Where Architecture and Feminisms Intersect

Miriam Ho, Toronto, Canada  Ruth Jones, Toronto, Canada / Los Angeles, United States  Stephanie Bailey & Mark Woytiuk, Edmonton & Vancouver, Canada  Yam Lau, Toronto, Canada  Éloïse Choquette, Montréal, Canada  Džesika Devic, Kitchener, Canada  Maike Hemmers, Rotterdam, the Netherlands  April Wong, Toronto, Canada  Lydia Karagiannaki, Brussels, Belgium  Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, Edmonton, Canada  Acre Architects, Saint John, Canada  Stephanie Lee, Boston, United States  Amrit Phull, Bangalore, India 

Every month we present a Global Roundtable in which contributors are asked to respond to a specific question as it relates to one or more of ArtsEverywhere’s lines of Inquiry.
List of writersHover over a name to see an excerpt of their response…click on the name to see their full response.
Stephanie Bailey & Mark WoytiukThey ask questions that persist: How do we commemorate the victims of ongoing, systemic forms of misogynistic violence? How do we begin to work against beliefs and behaviours perpetuated by colonial and patriarchal frameworks? How do commemorate something that is not gone?
Yam LauThe practice of Nüshu was simply left alone within the patriarchal system. This is not at all surprising given the strict gender divisions and their clearly defined social roles and responsibilities in feudal China.
Éloïse ChoquetteTo deconstruct gender and systems of oppression, we have to go through the necessary process of unpacking, of tearing down the rules that created said oppression to begin with. The same process must be applied to our built environments.
Dzesika DevicThe lens of photographer Dzesika Devic, featured here, reveals the valuable perspective of a young woman in a mode often associated with the male figure of the flaneur.
Lydia KaragiannakiExpanding notions of care/labour and re/production developed by material feminists, our research focused on the link between women’s location and respectability and on the expectations projected upon the female gender (e.g. the mother, the worker, the consumer, the city-loiterer).
April WongAs on a stage, the movements of the doll can be encouraged or deterred by the structure of the set as much as the props that accompany the rooms. The doll acts as a register of experience.
Maike HemmersBy refusing the conscious set-up of a home—through decorations, aesthetics, and the creation of a cozy atmosphere—women distance themselves from the cultural expectation of taking care of the home. Caring or not caring for certain objects seems to be a feminist decision.
Tiffany Shaw-CollingeFamily is a large part of Indigenous culture. As a mother, daughter, and/or aunty, how do these roles affect your architectural methodology?
Acre Architects & Ruth JonesEach marker that hangs suspended in the floor to ceiling installation pictured in Acre Architects’ proposal for the 2018 Venice architecture biennale is different: bands of red, orange, yellow, and green, blue and pink and purple and black coding for schools and prizes and positions. Together, they’re a mock-up of what the results of an overview of Canada’s women architects might look like.
Stephanie LeeA common attitude prevails when it comes to discussing the dynamics of gender on campus: to admit that one is a woman at MIT and to frankly address the context of gender at the institution is to admit to being complicit in receiving some sort of assistance or having enjoyed some kind of imagined unfair advantage—and thus to admit that one is unqualified. Thus, many women on campus avoid addressing the subject of gender entirely.
Amrit PhullSearch results: Why women always complain it’s cold in the office; Office air conditioning IS cold for women; Why women secretly turn up the heating. Studies have shown that a woman’s extremities are three degrees colder than a man’s.

This roundtable is the third in a series of roundtables convened by The Site Magazine. Read their roundtable on borders here, and writing on the vernacular in architecture can be found here.

Miriam Ho

Miriam Ho

Miriam Ho is a writer, editor, installation artist and architectural designer based in Toronto. She also writes fiction and narrative essays. She previously worked for internationally renowned architects Philip Beesley and Shigeru Ban.

