from three other finalists to win the top prize for her practice’s revamp of the Central European University in Budapest, which was also a contender for the RIBA International Prize 2018.
O’Donnell’s first-phase project for the university is a limestone-clad €34 million teaching building, part of a masterplan to consolidate the institution into a single 35,000m² campus.

Sheila O'Donnell

WIA Jurist and novelist Lesley Lokko said ‘She is a role model for young women in architecture. Sheila O’Donnell did not have to break the glass ceiling – her and John Tuomey created a new reality.’

Sheila O'Donnell

Accepting her award, O’Donnell said: ‘It’s a great honour. We still need the WIA prize. It’s about celebration.There’s something very special about having a group of just women talking about architecture [today and at last night’s RIBA event]. It shines a spotlight on the problems we still have. Until we have equal pay and the other problems are sorted out we do still need the WIA awards.’

O’Donnell is speaking from her own generation’s experience. Problems of equal pay within industry, as well basic inequities, like recent news that architects are coming under pressure to opt out of the 48- hour working week directive, leave no doubt she is right. Different though, is the next cohort of architects. Many of them women (take a look at Part W collective) or under-represented voices (Afterparti)’. If they have anything to do with it, we may not need WIA for too much longer.

The Women in Architecture Awards also saw Diller Scofidio + Renfro, co-founder Elizabeth Diller win the 2019 Jane Drew Prize. The awards recognise the lifetime work of raising the profile of women in architecture and the broader industry. AJ editor Emily Booth said Diller, who was recentlynamed one of Time magazine's most influential people, is an "international architectural powerhouse".

Until next week. Please make sure to send in your ideas to info@designnetwork.org.uk
Author: Jane Briginshaw, Design England

Cover Image: Google Images

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