Good News? Definitely. Women in architecture is always good news. Held at Rome’s Maxxi museum, Good News. Women in Architecture is an exhibition that documents women in the industry from the pioneers of the early twentieth century (such as Signe Hornborg, the first woman to graduate in architecture) to multidisciplinary collectives and large international studios led by female designers, and the starchitects of today. It sets out to investigate the new directions women have brought to the sector, in particular by firms directed and co-directed by women.
The exhibition is curated by Elena Motisi, Elena Tinacci, and Pippo Ciorra, with exhibit design by Matilde Cassani. The goal is to recount the evolution of a profession over the course of a century, retracing the lives and experiences of many of the leading lights whose designs have become intertwined over the course of the years. Besides Signe Hornborg, among them are Norma Merrick Sklarek, the first African-American woman to enter the profession in 1954; Ada Louise Huxtable, an architectural critic with a column in the New York Times and winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Maria Teresa Parpagliolo, a landscape architect active in the mid-20th century; and Zaha Hadid, the first woman architect to receive the Pritzker Prize in 2004.
Hadid, and her firm Zaha Hadid Architects, won the Luxury Housing category in The Plan Award 2021. Read about the project here.
The exhibition is also intended to sweep aside stereotypes, such as the need for a male grandmaster architect in a studio rather than an established female professional. This change – an anthropological one, in the words of the curators – has paralleled, and continues to parallel, changes in society as well as in the role played by architecture, planning, and design. None of these sectors can escape the influence of today’s era-defining challenges, from the social to the environmental, and technological, along with the challenge of fighting discrimination.
Much of the importance of the exhibition stems from the emphasis that the curators have placed on telling the story of these changes. According to them, there are three key themes that must be addressed from the outset:
“The first is the process of liberating the profession of architecture from those prejudices and habits that have stood in the way of the success of women and non-traditional groups, such as collectives, couples, and open groups,” explain the curators. “The second is the belief that gender equality will contribute positively to the ability of architecture to address the main issues of today, especially the environment, inclusiveness, and social sustainability. The last theme is Italy as an excellent example of this transformation, a country where women are among the best emerging (and established) professionals.”
But Good News is also the result of extensive research and, therefore, it perfectly reflects the mission of the National Museum of 21st Century Arts (Maxxi).
Good News. Women in Architecture has four themed areas: Stories, Practices, Tales, and Visions. It also features a site-specific installation by Frida Escobedo entitled Unseen.
As the name suggests, the first section tells the stories of 85 architects, designers, and academics who’ve had a lasting impact on the profession. The second focuses on the different approaches and practices of eleven women around the world. The career of each architect is examined through a video, a prototype, a model, and a photograph, with an emphasis on the issues of environmental sustainability, the social dimension, and the relationship between tradition and innovation. Tales brings together interviews with influential women from the academic field. Finally, Visions features five videos, produced as part of the Future Architecture Platform, about the relationship between gender identity and architectural space.
The contribution of women to English architecture, with an emphasis on sustainability and innovation, was also discussed during a webinar organized by Milan’s PPC Order of Architects. Read more here (in italian).
Staged at Rome’s National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Maxxi, the exhibition is open 11 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10:00 – 7:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday until September 11, 2022.
The event includes a program of discussions and meetings, including a session with Margherita Guccione entitled “Lina Bo Bardi to Zaha Hadid.” Educational activities are also available.
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Location: Maxxi, Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Roma
Curators: Elena Motisi, Elena Tinacci e Pippo Ciorra
Date: 16 dicembre 2021-11 settembre 2022
Photo: please refer to the individual images in the gallery to look through the photo credits