Ruth Jones

Ruth Jones

Ruth Jones is a writer, editor, and curator currently based in Toronto. She holds a PhD in French from UCLA and has previously taught courses on urbanism, infrastructure, and narrative at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

Introduction

A 2004 article by Mary MacLeod in Harvard Design Magazine remarked on a quiet period in feminist theory in architecture.[1] The author, a scholar of architecture history and theory with a focus on the twentieth century and its successive modernisms, would know—she is one of the writers she alludes to in referencing a “flood of publications” on feminism in architecture that appeared in the 1990s. The drought, it would appear, is over, though the multiple versions of feminism that have rushed into architecture’s scholarly, professional, critical, and pedagogical channels in recent years has a different cast than that last inundation. Stay close to architecture as a discipline and you find a proliferation of commentary on women in the profession, from Despina Stratigakos describing Architect Barbie’s American Institute of Architects debut in the online version of Places journal in 2011 to The Architectural Review’s “Women in Architecture Survey,” which since 2012 has offered a statistical overview of the working lives of women in practice in the U.K., and a chorus of female architecture students demanding gender representation on juries. Go further afield and you will find efforts to understand the spatialization of power structures in urban environments, managed landscapes, and domestic spaces where feminist understandings of social hierarchy, biopolitics, and public/private divisions collide with questions of race, class, sexuality, and non-binary understandings of gender. The current issue of The Site Magazine takes on these questions, using female experience and feminist theory to explore power, reconfigure history, question the design of the city, and craft new versions of domestic productivity.


[1] Mary MacLeod, “Perriand: Reflections on Feminism and Modern Architecture,” Harvard Design Magazine, no. 20 (2004), accessed online May 15, 2018, http://www.harvarddesignmagazine.org/issues/20/perriand-reflections-on-feminism-and-modern-architecture.


The Site Magazine is Canada’s longest running independent magazine for architecture and urbanism. The following roundtable for ArtsEverywhere is a curation of content from Volume 38: Feminisms. The excerpts of pieces published in this volume were selected for their ability to frame, individually and collectively, the specific ideas outlined above. To read complete pieces and the full breadth of the current issue, please visit: thesitemagazine.com

Stephanie Bailey

Stephanie Bailey

Stephanie Bailey is writer, researcher, and editor working in Edmonton, AB. Her partnership with Mark Woytiuk is based on the meandering weave of bifurcating paths and a refusal to submit to irreconcilable differences.

Mark Woytiuk

Mark Woytiuk

Mark Woytiuk has two degrees from the University of Alberta Department of English and Film Studies and one from the University of British Columbia's School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (M.Arch 2015). His partnership with Stephanie Bailey is based on the meandering weave of bifurcating paths and a refusal to submit to irreconcilable differences.

Stephanie Bailey and Mark Woytiuk

Remembering What is not Gone

When a gravel parking lot was built on a watershed in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 2013, a flock of geese were forced to seek sustenance elsewhere. They briskly moved on, landing in the centre of Thornton Park and nesting in the national Women’s Monument, Marker for Change. Here a 300-foot circular lawn, circumscribed by fourteen pink granite benches, commemorates each victim of the 1989 École Polytechnique shooting in which a gunman in Montreal murdered fourteen female engineering students. Each bench is marked with a textured, oval depression where water naturally collects. These collection pools are as much a yonic emblem as they are a symbol for tears. An inscription dedicates the monument to “all women who have been murdered by men.” The message is lost on the birds. They made the space their home and the benches have been covered in goose excrement ever since.

Marker of Change, Thornton Park, Vancouver, February 11, 2018. Photo: Cristina Craiu.

In 2015, the derelict state of the monument became a popular subject in local news. The national Women’s Monument ought to be an exemplar of feminist commemoration in Canada. But rather than memorializing a tragedy, the benches serve as testament to the shortcomings of monument-building as a means of keeping memory and intention alive. The unexpected side effect of the controversy is that it gave the monument new life, allowing it to emerge (if only for a moment) from the shadowy parkscape into which so many permanent urban memorials disappear. The media attention, focused on its natural defilement, calls for a reconsideration of the aesthetics of remembrance and asks us to speculate on the possible futures of feminist memorials.

Feminist modes of commemoration have historically served a dual purpose: to facilitate mourning and mobilize change. In their various forms—art exhibitions, vigils, monuments, sculptures, the creation of a safe space to honour the Polytechnique victims, a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women—they are a focal point for grief and catharsis. But their impact and intent is oriented towards the future. They ask questions that persist: How do we commemorate the victims of ongoing, systemic forms of misogynistic violence? How do we begin to work against beliefs and behaviours perpetuated by colonial and patriarchal frameworks? How do commemorate something that is not gone?

Yam Lau

Yam Lau

Born in Hong Kong, Yam Lau is an artist based in Toronto. His work explores new expressions and qualities of space, time, and the image. In addition, Lau has initiated a number of independent projects that explore alternative models of art and design dissemination. These include using his car (Toronto), a donkey (Donkey Institute of Contemporary Art, Beijing, China), and his custom-designed home in Toronto (China Town) as project spaces. Currently Lau is professor of art at York University, Toronto.

