Women’s Voices in Architecture & Design in the Middle East
Editorial of 2A Magazine issue 16- Ahmad Zohadi
I was inspired to dedicate an issue to this theme following a recent visit to the office and studio of Dr. John Alexander Smith who is the Professor of Architecture & Interior Design at the American University in Dubai. During the visit, we acknowledged and discussed an observation that a majority of students in architecture and design programs are female. However when we compared the female presence in various large regional architectural firms, in terms of project administration and senior positions, we felt that there might well be a ‘glass ceiling’ that effectively curtails women’s involvement at the executive, decision level. In scaling this up: such an unfair and imbalanced proportion of women’s involvement and effective presence in the world of architecture need further examining.It seems to me that wherever we look, we can clearly see the perfect and absolute balance and harmony between male and female forces. Just about everything in creation is apparently harmonized by these two complementary forces. This balanced participation can be observed in nearly all species, in plants and in the animal kingdom. The notable exception is humanity, where the balance is distorted and disturbed in an unjust and unfair proportion. Why is that we as humans who are more evolved and advanced in terms of consciousness have failed to retain this perfectly natural and divine harmony between men and women?
What, we might ask, has gone wrong?
Of course the reasons have been investigated and studied by various sociologists, psychologists, historians and others. Due to sundry examples of injustice and domination by male-centric societies backed-up by convenient ideologies over many hundreds of years, women have been subject to oppression in all areas of life in almost all cultures. As a result of this ‘suppression culture’ a restriction in women’s development and participation in all areas of the workplace can be identified and, regrettably, architecture and interior design are no exceptions. Nevertheless, in the past 50 years or so, various women focused movements have worked hard to change this situation in all areas of society. Successful professionals such as Eileen Gray and Zaha Hadid at either end of the twentieth century became prominent personalities, won respect from their male colleagues and contributed their names to unique and world-famous projects. However, 2A believes that many women architects, artists and designers have a much higher potential than is presently acknowledged and would like to make a contribution to help redress matters.
We suspect that within the architectural profession female architects are generally under-represented, under-paid and under- recognized when compared with their male counterparts – in addition to involvement in architectural societies and institutions.
It is a deficit to society as a whole, not to enjoy a share of that creativity readily available from half of the population, and it is further compounded by intransigence in finding alternatives.Women by their very nature, imbue caring, accommodative and imaginative qualities which if allowed to manifest and flourish, help create more pleasant, peaceful and balanced environments. What is often missing in today’s societies and its sub-structures, of which architecture is one, is the feminine vision and touch. It can be argued that the masculine mentality is more focused on an assertive functionality than beauty. On the other hand the female vision tends to be more focused on aesthetic sensibilities, akin to sharing and creating enhanced, relaxed and peaceful environments. Women through an inherent nature are moved to create caring environments for others, especially for children, and this in turn leads to a more balanced outlook of societal structures and communities.
2A, in its role within the international media, believes that this unused potential should not be further ignored or denied. 2A wants to promote the progress of women in all fields, especially in the architectural and design professions. Furthermore we particularly want to draw attention to the emergence of eastern women by helping to promote their ideas and works, and sharing their ideas and initiatives with the rest of the world. There is an obvious gap between the east and west when the situation of women is investigated at a variety of levels. Consequently much needs to be done to help create a balanced state of progress for all architects and designers worldwide.
I have deliberately invited a woman architect, Ms. Homa Farjadi to assume the role of guest-editor for this issue of 2A. We believe that she will be best able to reflect and express the female vision of architecture and art. Indeed almost all projects and articles featured in this issue are authored by women.
2A magazine as an international phenomenon has continued to expand its connections and interactions with various international architectural centers, colleges and universities in addition to and especially those in the UAE. We look forward to continue hosting various specialized architectural seminars and other future events. In such a context we particularly welcome contributions from female architects and designers.