News

Women architects debate future ways to work


28 July 2015

The University of Sydney in collaboration with Parlour Inc will host a panel of four powerhouse women architects for a robust debate on changes needed in architecture to create a more equitable and sustainable profession in the future.

The panel will be facilitated by Parlour editor and co-founder Justine Clark at University of Sydney's Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, on Wednesday 5 August, and features Sydney architects Stephanie Smith (Lend Lease), Rachel Neeson (Neeson Murcutt Architects), Camilla Block (Durbach Block Jaggers) and Imogen Howe (Allen Jack+Cottier).

Dr Naomi Stead, Parlour co-founder, said: "The architecture industry finds itself beleaguered in the current market - disempowered, marginalised, and subject to pressures that make it difficult for architects to stay afloat.

"In this context, gender equity might seem like a minor concern. But we would argue the opposite. Making sure you have the best and brightest people in your workforce, fulfilling their full potential, is absolutely central to the sustainability and viability of the profession. More than this, a more diverse concept of who can be an architect and how they might practise is also key - demographic diversity is linked to diverse ways of practising, and that is crucial in the present, highly-stressed environment."

All architecture graduates of the University of Sydney, the panel of speakers collectively has extensive experience working for large Australian and international architects, infrastructure companies and running their own practices over the last three decades.

The panel will speculate on different roles women might play moving towards a more equitable and robust profession. If the survival of the profession long-term depends on diversity, how might this be reflected in architecture's demographics, ways of working, and modes of practice? How should a practice be redesigned to support diversity? How does gender equity expand the definition of architectural practice and engagement, and what does this offer the discipline and community? These are just a few of the questions that the panel will tackle.

Parlour began as a communication platform for an ARC-funded research project 'Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work, and Leadership' (2011-2014)'. Led by Dr Naomi Stead, this investigated the relatively low number of women progressing to senior levels in the industry. Following the completion of that project, Parlour became a not-for-profit organisation with gender equity in architecture at the centre of its cause - a topic of interest shared by the University of Sydney.

Parlour brings together current research, informed opinion and resources on women, equity and architecture in Australia. It seeks to change the popular misperception of a male-dominated industry, challenging stereotypes and clich├ęs about who can be an architect, and revealing the many women today who contribute in diverse ways.

"We're delighted that there is now a significant appetite for change within the industry. Since the inception of Parlour, many new initiatives have been born. The Institute of Architects now has a Gender Equity Policy and a National Committee for Gender Equity. While the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects has launched the Male Champions of Change program," said Justine Clark.

"The question is not whether we can afford gender equity, but whether we can afford to miss out on its benefits. Only if architecture becomes more inclusive and equitable, will the profession be able to fulfil its own potential," said Dr Naomi Stead.

The panel is presented by the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning Alumni Association and coincides with Parlour's current exhibition Portraits of Practice on display in Tin Sheds Gallery at the University of Sydney.

Event Details:

What:Portraits of Practice: At Work in Architecture

When: 5 August, 6-8pm

Where: Wilkinson Building, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, 148 City Road, University of Sydney

Cost: Free

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Media enquiries: Mandy Campbell, 0481 012 742or mandy.campbell@sydney.edu.au