Yam Lau

Nushu Echo Chambers

I first learned of Nüshu around 2010. Literally translated as “women’s hand,” Nüshu is a form of writing that was invented, practiced and circulated exclusively amongst women in an isolated county called Jiangyong in Hunan province, China. Despite illiteracy being the norm in feudal China, women in Jiangyong (an area roughly less than 60 km in diameter) invented their own form of writing based on a creative adaptation of standard Chinese characters and traditional decorative patterns. Nüshu script was taught and disseminated among a “sworn sisterhood” mainly through the circulation and exchange of journals, songs and craftwork. The content of the journals are mostly short prose pieces and poems that express the daily struggle and longing of their female authors. Many Nüshu poems were integrated into daily life as songs. Also, given its origin in decorative patterns, Nüshu script was frequently sewn on clothing or fabric; these sewn scripts were intricately integrated with other motifs to form complex designs that are simultaneously abstract and textual.

Nüshu is sometimes labeled as the “secret writing of women.” This appellation, all too eagerly embraced by the West perhaps, highlights Nüshu’s subversive role in feudal patriarchy. But I came to regard this interpretation as erroneous. Nüshu was practiced openly, if not widely (due to the relative geographical isolation of the region and it being phonetically tied to the local dialect ) during its lifetime. The practice of Nüshu was simply left alone within the patriarchal system. This is not at all surprising given the strict gender divisions and their clearly defined social roles and responsibilities in feudal China. These restrictions actually warranted women a certain degree of freedom within the feudal economy. Also, given that illiteracy was the norm in agrarian, feudal China, possession of a script that enabled communal and individual expression in a remote region would not have posed as a threat to the status quo.

Digital Still of the installation Nüshu: Echo Chambers (2014). Artwork and photograph by Yam Lau.

Today Nüshu is a “dead” language. The last living practitioner is now in her 90s. Not only is Nüshu no longer practiced but surviving material artifacts are also extremely rare. According to custom, Nüshu artifacts, such as personal journals and embroidery work, were usually burned when their author passed away. Later, widespread censorship of its circulation and destruction of Nüshu artifacts during the Cultural Revolution, coupled with the democratization of education, which opened access for women, contributed to Nüshu’s demise. Through my traveling between the network of villages where Nüshu used to circulate, I was fortunate to meet the oldest Nüshu practitioner Miss Ho. I recorded her songs to form the basis of my installation entitled, Nüshu: Echo Chambers. Nüshu was once a living, empowering practice that fostered intimacy, community and expression. Perhaps it is through artistic means that its living spirit can be accessed, commemorated and transmitted.

Éloïse Choquette

Éloïse Choquette

Architect by day, writer by night, intersectional feminist always, Éloïse Choquette is a Université de Montréal and a McGill graduate. While studying, she was involved in student associations and various creative and activist endeavours. After graduating, Choquette continued her involvement in the community by joining a collective fighting to preserve a historic building and the Board of Rock Camp for Girls and Gender Non-Conforming Youth Montreal. Choquette’s professional practice has focused on Inuit communities in Nunavik and Nunavut.

Éloïse Choquette

Queering Architecture: (Un)Making Places

The way architecture and design are explained and portrayed in dominant discourse remains incomplete and static: the general attitude that stakeholders and professionals have towards buildings rarely takes into account how time will affect the spaces we create beyond a period of thirty years. This lack of long-term vision reinforces the profound disconnect between architecture and the space it occupies: the land upon which it is built, the places or non-places it creates, the time during which it is conceived—queer places have always unconsciously understood and needed to be aware of these relationships, if only for security reasons.

A queered architecture becomes radical as it proposes a new paradigm: an architecture that is simultaneously built and unbuilt, is in constant shift, is in a state of flux; an impossible architecture that is constantly in mutation, metamorphosis, fluidity. To deconstruct gender and systems of oppression, we have to go through the necessary process of unpacking, of tearing down the rules that created said oppression to begin with. The same process must be applied to our built environments.

