It’s been a good week for women in architecture in general, except for one female architect in particular.
In the first instance, the Architect’s Journal announced the finalists for its inaugural Women in Architecture awards. The magazine’s recent championing of female architects, and highlighting of inequalities within the profession, is commendable. Among its findings was that the proportion of female architectural staff in the UK has actually declined since 2009, from 28% to 21% – this despite the proportion of female architecture students being roughly 50%. That work-life balance is evidently hard to strike in a profession many say is still inherently masculine, with its long apprenticeship, long working hours, and emphasis on competition rather than collaboration. No wonder they’ve called it the WAA – it sounds like a cry of despair, doesn’t it?
The shortlists aren’t too depressing, though. Eight women are up for the award, including Amanda Levete (formerly of Future Systems, doing well on her own), Roisin Peneghan (of Peneghan Heng, designers of the new London Olympics footbridge) and Sarah Wigglesworth (whose fine Sandal Magna primary school gained her a lot of attention last year). There’s also an award for emerging woman architect of the year. The prizes are announced on 20 April. There’s a nice (if confusingly Anglo-American) infographic on women in architecture here, by the way.
The woman for whom it has not been such a great week is the first female architect most people would name: Zaha Hadid. She’s up for the WAA as well, but first she lost out on the competition to design the prestigious new Bauhaus Museum in Weimer, Germany, for which she was the only British architect in contention. Her absence was conspicuous, too, when it came to another architecture award: the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) announced the 23-strong shortlist for its inaugural national awards this week, and Zaha’s Glasgow Riverside Museum for Transport isn’t on it, despite being surely the highest-profile new building in Scotland of the past year. It wasn’t a unanimously popular project, but its omission has baffled even its critics. Was it because Zaha has won the Stirling prize for two years running? Has she just become too big?