On occasion of International Women’s Day, architects at various stages in their careers convened in New York to discuss the dynamics and possibilities of mentorship, collaboration and advancement in architecture.
The panel purposely had both mentors and mentees, so that panelists are able to share from various stages in their careers. Some key takeaways include from the talk include:
It’s a chemistry thing. The more in-sync the mentor and mentee are, the more sustaining the relationship.
Mentorship vs Sponsorship: Mentorship can’t be too formalized, as there is a lot of spillover of profession into personal and ancillary topics. A sponsor however is more often within one’s firm, or is a close association.
It’s often better to not to have one’s mentor in-house because sometimes you aren’t happy and need to talk it over. Having a more neutral party is helpful.
Big firms have the resources to do more structured efforts such as creating women in architecture groups. Firms such as fxfowle have this group. The Diversity and Inclusion group at Perkins Eastman also provides a platform for mentorship.
NCARB is trying to formalize mentorship programs, for various reasons, including how difficult that path to licensure is.
The AIA National Organization has not formalized mentorship per se. However, interestingly, an amendment to the AIA Code of Ethics formalize responsibility of Mentorship in relation to the Intern Development Program. Developing a comprehensive toolkit at the AIA National level would be a great step towards giving actionable, down-to-earth programs that can truly shift the needle. These efforts are vital in tandem with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts that are being prioritized at present.
Ways to find a mentor include getting out there to WIA events, AIANY etc. It’s essential to make time for these networking events – some suggest putting these events in one’s calendar and keeping disciplined, just as one would go to the gym or take one’s medicine.
All participants note how the mentorship is a symbiotic relationship with both sides learning from one another.
Good news is that there is ample room to ramp up mentorship. This is the critical next step and top-priority for VOW-Voices of Women Architects.
On the centennial celebration of the founding of the Bauhaus, an important influence on defining the Modern movement, a panel discussion at the Copenhagen Architecture Festival looked critically at the history from a gender perspective. Organizer Pernille Maria Bärnheim wove together a diverse panel including an Architectural Historian, Gender Studies expert and Professor Emerita and practicing architects and advocates. Architect Dorte Mandrup, cultural historian Birgitte Possing, Bauhaus expert Anja Baumhoff (co-author of Mythos Bauhaus) and Lone Feifer served as moderator.
Baumhoff painted a picture far different from the Bauhaus reputation and what we think about the Movement. Founder of the Bauhaus Walter Gropius served as first Director (1919-1928). He wouldn’t allow women to study Architecture. Many had tried, yet they were sent to the weaving room. He reportedly said women couldn’t think three-dimensionally (Coming from a man who couldn’t draw a line, Gropius seems to have confidence issues). One woman got a doctor’s note saying that weaving made her sick, and this rebel designer was able to do interior architecture and design nursery interiors. Baumhoff’s research is important, as it raises the question of whether if they knew it was wrong, what did they do to try to make corrective measures. From archival research, there’s evidence of “genderwashing” — efforts to cover up any evidence of outright gender discrimination–because remember – Bauhaus is supposed to be avant-garde, progressive, visionary. In the end, according to article by Charlotte Luxford on Women in the Bauhaus, only 11 female students managed to override the school’s policy to do architecture or metalwork.
Co-founder of VOW Caroline James spoke about her background as an advocate-designer, beginning from the Pritzker Petition to Recognize Denise Scott Brown as Equal Partner in 2013, to co-producing two “Flash Mobs for Architecture” in 2018 in Venice Italy an New York. The Flash Mob is a “spontaneous gathering” of hundreds of architects and supporters to demand respect, equality, equity and inclusion in Architecture.
It’s evident how at 100th birthday of the Bauhaus, there will be need to the movement not just on a pedestal but also under a microscope to calibrate how the Movement measures up in relation to freedom, equality and discrimination. I wonder to what extent the frustration arises from how it’s difficult to tease out what’s smoke and mirrors.
About the Event:
Bauhaus: Freedom, Equality and Discrimination Roundtable discussion as part of the Copenhagen Architecture Festival April 9, 2019, 17:00 – 19:00
In collaboration with @copenhagenarchitecturefestival and @goetheinstitut_daenemark
Lone Feifer, our moderator (DK): Architect, Director of Sustainability and Architecture at the Velux Foundation, member of the Danish Design Council, committee member of the Danish Association of Architects, board member of The Danish Architectural Press, board member of Forskønnelsen.
Anja Baumhoff (D): Social Historian specialised in Arts and Design history with a particular focus on Bauhaus and the modern. Author of ‘The Gendered World of the Bauhaus’ (2001), co-author of ‘Mythos Bauhaus’ (2009), and in May 2019 her new book ‘Der Neue Mann und das Bauhaus. Männlichkeitskonzepte in der klassischen moderne’ will be published. Professor at Hochschule Hannover – University of applied Sciences and Arts, also lecturer at a number of other institutions.