We, as a society, run after a utopia, wrongfully equating perfection with goodness and beauty because this is what we have been taught for decades, if not centuries. Similarly, architects also aim for unattainable perfection, by considering that a good design is one that plans for the worst yet remains elegant and seamless; in other words, perfect and flawless. Strangely, nature consistently shows us that life thrives through imperfections and accidents, through constant and never-ending transformation. Queer spaces, as spontaneous, transformative, and elusive spaces, also embody this spirit very well. Space, therefore, should not be measured through its perceived perfection, but rather through the glorification of its failures, because design is deeply unpredictable and ultimately flawed and this should be embraced.

Džesika Devic

Džesika Devic

Džesika Devic is a self-taught film and digital photographer. In 2007 she received her first film camera and began to photograph the mundane. Her photographs span subjects and explore different mediums, but storytelling is a constant thread.

Dzesika Devic

What is Street?

For Volume 38: Feminisms, The Site Magazine profiled six exceptional photographers from across the country who define street photography in their own terms and images by offering an intimate series of non-commissioned work taken in each of their hometowns. Each series provides an often-surprising view into the ordinary. Casting the everyday in an unfamiliar light reveals the potency of street photography to reimagine our environment through a new lens. The lens of photographer Dzesika Devic, featured here, reveals the valuable perspective of a young woman in a mode often associated with the male figure of the flaneur. Dzesika explains her images by talking about her experiences as a photographer, her relationship with her hometown Kitchener, and her ability to see something exceptional in the everyday backdrops of life:

“I have never thought about how being a girl has affected my photography. I am just a photographer and I love taking pictures of people, whether it’s street, portrait, or my family. Of course, it is generally more difficult for girls to get jobs but new platforms are helping.

These photos are from a series called “At Night We Awaken” because I feel like I wake up when everyone else is asleep. Sometimes I end up in sketchy areas, but I love seeing the remnants of the day, traces of what has happened. I feel like my photos can spark the stories from the day that people who were there might not tell.

I don’t think people see Kitchener in this series, and it makes me so happy to show them something familiar in ways they couldn’t have imagined. When I moved here from Toronto I realized I was the only person on the street taking photos. People are constantly trying to get behind my lens to see what I see.”

Lydia Karagiannaki

Lydia Karagiannaki

Lydia Karagiannaki is a Brussels-based architect and researcher with an interest in architectural production, consumption and pedagogy. She holds a BA in Architecture from TU Berlin and a MA in Architecture from KU Leuven/Sint Lucas Brussels. In her work she explores relational aspects of the built environment, systems of hegemonic power structures and their transgression, and biographies of objects and places.

Lydia Karagiannaki

Girls at Dhabas

When a woman enters public space, she draws an invisible pattern of a magnetic field. Vectors of gazes are pointing to her: the public space is the space of appearance, it is here where she is expected to “perform.” During a typical design studio project in our Masters of Architecture at KU Leuven, we were asked to design housing units for the city of Karachi, Pakistan. Our project soon turned into a study of the gendered division between the domestic and the public space in the case of Pakistan. Expanding notions of care/labour and re/production developed by material feminists, our research focused on the link between women’s location and respectability and on the expectations projected upon the female gender (e.g. the mother, the worker, the consumer, the city-loiterer). Our project developed around an extended email and video interview which we conducted with Sadia Khatri from Girls at Dhabas, a Karachi-based feminist group concerned with women’s participation in public space. The group was created as a spontaneous platform of women who were visiting male-dominated tea rooms (dhabas) and were uploading selfies of themselves on social media.

Lydia Karagiannaki, screenshot of Girls at Dhabas’ Instagram.

As Sadia emphasizes, there are two important and conscious parameters in the activism of Girls at Dhabas. On the one hand, they concentrate on the purposefulness of being in public, and how this is being instrumentalized by patriarchal structures in order to legitimize oppression and violence. In the end, our project proposed five interventions for the architecture of the housing block, five “provocations” for the meta-space of architectural critique, including a closed, women-only garden and a communal kitchen. The sixth part is the email exchange with Sadia, printed and presented as censored letters.

When we presented the project, the classroom was confused. Why should the residents agree to share their private kitchen? Why is the roof garden designed only for women when we advocate for the non-gendered use of public space? And why should the men wait for the women to finish their make-up in the unisex toilet? The guest critic, a famous male architect from Pakistan, had already heard about Girls at Dhabas. “Those are girls from upper-class families. Enjoying the privilege of education and protection, they only play with fashionable terms on social media.”

