Mar 23, 2021 Newsletter

Let’s talk about female architects and designers

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We close the week of International Woman’s Day with an article about female architects and interior / furniture designers. Today’s article is written by Ahead‘s team member Marta Font.

Although female leadership in the field of architecture has been growing exponentially in recent years, in Barcelona no woman has ever been the chief architect and, according to a study by the COAC, only 29% of architectural practices are headed by women.

Both locally and internationally, the visibility of women architects in history, especially before 1970, is extremely limited.

This working women’s week we would like to talk about references for us in the world of architecture and design. There are many women we could talk about, today we pick 3 of them.

Eileen Grey 
Eileen was born in Ireland on 9 August 1878 into an aristocratic family. This enabled her, despite her status as a woman, to study in London and travel around Europe.

She went to live in Paris and became very interested in the technique of lacquering, where she attended the workshop of Seizo Sougarawa Sugawara for 4 years to learn this technique.

There, she also opened a decoration shop where she sold her pieces, called Galerie Jean Désert. She also participated in the Salon d’Automne, which helped her to make a name for herself.

As time went by, Eileen became interested and focused on architecture, designing, among other things, her holiday home on the French coast, which Le Corbusier marvelled at.
She lived in this house for 10 years with her partner at the time, Badovici. Eileen was bisexual, but none of her relationships came to fruition.

Eileen Gray died on 31 May 1976 in Paris, aged 98.

Eileen Gray was an artist who, despite her womanhood and the times in which she lived, was able to defy everything and live against the establishment. She was also bisexual, a fact that further complicated her career. She was overshadowed by her male peers, but despite this, Eileen sought her own path and fought to make a place for herself in the world of architecture.  She did not join any of the artists’ groups or associations of her time, such as Le Corbusier and Mies Van Der Rohe.

At the time she did not enjoy great recognition, but today she is considered one of the most important architects and furniture designers in the history of art.

Zaha Hadid 
Born in 1950 in Iraq, Zaha Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to London in 1972 to study architecture at the Architectural Association (AA).

Zaha’s revolutionary ideas were based on two of her pillars; on the one hand the basic theory of 20th century modern architecture “form follows function”, and on the other the idea of freedom, a discourse she tried to reflect in her buildings, expressing above all her social concern, a value instilled by her father, leader of the democratic party in Iraq. “If you really seek freedom, you don’t seek it only for yourself,” he said in an interview in 2008.

Despite being born into a wealthy family and having no economic difficulties, her path was not an easy one. Being a woman and being born in an Arab country did not make things much easier for her. Despite this, she has managed to overcome them by far, always relying on her ability to be free and to be able to do what she wanted. From a very early age she fought for her great passion, architecture, and became the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize on her own.

The architect passed away unexpectedly in 2016.

The Baghdad-born feminist should today be a great example to all of us of struggle and perseverance, and to all those who, for some discriminatory reason, have suffered difficulties in developing their professional future.

Carme Pinos 
Born 1954 in Barcelona. Graduated as an architect from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona. She founded her first studio with her partner, Enric Miralles, in 1955.

Although they signed all the projects together and nothing was done if they did not agree, she felt that she was left in the rearguard.
She said: “You fall in love with the figure you have been in love with since you were little: big, powerful, seductive… That was my father and that was Enric Miralles, whom everyone also adored… I emptied myself, but he was the one who appeared behind the work”.

One of the great projects they did together was the Igualada Cemetery (1991).

And it was after their divorce that she decided to go on her own and set up her own studio in Barcelona (Estudio Carme Pinós) where she has been working with a team of 13 collaborators for more than 20 years.

She combines her work as an architect with teaching at various universities.

What we like about this architect is the daily routine with which she carries out each of her projects. Her sensitivity, the importance of the context and the environment, of embracing this environment. She can’t stand the idea of someone feeling enclosed in a building. Her work is a continuous search for the annulment of hierarchy, for non-imposition.

And all this is reflected in her works, among which we can highlight the Caixaforum in Zaragoza (2014), the Mexican Torres Cube (2005/2014), or the Massana School of Art and Design in Barcelona (2017).

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