Architectural Theory Review vol:17 issue:2-3 pages:331-345
The gender identity of the ‘masters’ of the Modern Movement as well as of the more recent ‘star architects’ almost invariably tends to be male. This article aims at theoretically unravelling how it is possible that this situation has persisted up till nowadays.
The 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, especially when that role model is manifested through the concept of ‘genius’. Second the metaphors that describe the performance of the avant-garde in architecture – cutting edge, innovation, daringness, originality – are more in line with ‘masculine’ than with ‘feminine’ features. Third the idea of authorship is crucial for the self-conception of the profession, which benefits men more than women, since the latter tend to stress teamwork rather than authorship. 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. 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 is backed up by a discourse analysis of the jury citations that legitimize the selection of the Pritzker prize winners from 1979 onwards. Combined with evidence from scholarly literature, the article argues that the different contributing factors reinforce one another, making up for a system that continues to produce heroes and no heroines.