But their social status does not erase the fact that the Girls openly enter places specifically designed for men, and thus “hack” the built apparatus set in place to hide women from public view. They challenge the link between visibility and respectability. They choose to be visible, exposed, vulnerable. They reverse the vectors of the gaze: moving out of the domestic and into the public, they morph from objects into spectators.

April Wong

April Wong

April built her first cardboard prototype in 1991 and has been experimenting with spatial design ever since. In 2013, she acquired her Master of Architecture and founded TUMBLEhouse, an independent design studio. Currently based in Toronto, April continues to explore the walls we build and destroy, and their effect on our lived experiences.

April Wong

Casting The Dollhouse

A dollhouse is a model of a house. Opening up to reveal a sectioned perspective, the dollhouse allows one to see the entirety of the interior as an assembled display. From a privileged vantage point—an omnipotent perspective—we are invited to inhabit the staged events. Its material framework, spatiality, passage, function, and aesthetic describe the architectural construction of a domestic ideal. Through the dollhouse, we present and imitate life on a furnished stage.

However, the dollhouse is not simply a miniaturization of a house, for it is crafted to contain the doll. She is framed and contained by its decor, division and usage. As on a stage, the movements of the doll can be encouraged or deterred by the structure of the set as much as the props that accompany the rooms. The doll acts as a register of experience. We relate to the house through her, and we participate through her movement. Seamlessly, the doll embodies our own projections and sentiments, and we embody her encounters.

April Wong, The Woman Trapped Inside the Doll. Artwork and photography by April Wong.

As a model of life-sized reality, the dollhouse parallels current beliefs and idealized life-styles, reflecting social relations that define domestic values. The internal framework of our modeled houses—the organized thresholds and curated spaces by which we are forced to abide—actualizes our abilities and movements within the space, regulating rhythms and patterns of living. We are presented with role models and model homes to set examples of and to demonstrate a model life.

Conventional norms dictate the production of available models as well as the dolls that are made to fit inside. Yet the doll itself is a manifestation of an imagined or ideal portrayal of a person’s body, a form molded by cultural ideals, and created to fit into social and infrastructural models. Commercially camouflaged as mere playthings, dolls and dollhouses are sold as images of what we could be and more importantly, should be. So we mold our own bodies according to the image presented; we become the Doll in order to live in the Dollhouse.

Maike Hemmers

Maike Hemmers

Maike Hemmers is an artist from Germany based in Rotterdam. After graduating from her MFA in art praxis at the Dutch Art Institute, she is working within the space of feminist architecture, focusing particularly on interiority as a mode of resistance. Recent and upcoming works include textile sculptures, drawings, and text works presented in printed and performative form.

Maike Hemmers

Such a “Housewife”

I work from home, mostly at my dinner table, between the fruit bowl and a candle, a basket filled with cables and a stack of post-its. Working from home is a conscious decision made in opposition to historically and culturally defined ideas and imagery of the professional artistic life. It is born of my skepticism towards studio culture. I feel supported at home, not only by the functionality of items that fill a designated place of work, but by all things I have gathered and arranged to define my domestic life and myself.

Femininity and the home are so closely connected that quite a few of my female friends seem to reject the idea of a living environment beyond its functionality. By refusing the conscious set-up of a home—through decorations, aesthetics, and the creation of a cozy atmosphere—women distance themselves from the cultural expectation of taking care of the home. Caring or not caring for certain objects seems to be a feminist decision.

Yet for many female artists who work from home, her living room is her studio. Frances Stark describes herself as a “housewife” despite being a single, financially independent artist, making the connection through her production of labour as a worker (an artist) and a private person in her domestic environment: for the housewife, the house is not “a site of accumulating production but a site of a series of simultaneous productions which bear no evidence of productivity—save for the fact that the house isn’t falling apart.”[1] Virginia Woolf links work to privacy: historically, women occupied the common rooms of a house, a space where she was never alone. Woolf questions whether good) work can be produced outside of the privacy of a space of one’s own: “Would Pride and Prejudice have been a better novel if Jane Austen had not thought it necessary to hide her manuscript from visitors?”[2]

Maike Hemmers, Pen on post-its (2017-2018). Artwork by Maike Hemmers.

