Nicolai Ouroussoff Tackles the Gender Debate for Women Architects


The question “Is there a glass cieling [sic] in architecture?” was not asked per se at “Women in Modernism,” a panel held at MoMA last week, where architectural historian Gwendolyn Wright (and Modernist junkie) led a discussion about women who have had an impact on Modernism.

But reviewer Nicolai Ouroussoff has his own theories about that unscratchable glass ceiling, and they don’t sound so different from what we’ve heard from male graphic designers before:

A young architect with serious creative ambition is routinely expected to work endless hours for little pay. Recognition and high-profile commissions, if they materialize at all, typically arrive in an architect’s 50s–well past the typical age for starting a family. Not surprisingly, many of the most famous men in architecture today–now in their 60s and 70s–depended heavily on the support of their wives as they rose through the ranks. The wives ran their offices, raised their children and loyally bolstered their egos. But you won’t find their names on the front door.

He also points to another phenomenon, which definitely holds true for architects, perhaps less so for designers of other kinds: husbands and wives are working as teams in greater numbers than ever. Even though this working arrangement brings women much-needed prominence, it’s not necessarily preferable for minting female superstars:

And if it’s true that this cliche has now been mostly supplanted by another–the husband-and-wife team, working side by side at the computer screen–how does this help a woman striving to make it on her own? Who are her role models? In New York Lindy Roy, Annabelle Selldorf and Winka Dubbeldam are all important architects who are just starting to leave a mark on the city–without, I should add, husbands to balance their books and stroke their egos. But such examples are few and far between–and even they are still relatively unknown.