The female architects changing the game
March 8th is International Women’s Day, formerly known as International Working Women’s Day. On this day we commemorate women’s struggle for the right to participate in society and remember the long history of efforts and sacrifices made in the fight to achieve equality in all fields, including architecture.
We asked the Enero Architecture team about the women changing the game in their field and which female architects they find especially inspiring. Among the responses were Kazuyo Sejima, Anna Heringer, Fuensanta Nieto, Raili Pietilä, Ángela García de Paredes, Lina Bo Bardi, Carme Pinos, Benedetta Tagliabue, Beatriz Colomina and Ray Eames. We’ve selected 3 of them in order to explore the role of women in architecture from the 20th century up until now.
LINA BO BARDI, THE TRADITION OF MODERNITY
“Linear time is a Western creation; time is not linear, it’s a marvelous tangle in which, at any moment, points can be chosen and solutions come up with, with no beginning or end.”
The Italo-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, born Achilina Bo, La arquitecta italobrasileña Lina Bo Bardi, nacida como Achilina Bo, figured out how to display architecture from a humane point of view, like a discipline inseparable from its social condition. The architectural experience and concept of dwelling characterize a work which places people center stage, understanding Brazilian culture from the convergence of the aesthetic vanguard and popular tradition.
The architect also had a fruitful career in the journalism and publishing sectors. She worked with Gio Ponti on his magazine Quaderni di Domus, eventually rising to the position of editor, and along with Bruno Zevi, founded the weekly publication A Cultura della Vita at the same time she was participating in the Italian Communist Party’s resistance movement against German occupation.
Drawn by the prospects of prosperity and the attractive stage of Brazilian architecture, bold and promising, Lina and her husband Pietro Maria Bardi decided to emigrate to the Latin American country in 1946, like so many other Italians at that time.
SAO PAULO ART MUSEUM, AN ART CONTAINER BEYOND LIMITS
In 1957 in this South American country, construction began on what is perhaps her most famous work, the Sao Paulo Art Museum (or MASP.) It was completed in 1962 after several interruptions and was praised by the international architectural community. A faithful example of her architectural vision, MASP was conceived as an unfinished space that would be completed through popular daily use.
For Lina, architecture had to be, above all, humane and accessible to all, just like culture should be.
THE PERFECTION AND DISCRETION OF KAZUYO SEJIMA
“I’m interested in the relationship that a building has with its location. That’s why my buildings are never isolated and always have an interior life.”
The Japanese architect and co-founder, along with Ryue Nishizawa, of the firm SANAA, proposes an architecture focused on inhabitation, between the material and the abstract.
She trained at the Women’s University, a progressive institution focusing on small-scale projects. This training allowed her to dedicate herself to the minute study of housing and to consider the house like a cell, an original space preceding the collective. Each one of her dwellings illustrates its architectural biography and interests at all times.
The simplicity and scale of the necessary configure non-independent, soluble spaces which the architect explores through form, figure, materials and the natural light which inundates each one of her projects.
THE SAISHUNKAN SEIYAKU FEMALE DORMITORY, A DIAGRAM OF MODERN LIFE
This project earned her the Young Architect of the Year Award from the Japanese Institute of Architects, beating out numerous male colleagues for the prize.
The architect reflects modern lifestyles, here represented in a non-hierarchical, perfectly-diagrammed space. Put first are the solutions which establish greater physical, functional and qualitative proximity between the public and private spaces, as a representation of modern life and future society. Each bedroom is connected to the common area, above which independent spaces house the restrooms, kitchens and facility hubs.
On the exterior, Kazuyo demonstrates faith in the idea of conceiving a building as an extension of the urban environment, opening up large spaces that let in natural light and controlling the size of the project, allowing its integration into the everyday scale of the residential neighborhood in which it is located.
Each of Kazuyo’s projects is stamped with her brand of dedication to time and personal effort, taking into consideration solutions that go beyond the habitual.
ANNA HERINGER AND ARCHITECTURE AS A TOOL TO IMPROVE LIVES
“Less concrete, more earth.”
The architect Anna Heringer is undoubtedly one of the most influential women in the current architectural panorama, as demonstrated by the exhibition that the Madrid museum ICO dedicated to her between February and April of 2022.
At 19 years old, she worked in Bangladesh with the NGO Dipshikha. She learned how to trust locally-available materials and resources, a philosophy that she incorporated into her vision of architecture as a tool to improve lives. Sustainability allows her to integrate into her projects, on the one hand, the beauty of the harmony between design, structure, technique and materials, and on the other, the locality, environment, people and socio-cultural context.
Adhering to this philosophy, she, along with Dipshikha and Veronika Lang, launched Dipdii Textiles, an initiative that aims to change the current exploitation experienced by the textile workers of Bangladesh. The project is based in the region’s textile traditions and is focused on improving the quality of life of the community.
THE RURAL METI SCHOOL, BALANCING ARCHITECTURE, SOCIETY AND SURROUNDINGS
The recipient of the 2007 Aga Khan Architecture Award, the rural METI school unites the fundamental pillars of Anne Heringer’s process: involving the local community in its creation, reviving traditional techniques and taking full advantage of local and existing resources.
Earth and bamboo are the materials traditionally used in the architecture of Rudrapur, where the school is located, and the project utilized the same chief materials. The local residents’ knowledge of the materials played a key role.
Besides reducing costs and production of prime materials, the project touched the local economy by hiring resident laborers and working with neighboring merchants. Anna Heringer has focused her vision and personal motivation on exploring and utilizing architecture as a means of building cultural and individual confidence, supporting local economies and promoting ecological balance.