Birgitte Possing (DK): Professor emerita, dr.phil. in history and anthropology, author of ‘Argumenter imod kvinder’ (2018) amongst others, has held research and directorial positions at several cultural institutions.
Caroline James (US): Architectural designer, co-founder of Voices of Women in Architecture, author of several articles on architecture, equality, participatory design, and more.
Dorte Mandrup (DK): Architect, Founder and Creative Director of Dorte Mandrup Architects, Chair of the Jury of the EU Mies van der Rohe Prize 2019, Vice Chair of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Adjunct Professor at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, frequently invited as international Visiting Professor.
On occasion of International Women’s Day, ARCHITECTA and VOW hosted Mentorship in Design, a panel discussion with Finnish Architects at Oodi Central Library in Helsinki, Finland.
Moderated by Architect Marco Steinberg and Caroline James, Associate AIA, participants included six women who are firm leaders, project managers, academics, and senior urban planners in both governmental agencies and private companies: Pirkko-Liisa Schulman, Chair of Architecta (2015-2017), Freja Ståhlberg-Aalto of JKMM Architects, Anu Pustinen of Avanto Architects, Ulla Kuitunen of Sitowise, Miia-Liina Tommila of Tommila Architects and Kaleidoscope and Kirsti Sivén of Sivén & Takala. The object of the panel was to discuss Mentorship in Design in the context of Finland: What… Mitä se tarkoittaa? How… Miten? Why… Miksi? What’s Next…Mitä seuraavaksi?
Some discoveries included that mentorship is often informal, casual,”lucky”. For some, it’s about “that first door opening.” For others, mentorship has been all about communication–the ability to give and receive feedback. Mentorship is often the essential topping up of skills rarely taught in the schools such as business development. One panelist noted needing to learn many things “by jumping in water and learning to swim.” As someone who has had a strong mentor since graduating from Harvard GSD, I have tapped into her expertise and wisdom for everything from running a business to how to interact with consultants and contractors.
An interesting thread discussed is how interrelated mentorship is to collaboration and teamwork. Many have noted students are rarely given opportunities to work in teams and develop these skills in Architecture school. Or if they’re in teams, often they are graded individually, which defeats the idea of teamwork as it becomes an issue of “who did what” “who did more” etc.
Architecture would be more effective, more profitable and more inclusive if mentorship were a more rigorously defined and implemented part of our training, profession and discipline. Steinberg briefly described the organizational consulting he is doing, and how forward-thinking companies and institutions are crafting psychologically “safe” environments to learn and work in . Another Panelist noted that in their workplace, there are “no stupid questions.” These are all steps in the right direction.
Mentorship is critical, both at the schools, and in the profession. It’s the difference between knowledge sharing, development. As next steps, we will be learning more about organizations such as SAFA’s efforts to build out a mentorship program in Finland. It would be interesting to learn how different regions and professional bodies are developing these programs.
It’s unfortunate that INARCH did not include Doriana Fuksas as equal partner in their Lifetime Achievement Award.
TIME FOR 50 CAMPAIGN, EQUAL RECOGNITION TO ARCHITECT DORIANA FUKSAS
Architects Louise Braverman, Caroline James and Francesca Perani on behalf of Italian activistsRebelArchitette andVOW Architects, are launching a petition to request the inclusion of Doriana Fuksas, a recognized partner and Director of the Studio Fuksas, as an equal recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award given to Massimiliano Fuksas byINARCH Istituto Nazionale di Architetturabased in Rome, Italy.
More than 80 supporters have already signed the attached letter on the first day of its launch, including Massimiliano Fuksas, Denise Scott Brown, Rem Koolhaas, Paola Antonelli, Beatriz Colomina, Gisue Hariri, Toshiko Mori and Bjarke Ingels. This outpouring of support reflects the need for change in our profession. Women are a majority in the world and increasingly present in Architecture, however do not receive equal recognition.
Considering that the time is ripe for equal representation of male and female professionals for both seasoned professionals and those just entering the field, RebelArchitette recently launched the campaign #timefor50 (time for equality) with the aim to raise the level of awareness in both the public and private realm to consider inclusion in the promotion of events related to architecture.
The team’s self-published book “Architette=Women Architects 1⁄2 Here We Are!”, freely available for online viewing, was offered as a tool for this purpose. Three-hundred and sixty-five exceptional women architects from all over the world are listed as potential participants for events. These women are role models for the new and not-so-new generations. Read by over 7000 international users worldwide, the book had especially high readership from Italy, United States, India, United Kingdom and Australia.
RebelArchitette and VOW Architects ask that everyone add their names to the letter, joining the other enlightened professionals who understand the need for this vital change.