The second month in the Parlour Reading Room considered built environment professions through a feminist lens, examining and questioning diversity and inclusivity. We were thrilled to welcome Kerstin Thompson and Marie-Louise Richards to the Reading Room Conversation to further discuss the topic and our read-watch-listen materials with the Parlour community.
Check out the recommended material below and watch the video of the thoughtful and considered conversation.
Our second month considers inclusivity and diversity within built environment professions with Denise Scott Brown’s essay, “Room at the Top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture”, A.L Hu’s essay, “You might think you know me,” Marie-Louise Richards’ essay in Field Journal: “Becoming a Feminist Architect” and Elsie Owusu’s TED Talk about why diversity matters. We also provide a list of supplementary materials if you would like to delve deeper into this month’s topic.
As Marie-Louise Richards comments about reading Denise Scott Brown’s essay a few years ago – “How have I never read this before? This is everything!”
So, engage with what you can, discuss the readings with your book stack using our facilitation prompts, and watch the Conversation with Kerstin Thompson and Marie-Louise Richards. This thoughtful session includes a conversation about roles of care in practice and the profession, and how this often falls to women. It’s essential work but is largely unpaid (by clients), invisible and under-appreciated.
- Denise Scott Brown, Room at the Top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture, Smithsonian Institute Press.
Approximate reading time: 20 mins
- A. L. Hu, You might think you know me, Architect Magazine.
Approximate reading time: 5 mins
- Elsie Owusu, Architecture: Why diversity matters, TED Talk video, November 2019.
Approximate watching time: 20 mins
- Marie-Louise Richards, Hyper-visible invisibility: Tracing the politics, poetics and affects of the unseen. Field Journal, 7 (1), pp. 39–50. (Shorter option: pp. 39–42).
Approximate reading time: 40 mins, or 10 mins for the shorter option pp. 39-42.
- Justine Clark, Sexism is still with us, MAS Context, 2015.
Approximate reading time: 10 mins
- Khensani de Klerk, Dead Fish on the Beach, Matri-Arch, 2019.
Approximate reading time: 15 mins
- Despina Stratigakos, Why architects need feminism
Places Journal, September 2012.
Approximate reading time: 15 mins
Book stack discussion prompts
- In Denise Scott Brown’s Room at the Top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture, she discusses architecture’s obsession with stardom and star-architects. Do you think that this kind of status affects inclusivity within the profession?
- Do you feel that women and non-binary people in architecture have to become as “macho as the men” (Brown, 1989) to survive in the discipline? Do you have any experiences of such behaviour being rewarded?
- In their essay, A. L Hu propose the following questions to consider:
- What stereotypes about power do you believe when it comes to men, women, and other genders?
- Have you made assumptions about someone’s work ethic, personality, or politics based on what I perceived to be their age, gender, race or class?
- Do you listen to students, reports, consultants, and clients with the intent to understand, or to critique?
- What would a conversation about inclusion beyond binaries—man/woman, supervisor/worker, professor/student—look like?
- Marie-Louise Richards describes in her essay the experience of “lacking a sufficient or satisfactory vocabulary for addressing the effects” of race and architecture and the power of language to control and frame “ways in which we are able to speak and think within the current hegemony of whiteness” (Richards, p.40). Do you feel there are any intersectional vocabularies missing from your design/built environment profession?
- Considering that “how we imagine spaces also depends on who is doing the imagining and what traditions, history, languages and mythologies they have inherited” (Richards, p 51). What spatial/design practices do you consider “normal and neutral, consider to be the universal” (Richard, p. 41)? How can you start to interrogate your own assumptions?
Our Reading Room conversationalists
Marie-Louise Richards is an architect, lecturer and researcher at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Her work explores invisibility as embodiment, a critical strategy and a spatial category through methods of architectural and artistic practice, curatorial practice, and writing. Recent work includes: Banana-Split: a (Black) Power Walk, short-film, part of Power Walk (Air) Mossutställningar/Public Art Agency Sweden (2020) Out of Line: Erasure and vulnerability as sites of subversion in, Archifutures: “Agency” Vol. 6 (2020), Hyper-visible Invisibility: Tracing the Politics, Poetics and Affects of the Unseen, in Field Journal: Becoming a Feminist Architect, Vol. 7(2017). She is part of the collaborative research project Spaces of Care, Disobedience and Desire: Tactics of Minority Space-Making with Natália Rebelo and Rado Ištok.
Kerstin Thompson is Principal of KTA and Adjunct Professor at RMIT and Monash Universities. A committed design educator she regularly lectures and runs studios at various schools across Australia and New Zealand. In recognition of the work of her practice, contribution to the profession and its education, Kerstin was elevated to Life Fellow by the Australian Institute of Architects in 2017. She plays an active role in promoting quality design within the profession, and the wider community, through her position as Panel Member on the Office of the Victorian Government Architect’s Design Review Panel and Board Member for Melbourne Housing Expo, a research group led by The University of Melbourne. A passionate defender of civic space and advocate for extracting new life from our built heritage KTA’s redevelopment of the Broadmeadows Town Hall won the 2020 Victorian Architecture Medal. Current works focus on education and cultural programs and include a Gallery, Collection Store & Visitor facilities for the Bundanon Trust at Riversdale NSW and the Jewish Holocaust Centre.