Interiority is privacy; it is a space of agency to oppose the forces of the public. The poet and critic Quinn Latimer compares stanzas to rooms and the space words inhabit, like paper or a screen, a void. Thinking is also a process of privacy, and again translates to a room inside a void. “And there is a world outside. What is inside? Another world: her privacy.”[3] Interiority surpasses its initial meaning as one part of the interior/exterior dichotomy of the physical house. Even our body is an interior—a space we can fill up, empty, or leave unoccupied. The interior space of reflection and creation can transcend the reductivism of domesticity. Production happens in the inside, but the material produced eventually extends beyond its inner boundaries and penetrates the exterior to transform a reality unsuitable for our needs. I work the intimate, interior space of the home, but all that is produced will eventually leave the home.


[1] Frances Stark, The Architect & the Housewife (London: Book Works, 1999), 12.

[2] Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 78.

[3] Quinn Latimer, Like a Woman (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017), 104.

Tiffany Shaw-Collinge

Tiffany Shaw-Collinge

Tiffany Shaw-Collinge is an interdisciplinary artist and intern architect based in Edmonton, Alberta. She is the recipient of a major commission for Edmonton's forthcoming Indigenous Art Park, has produced several notable transitory art works, and is a core member of Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective.

Tiffany Shaw-Collinge

An interview with Harriet Burdett-Moulton, Wanda Dalla Costa, Ouri Scott, and Kelly Edzerza-Bapty

In a recent issue of Azure Magazine, Daniel Viola states in his article, “Canada 150: The Integral Role of Indigenous Architects,” that “[b]efore 1961, any Indigenous person who attended post-secondary school or wanted to enter one of many professions needed to enfranchise, thereby losing their status. Indigenous architecture was, at the time, almost non-existent.” Today, there are just under twenty registered Indigenous architects within Canada and about the same number of architectural interns. Five of these architects are women. Their names are Harriet Burdett-Moulton, Wanda Dalla Costa, Ouri Scott, Eladia Smoke, and Rachelle Lemieux. The question below is part of a longer discussion with three of these architects—Harriet, Wanda, and Ouri—as well as Kelly Edzerza-Bapty who, like myself, is an intern architect. Collectively, these strong Indigenous women represent communities across Western Canada, the Territories, Labrador, the Arctic, and Arizona. They carry out their work on reserve, in urban environments, and in remote locations—work that is driven by knowledge sharing, community, and sustainability. The full interview investigates the range of Indigenous methodologies and practices in the field of architecture today.

Tiffany Shaw-Collinge – A Gathering Place for All | The Aboriginal Learning Centre. Photo: Wanda Dalla Costa.

Q. Family is a large part of Indigenous culture. As a mother, daughter, and/or aunty, how do these roles affect your architectural methodology?

Harriet Burdett-Moulton:
I learned to fish, hunt, sew, and cook through observation and practice by trailing my relatives as I grew up and helping in any task they were involved in. All major tasks involved consultation and consensus.

My first degree was in Arts & Education and my first professional job was as a teacher in Povungnituk, Arctic Quebec. Architecture has its own vocabulary and my teaching experience has made it possible for me to explain complex concepts to people with no architectural background. Early learning experiences at home helped me guide the consultation process with community groups and stakeholders to come to design consensus.

Wanda Dalla Costa:
I think about support networks where kinship ties, social networks, or communities are precious and need special consideration in architecture. Ways of connecting people should be our primary aim in creating built environments. How are we providing spaces for people to come together, share, nurture, and support each other?

Kelly Edzerza-Bapty:
I am the youngest daughter of the youngest daughter from a family of twenty children, all of whom were born outside of hospital care by a midwife. Needless to say, I am from a huge family, which includes both my grandparents’ sides and their extended family. I am a daughter of the Etzenlee Matriarch. I am from the Wolf-Eagle clans of a matrilineal-based society where property and hunting areas are passed through the woman’s lines. As a member of my clan, community, and Nation (Keyo, Kiye & Kime), I have an obligation to support our future generations and assure that our strength is carried forward. My role is to help mend and re-generate our cultural continuum.

Ouri Scott:
As a mother, I have become sensitive to issues around accessibility. When using a stroller, you begin to notice the limitations of inaccessibility and reduced mobility. As architects, we must understand as how to best provide safety and accessibility to participants in our designs.

As part of a large Indigenous family, I have a strong sense of community and what it means to be a part of something greater. This is often distinct from the non-Indigenous experience within Vancouver, where municipal and housing policies around community centre master plans are only beginning to focus on integrating people rather than perpetuating the exclusion of varying opinions. Conversations on intergenerational relationships and the role they play in reconciliation and resiliency are starting to appear in the planning realm. While policy-making is beginning to reflect these Indigenous values, it is also beneficial for all non-Indigenous cultures that live in an intergenerational framework, which better reflects Vancouver’s multicultural makeup.


