Women in architecture

By James Merry

As a father to a daughter, it has become increasingly apparent to me that there is still some way to go for true gender equality in our society despite much progress being made over the past 100 years.

The UK has fallen from 9th in 2006 to 26th in the World Economic Forum's (WEF) gender equality index. This decline was largely due to a decrease in economic participation, a measure which includes estimated earned income, labour participation and the number of women in senior positions.

“In the economic participation subsets the UK appears to remain some way off, with the country ranking 48th in terms of both labour force participation and wage equality and 66th for estimated earned income." - World Economic Forum.

In the built environment just 34% of officially qualified UK architects are women, that's 4,000 of the 27,000 registered and closer to home, preliminary findings from a recent CGArchitect survey show that just 6% of survey participants employed in architectural visualisation are women.  However, there has been some progress, for the first time, women are taking leading roles in shaping our built environment, two-time Stirling prize winner Zaha Hadid is the most obvious example but there are many other rising stars such as Teresa Borsuk, Annabelle Seldorf, Liz Diller, Odile Decq and Fashid Moussavi. Still, more needs to be done to recognise their progress. Our cities continue to be dominated by architecture designed, engineered and built predominately by men for men, and it's not just buildings, the vast majority of statues in our capital are male and often war leaders. We need only think of Nelson’s Column, and Winston Churchill, amongst many others. Of the 640 listed statues in the UK only 15% are women.

In support of international women’s day (8th March 2015), we have created a series of images imagining how London could be transformed by giant statues of positive female role models whose achievements have often been forgotten.

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The Giant Ada Lovelace of Silicon Roundabout
The English mathematician and writer was the world's first computer programmer and her algorithm was used by Charles Babbage who invented the concept of the computer. This giant rotating colossus is designed to tower over Old Street’s Silicon Roundabout. Her outstretched spinning arms drop glittering ‘1’s and ‘0’s to give the impression of being in a Matrix shower to the people going around the roundabout below. Within her impressive Victorian dress there is space dedicated to the incubation of tech start-ups. 

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Amelia Earhart Control Tower
A new control tower built at Heathrow Airport in the shape of Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, she was also the first women to be awarded the U.S. distinguished Flying Cross, set many other records and was an author and campaigner for equal rights, in 1937 she disappeared whilst flying solo over the Pacific ocean but her legacy lives on as an inspiration to female aviators everywhere. 

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The Mary Wollstonecraft Rock
In honour of the writer, philosopher and advocate of women's rights Mary Wollstonecraft, a space mission is sent to retrieve the famous asteroid named after her. After a long and dangerous expedition, the space-rock crash-lands into Parliament Square, where it becomes a serendipitous tourist attraction. 

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The Dagenham Sewing Machine Bridge
A much-needed bridge is built across the Thames, between Dagenham and Thamesmead in the shape of a giant sewing machine reminding us of the Ford Sewing Machinist’s Strike of 1968, dramatized in the film ‘Made in Dagenham’.

Our favourite ways to support International Women’s Day

London women SOBO

Concept sketches: James Merry.


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