SAH Annual Meeting edition:63 location:Chicago date:21-25 April 2010
The gender identity of the ‘masters’ of the Modern Movement as well as of the more recent ‘star architects’ invariably tends to be male (with the notable exception of Zaha Hadid). This paper will seek to unravel theoretically how it is possible that this situation has persisted up till nowadays.
My hypothesis is that this masculine dominance has to do with a dovetailing between different factors, which reinforce one another. First the traditional role model for architects has been gendered male, as can be gathered from countless myths of origin as well as from other source material (Hughes 1996; Stratigakos 2008). Second the metaphors that describe the performance of the avant-garde in architecture – cutting edge, innovation, daringness, genius etc. – are more in line with ‘masculine’ than with ‘feminine’ features (McLeod 1996; Battersby 1990). Third the idea of the architect as the ‘leader’ of a team hinges upon images of leadership that are predominantly masculine too. Fourth the work ethics (long hours, stringent deadlines, total dedication) are not easily compatible with family life, which remains more a problem for women than for men (Fowler and Wilson 2004). Fifth the construction site is generally seen as hostile to women, with construction workers perceived as physically strong and rough men who are not easily ‘taken in hand’ by women.
This hypothesis will be backed up on the one hand by a concise discussion of relevant literature. On the other hand I will perform a discourse analysis of the jury citations and essays that legitimize the selection of the Pritzker prize winners from 1979 onwards. This will highlight how the different contributing factors reinforce one another, making up for a system that continues to produce heroes and no heroines.