by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA
Last week, I attended Matrices: The 2nd International Congress on Architecture and Gender at the Universidade Lusofona in Lisbon, Portugal to present The Missing 32% Project: Equity in Architecture Survey findings to an International audience of academics, practitioners and students. The theme Matrices has several definitions and they are all inclusive by nature. Matrices are environments where things develop, the models or patterns that shape formations, and they can also reinvent an environment. These images are suited to address the current patterns of change regarding architecture and gender. We found the conference theme to be concurrent with the mission and activism associated with Equity by Design.
The 3 day Conference featured presentations that provided a broad forum for discourse on the history and current state of practice for women in architecture around the world by architects, philosophers, historians from Portugal, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Sweden, Costa Rica and the United States.
The content of each presentation was energizing, provocative and ranging in a broad spectrum of topics; Works and achievements of architects Lina Bo Bardi, Ray Eames, Eileen Gray; Niche feminist activism by a Chicago group called CARYATIDS; Cinematic influences on the image of Architects, The unique tension surrounding Iranian Women's Parks, recruiting and teaching architecture to Saudi Arabian women and a call to action for forming a Matrices network of research, best practices, and dialogue.
The opening keynote speaker was Spanish Architect Ariadna Cantis, whose business model expands beyond traditional practice and parallels current discussion of "Architecture And" conversations; expanding the design reach of our profession into communications, graphics, user experience, metrics, and social media.
Martha Thorne, Executive Director of The Pritzer Prize was also present as a participant on a featured roundtable discussion on Matrices, the theme of the conference. She spoke of the need to focus on 3 key areas for continuing the movement for women in architecture. Creation of Alliances, leveraging Technology, and raising a call to Action would be critical to making an impact for the representation and recognition of women in architecture going forward.
Jane Rendell was the closing Keynote presenter who spoke of her newest work in publication "Site Writings" which continues to explore new interdisciplinary concepts and processes such as ‘critical spatial practice’. Ms. Rendell, a professor at Bartlett School of Architecture at University College of London, is also a writer, art critic and architectural historian/theorist/designer, whose work explores interdisciplinary intersections between architecture, art, feminism and psychoanalysis.
Conference sessions were complimented by 2 nearby museum exhibits featuring the Varina, an iconic Portuguese Fisherwoman, representing strength and resolve of spirited women in Lisbon's rich history. The spirit of the Varina is evident in her proud posture which reminded me of Denise Scott Brown's widely known pose in Las Vegas. Similarly, Varina is alive in the leadership of our gracious hosts of the conference, Patricia Santos Pedrosa, Maria Joao Matos, and Eliana Sousa Santos and their colleagues at LABART Lusofona who ambitiously sought to continue a much needed conversation on architecture and gender in an international forum.