We live in a listicle age. Why write an article when you can clump a few names together and call it a trend? So when Los Angeles Magazine listed six women who have changed the face of Los Angeles architecture, which included one dead AIA Gold Medalist and two New Yorkers, it was bound to create outcry. Brava to the three local gals who made the cut, but let’s celebrate all the women of the L.A. architecture and design scene. When local schools put one lady on the lecture series and pat themselves on the back, we know more needs to be done for gender equity.
A number of advocacy organizations questioning the ethics of architecture practice in the United States have received a flurry of attention recently. The New York Times commented recently on the San Francisco–based Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility’s petition to revise the AIA’s stance on solitary confinement and torture. The New York–based Architecture Lobby made waves in 2014 with protests denouncing the continued prevalence of unpaid labor among architects. Before that, Harvard’s Women in Design provoked top figures in the field to take a stance on the failure of the industry’s awards to adequately acknowledge collaboration in 2013.
The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF), a non-profit dedicated to “changing the culture of the building industry, for women, through education and research,” just announced that after a national search it has chosen a new executive director: James T. Hanley, formerly the senior associate director of development at Barnard College. Hanley has undergraduate and advanced degrees in architecture along with an MBA and an MA in Art History and claims he will use his “skills in program development and financial management to broaden the role of the organization throughout the United States.”
Beverly Willis, the founder of BWAF, said that Hanley is “keenly aware of the issues encountered by women in the design industry” which will “enable BWAF to build on its prior successes and help women achieve their professional and personal goals through our programs and outreach.”
Under Hanley’s leadership, the organization is launching a number of new initiatives in 2014. These include the exploration of a program for women as emerging leaders and the impact of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) as factors in success. Another new initiative is “Built by Women: New York City,” a focused collection within the Foundation’s Dynamic National Archive (DNA), which BWAF plans to use as a pilot for similar projects for cities around the country. Finally In 2014, it will complete its project entitled “Women of 20th-Century American Architecture,” to highlight the contributions of 50 outstanding women who significantly shaped the built environment in America.
The AIA Gold Medal Award is the highest honor an architect can receive from the American Institute of Architects. Until now, the award could only be presented to individual architects, but the AIA has just announced that as of January 1, 2014 this prestigious award will be open to an individual or two individuals who have equally collaborated on the design and execution of one distinguished architectural body of work that makes a lasting statement on the theory and practice of architecture.