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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Another Reunion

Another reunion is coming up. My architecture school class is holding its 25th this weekend. As far as I know, I'm the only woman in my undergraduate class to go to architecture school - though it was seventeen years later that I began, in 1979.

I learned so much in those three years. A new way to see, and to think about the world. It was intense and incredibly exciting.

But it wasn't easy. I had to commute by bus and subway an hour a day EACH way, often staying until late at night at the studio, leaving only in time to catch the last train home at midnight. My daughters were 12, 10, and 7 when I started. Somehow I considered them to be mature enough to manage without any special day care arrangements and - remarkably, and to their enormous credit - they DID manage. What was I thinking? My husband had never bargained for such a life, and it is also to HIS enormous credit that this queer and unexpected business worked out as well as it did.

Amazingly, I graduated. But the summer of 1982 wasn't a good time to be looking for a job in architecture. Any firm that was hiring wanted people who knew how to DO stuff. And since it was all I could do to just get through school, I had never was able to work at a part-time job (as most others did) in order to get the needed practical skills.

In time I began to work on an ad hoc basis for this small firm where I worked on the kinds of projects I enjoyed and felt most comfortable with - residential renovations and additions. This kitchen is a project that I was most proud to have been primarily responsible for, though it's my understanding that the house has since changed hands and undergone further renovations, most likely obliterating my work. Sigh. I read once that buildings are the most fragile art and that paper is the most enduring artifact over time; I think it's true, though one would tend to think just the opposite.

I can't wait to see the old gang; they're all older now than I was then, though of course I still think of them as kids. Many have gone on to brilliant careers and have made some beautiful spaces. And I'll be especially interested to hear from the women. Coincidentally there has just been a symposium at the MOMA about women in architecture. The NYT report tries to find reasons for optimism, but their foreboding headline for the event is "Keeping Houses, not Building Them", and the overall conclusion is discouraging, suggesting that for women in the profession there is still a glass ceiling that "has yet to be scratched, much less shattered", despite their roughly equal numbers in the schools. Can this be true?


Anonymous elaine said...

Loved your blog - I got so engrossed an hour went by before I knew it! I too read that article yesterday in the NYT about the women in architecture; very depressing indeed. But I'd call the glass ceiling more like a concrete ceiling! It did make me look up the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (which I'd never heard of before), and they seem to be doing interesting research work discovering architecture produced by women:


Now, if we could only find an organization interested in promoting current work by women architects . . .

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those were the years of manicotti, meatloaf and elephant stew, Dad's special (only) recipes. Z

11:21 PM  

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