HISTORY & PERSPECTIVE Global in Architecture
Women have come a long way from where they had started in Architecture & Design. Among the early examples are the two European women playing an important part in architecture, designing & defining the development of buildings under construction.
In France, Katherine Briçonnet (ca. 1494–1526) was influential in designing the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, supervising the construction work between 1513 and 1521 and taking important architectural decisions while her husband was away fighting in the Italian wars.
In Britain, there is evidence that Lady ELizaBeth WiLBraham (1632–1705) studied the work of the Dutch architect Pieter Post as well as that of Palladio in Veneto, Italy, and the Stadtresidenz at Landshut, Germany. She has been put forward as the architect of Wotton House in Buckinghamshire and of many other buildings. It has also been suggested that she tutored Sir Christopher Wren. Wilbraham had to use male architects to supervise the construction work. There is now much research including that by John Millar to show she may have designed up to 400 buildings including 18 London churches previously attributed to her pupil Sir Christopher Wren.
Towards the end of the 18th century, another Englishwoman, Mary Townley (1753–1839), tutored by the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds, designed several buildings in Ramsgate in south-eastern England including Townley House which is considered to be an architectural gem. The daughter of a French-Canadian carriage maker, mother Joseph Pariseau (1823–1902) was not just one of the very earliest female architects in North America but a pioneer in the architecture of the north-western United States. In 1856, together with four sisters from Montreal, she moved to Vancouver, Washington where she designed eleven hospitals, seven academies, five schools for Native American children, and two orphanages in an area encompassing today’s Washington State, northern Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.
Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856–1913) from Waterloo, New York, is said to be the first American woman known to have worked as a professional architect. In 1876, she took a job working as a draftsman in the office of Richard A. Waite and F.W. Caulkings in Buffalo, New York where she worked for five years, demonstrating she could hold her own in what was a masculine profession. In 1881, she opened an independent office partnered with her husband Robert Bethune in Buffalo, earning herself the tile as the nation’s first professional woman architect. She was named the first female associate of the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) in 1888 and in 1889, she became its first female fellow.
Since architecture became organized as a profession in 1857, the number of women in architecture has been low. Some early women had struggled to make a place for them as successful ones. Both Julia Morgan and Ethel Charles went through setbacks and rejections but were firm in pursuing career of their choice.
Julia morgan (1872–1957) was more successful as she was the first woman to receive a degree in architecture from the École des Beaux-Arts. She was initially refused admission as a woman in 1896 but reapplied and was successfully admitted in 1898. Aft er graduating in 1901, she returned to California where she had a prolific and innovative career, blazing new paths professionally, stylistically, structurally, and aesthetically, and setting high standards of excellence in the profession. Completing over 700 projects, she is especially known for her work for women’s organizations and key clients, including Hearst Castle in San Simeon, considered to be one of her masterpieces.
Th e first woman to be admitted to Britain’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) was etheL charLes (1871–1962) in 1898. She and her sister Bessie were both trained as architects under the partnership of Ernest George and Harold Peto. In 1893, they both attempted to continue their training by attending the Architectural Association School of Architecture but were refused entry. Ethel completed part of the course off ered by the Bartlett School of Architecture, receiving distinctions.
There is an interesting instance to share regarding Katherine Cutler Ficken (1911–1968) who was an American architect said to be the first woman to be licensed as an architect in Maryland. One of her clients was the University of Maryland, yet despite her clearly established capabilities and credentials, being a woman presented significant challenges in her professional life. When she asked to attend a dinner and annual meeting hosted by the Maryland Society of Registered Architects, she received a letter from the organization’s President, still on the fence about whether to accept her request.
Library Design at the University of Economics in Vienna by first female Pritzker Prize winner Zaha Hadid.
Several women architects have had considerable success in recent years, gaining wide recognition for their achievements. In 2004, the Iraqi-British architect zaha Hadid became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Prize. In 2010, Kazuyo seJima from Japan became a Pritzker Prize winner in partnership with Ryue Nishizawa. In 2007, anna heringer (born 1977, Germany) won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for her METI Handmade School built with bamboo and other local materials in Rudrapur, Bangladesh. And ofcourse Jeanne gang, the architect we admire for her Aqua Tower and more. She has been awarded as‘Woman architect of the year 2016’ ‘by the British magazine, The Architectural Review. In 2010, as per records, Sheila Sri Prakash was the first Indian Architect invited to serve on the World Economic Forum’s Design Innovation Council, where she created the Reciprocal Design Index as a design tool for Holistically Sustainable Development. In 1992, she was a pioneer of environmentally sustainable architecture and said to have designed a home with recycled material.