Harriet Burdett-Moulton is a senior architect and a Fellow of the RAIC, originally from Cartwright Labrador, currently with Stantec. In 2017, she received a Doctorate of Design and was awarded the Labradorian of Distinction medal.

Wanda Dalla Costa is an Institute Professor and Associate Professor at Arizona State University. She is a member of the Saddle Lake First Nation and has spent nearly twenty years working with Indigenous communities in North America.

Kelly Edzerza-Bapty is an intern architect who was raised in the Northwest Territories and Northeastern B.C.

Ouri Scott is a Tlicho Dene architect originally from the Northwest Territories, who currently lives and works in Vancouver and thanks the Musqueam/xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Squamish/Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh/Sel̓íl̓witulh for allowing her to live on their territories as an uninvited guest.

Acre Architects

Acre Architects

Acre Architects is a practice of storied architecture – inspiring people to live great stories. Based out of Saint John, New Brunswick, they are expanding the role of contemporary architecture in Atlantic Canada. Committed to creating original, provocative, contextually driven design, the Acre believes – we are what we create.

Images by Acre Architects, Text by Ruth Jones

The Registrar’s Office: A Call for Data

Each marker that hangs suspended in the floor to ceiling installation pictured in Acre Architects’ proposal for the 2018 Venice architecture biennale is different: bands of red, orange, yellow, and green, blue and pink and purple and black coding for schools and prizes and positions. Together, they’re a mock-up of what the results of an overview of Canada’s women architects might look like. A response to a swell of data on the one hand—The Architect’s Journal and The Architectural Review’s annual “Women in Architecture” survey—and the seeming void that exists on the other—there is no official tally of the number of women who are registered architects in Canada, let alone any census that would yield more detailed statistics—the proposal, titled The Registrar’s Office, imagines a way to find the missing data and turn it into a kind of heraldry, a way of making visible the professional lives of women architects across the country: for each one of them a coloured marker and for each colour a meaning.

Acre Architects – Visualization of the installation The Registrar’s Office (2017).  Rendering by Acre Architects.

The starting questions are simple: Where did she go to school, does she teach, how old is she, does she hold a position of power in her firm (owner, founder, or partner), would she recommend architecture to women, does she have children, has been awarded a gold medal, what associations is she a member of? Even within this limited scope, the individuation of the data begins to break down the statistics we’re used to seeing, especially if we envision the markers changing over time, adding positions and prizes and children (or not) over the course of a long career. The markers give ownership to achievement and imagine professional networks as essential components to the success and survival of women in a field where, according to an informal survey conducted in 2016, they are outnumbered 3 to 1 by their male colleagues: 6,845 men versus 2,781 women registered as architects in Canada.[1] By accumulating data on every one of the 2,781 registered architects identified as women in 2016 and any and all who follow them, the differences and similarities in the narratives behind the data begin to stand in relation to each other. To imagine gender disparity in architecture in terms of networks and achievement is an optimistic position, one that looks for opportunities for the individual.


[1] The survey, conducted as part of Acre Architects’ research for their Venice proposal with the help of Karen Chantler, the Executive Director of the Architects’ Association of New Brunswick, relied on data she collected for Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities (CALA).

Stephanie Lee

Stephanie Lee

Stephanie Lee is a M. Arch candidate at MIT School of Architecture and Planning. She graduated with an A.B. in architecture from Princeton University and was previously an assistant editor at CLOG.

Stephanie Lee

Power Lunch

Women have historically been underrepresented at MIT, a problem that MIT has tried to resolve through aggressive gender-based recruitment. This has given rise to the insidious myth that the women on campus are not inherently qualified to be at the school—that female students, benefiting from the institution’s need for representation by their gender, have an easier time gaining admission to MIT and get by on lower standards. The myth is pervasive in many corners of the student body. Women are viewed by some people on campus as beneficiaries of a kind of affirmative action, inherently under-qualified and perceived as having an easier way into the university as opposed to men, who “have no leg up.” Despite their ability to succeed at a level equal to or beyond the abilities of their male peers, many women at MIT continue to feel insecure about their capacity to perform.

A common attitude prevails when it comes to discussing the dynamics of gender on campus: to admit that one is a woman at MIT and to frankly address the context of gender at the institution is to admit to being complicit in receiving some sort of assistance or having enjoyed some kind of imagined unfair advantage—and thus to admit that one is unqualified. Thus, many women on campus avoid addressing the subject of gender entirely.

Power lunch poster #8.

The absence of open conversations about the experiences of women in architecture inspired me to organize “Power Lunch,” a guerrilla conversation series at MIT in 2017. While the subject matter of discussing women’s experiences in architecture was not revolutionary on its own, for us at the school it felt truly groundbreaking and legitimizing to be able to openly acknowledge that women do indeed have a unique experience in architecture, a unique set of challenges, and that it was valid to discuss the inequities within the profession. With nearly every single lunch mentioning the need for both maternity and paternity leave, as well as the desire for mentorship, guidance, and solidarity with other women, it became evident that women face similar logistical obstacles. Mimi Zeiger, in an essay titled “On Gender” published in The Architectural Review, asked: “In honoring the ladies of design, do we risk divorcing them from the overall discipline, thus marginalizing their accomplishments, or do ‘women spaces’—hard-won outgrowths of equal-rights fights of previous decades—offer much-needed forums for discussion and action on the inequalities still faced within the academy and workplace?” I feel strongly that these women-spaces, or places for women to come together both in solidarity (whether it be through movement building, achievement awards, exhibition, etc.) and in physical spaces, are necessary and valuable when our role in the profession still feels tenuous.

Power lunch poster #11.

Amrit Phull

Amrit Phull

Amrit Phull is one of The Site Magazine’s contributing editors and a designer and writer. She is attracted to places of cultural friction and keen to build ideas on ethical and empathic practice through writing, research, and practice. Amrit is currently based in Bangalore.

Amrit Phull

Threadcount, a response to Leila Plouffe’s soft sculptures, photographed by Sean Trayner and modelled by Stephanie Dover, Ayesha-Jade Reece and Jessa Gillespie.

iii. Women, strangers, sit in twos on the streetcar, adorned in the textures of their morning rituals. Tied together by knits, weaves, braids, we lift our eyes from winged lines of kohl and watch ourselves being looked at. Our thumbs and fingers stroke the glass of our phones. Mine quivers with the words “MECH. ENGINEER MEETING” winking at me from inside the little blue box on my screen. Sitting across from a man to talk about his missteps is a practice. Quit blowing your hot air through my windows.

Soft sculpture by Leila Plouffe. Photo: Sean Trayner.

iv. But he refuses to meet with a woman alone, a woman unsupervised. My male colleagues spit heat in disbelief. Sometimes you raise your voice only to hear the futility of your own breath. So I walk into the meeting room behind a man. I wear him like a cloak.

v. I speak to the list of changes: inconsistent duct widths, redundant RTU’s , absent vertical chases. It is an utterly banal and benign conversation, but the seed of doubt planted in my throat by the voice on the other line begins to blossom—my voice cracks. Sometimes I sound like gravel, sometimes I sound like coffee and cream, Nina Simone once said. And she wore a glorious knot of jewel-toned cotton upon her crown when she said it. Brown skin does not blush easily.

vi. Walk into an air conditioned office in the middle of July and you’ll find the women under heaps of the scarves, sweaters, and blankets they’ve accumulated in the largest drawer of their filing cabinet, with one arm reluctantly extended towards a mouse and the other on a keyboard. I open a tab on Chrome.

vii. Search results: Why women always complain it’s cold in the office; Office air conditioning IS cold for women; Why women secretly turn up the heating. Studies have shown that a woman’s extremities are three degrees colder than a man’s. The rhyme to our shared discomfort goes PMV (predicted mean vote) = [0.303e-0.036M + 0.028]{(M – W) – 3.96E-8ƒcl[(tcl + 273)4 – (tr + 273)4] – ƒclhc(tcl – ta) – 3.05[5.73 – 0.007(M – W) – pa] – 0.42[(M – W) – 58.15] – 0.0173M(5.87 – pa) – 0.0014M(34 – ta)}. Developed in the 1970s by Ole Fanger as a standard for heating and cooling spaces, this score of letters, numbers, and symbols was composed for a hypothetical 40-year-old man weighing approximately 154 pounds. Why do we trust systems that were never designed for us? How often are women pinned three or more degrees behind someone befitting this description? It feels unwise to contemplate this statement any further. I pull the shawl further above the cold tip of my nose and navigate to my inbox. Attn: Mr. Phull,

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