HISTORY & PERSPECTIVE Global Interior Design
Interior designing in general has a very old history; however the profession seems to have got organized only around 1920s to 30s. In US, the largest professional organization in the field at the time, American Institute of Interior Designers (AID) was founded in 1931. As with almost all professions, women in the universe of design have historically struggled to find a place at the table. The American Institute of Architects counted 83,000 members at the end of 2012, yet only 18 percent are women. In contrast, according to Interior Design’s recent Universe Study, of the 87,000 interior designers in the United States, a whopping 69 percent are women.
Women have been leading and are definitely taking the lead in the field of interiors!
In America, candace WheeLer was one of the first woman interior designers and helped encourage a new style of American design. She was instrumental in the development of art courses for women in a number of major American cities and was considered a national authority on home design.
In 1905, Elsie De Wolfe obtained her first commission as an interior decorator, and is identified as being the first interior decorator. In 1913, she goes on to publish the first recognized book on interior design “The House in Good Taste”.
In England, syrie maugham became a legendary interior designer credited with designing the first all-white room. Starting her career in the early 1910s, her international reputation soon grew; she later expanded her business to New York and Chicago. Interior design was previously seen as playing a secondary role to architecture. It also has many connections to other design disciplines, involving the work of architects, industrial designers, engineers, builders, craftsmen, etc. For these reasons the government of interior design standards and qualifications was often incorporated into other professional organizations that involved design. Organizations such as the chartered society of designers, established in the UK in 1986, and the american designers institute, founded in 1938, were established as organizations that governed various areas of design.
PAST WOMEN ARCHITECTS & DESIGNERS OF INDIA
Of the little information that we could get about Perin Jamsetjee Mistri (1913-1989) believed to have been the first woman to qualify as an architect in india, is that she was born on 1st of January 1913 and expired on the same date in 1989. At the age of 10 she went to England and completed her education from the Croydon High School. Upon her return to Bombay, she joined the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art, gaining an architecture diploma in 1936. She joined her father’s firm M/s. Mistri and Bhedwar in 1937 (which started in 1891), eventually becoming a partner.
One of Perin’s first works was Sir Behramji Karanjia’s bungalow at Carmichael Road. Her other works included residential, industrial and public buildings (Khatau mills) and St. Stephen’s Church. The information about her work is received through HECAR Foundation. Mistri’s work, unfortunately, has never made it to the heritage listing in Mumbai because of her absence in documented history.
Gira Sarabhai (1923- ), born into an elite industrialist family in Ahmedabad, had no formal education as an architect. She along with her brother Gautam Sarabhai worked at Taliesen with Frank Lloyd Wright during the 1940s (As per the book by Jon. T. Lang, ‘A concise history of Modern Architecture in India’). She is credited with major contribution to modernist architecture, with excellent design projects and path-breaking institution building.
Urmila Eulie Chowdhury (1923-1995) was based in Chandigarh, and had a degree in architecture from Australia in 1947. Having worked with Le Corbusier for many years and later breaking many male bastions in her career, she is hardly known in the field beyond Delhi and Chandigarh. Some sources state that she was also the first female architect in Asia.
Pravina Mehta (1925-1991) obtained her master’s degree in architecture from the University of Chicago. Her notable architectural designs include the Patel House, Kahim, a weekend resort facing the sea built in 1962, and the Factory Chinchwada in Maharashtra called the J.B. Advani Oerlikon Electrodes Factory, which was built in 1963. Her major historical contribution remains the conceptualization and proposal in 1965 of the New Bombay’ plan along with Charles Correa and Shirish Patel.
Hema Sankalia (1934-2015) who graduated from the J J School of Art in the mid-1950s has made major contribution to the profession and academia in India. She had first worked with the eminent woman architect, Pravina Mehta in Mumbai. From lowcost housing, to private residences, office buildings, institutions and public spaces, her architectural practice has been wide-ranging. In 2015 after her death, her son Tanu Sankalia, an architect & urban designer, visited CEPT to archive her work for future references. Surfaces Reporter appreciates this move made by Tanu Sankalia and requests others to follow the same for the sake of preserving history & continuity. As Madhavi Desai puts it firmly, “Most of the women mentioned above were held in high esteem by their clients, yet they have not been included in the mainstream histriographic canon. They are hardly known nationally to students of architecture or the community of architects.”
On the occasion of international Women’s day 2016, Surfaces Reporter Pays tribute to all the pioneering Women in the history of world & Indian architecture & design.
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