Architecture+Women New Zealand

2011 –

Architecture+Women New Zealand

2011 –

Theme: Employment

This essay written by Elizabeth Cox was published online in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 2019.

Despite the high proportions of women studying architecture at university from the 1970s, the occupation, along with engineering, remained stubbornly male-dominated while other professions began to change. Even in 2018, only 20 percent of all registered architects and Fellows of the New Zealand Institute of Architects were women. [1]

Architecture+Women New Zealand was founded in 2011 after a conversation in a suburban mall between architects Julie Wilson and Lynda Simmons. They discussed the difficulties of remaining in touch with the architecture community while raising a young family, and the constant loss of talent which occurred from the profession as a result. Julie and Lynda began discussing ways in which those at the threshold of the profession could keep in touch with the architectural community. With the help of another architect, Megan Rule, the organisation was born. [2] 

Architecture+Women New Zealand aimed to give visibility to the work of women in architecture and related professions, and to ensure inclusivity in the field. It set out to remove or reduce as many barriers as possible, using a platform of gender, but also considering other barriers such as class, religion, culture and sexual orientation.

In 1993, a ground-breaking suffrage exhibition, ‘Constructive Agenda’, had been organised by a group of young women architects, to record and honour the work of women architects. To mark 20 years after that event, in 2013 the new organisation held an ambitious programme, including four exhibitions around the country, a symposium, and the launch of its first publication, Snapshot 500: Architecture+Women New Zealand. The book displayed the work and careers of almost 500 women involved in New Zealand architecture in some way, from lead designers, company directors and project managers through to graduates and students. It was able to draw on the organisation’s database of women, a core part of the work of the organisation since its inception. Displayed on its website, this gave visibility to the widely diverse working lives of women trained in architecture. By 2018 the database recorded well over 700 women.

Photograph of exhibition

Architecture+Women New Zealand

The ‘Between Silos’ exhibition, organised by Architecture + Women New Zealand in Auckland in 2013, displaying the stories of early New Zealand women architects. This exhibition later toured to other cities.

These early successes were followed by a series of other events, including the organisation’s awards, held every three years, to honour excellence, leadership and diversity for women architects and practices. It also held ‘speed mentoring’ events to match mentors with those in need of support, and organised gatherings and talks by and for women architects. Other achievements by 2018 included another publication, Architecture in an Expanded Field (2015), contributions to discussions within the profession about the value of flexible working, and submissions to governmental parental and pay equity consultation processes.

Elizabeth Cox

Notes

[1] ‘Architects and engineers confront their gender problem’, NZIA press release, 12 April 2018, https://www.nzia.co.nz/

[2] ‘A+W NZ is Formed and the Website is launched!’, 11 November 2011, Architecture+Women New Zealand website, https://www.architecturewomen.org.nz/news-events/aw%E2%80%A2nz-formed-and-website-launched

Published Sources

‘Flexible Working’, Architecture New Zealand, May/June 2018

Julia Gatley and Sara Lee (eds), Snapshot 500: Architecture+Women New Zealand, Balasoglou Books, Auckland, 2013

Sarah Treadwell and Lucy Treep (eds), Architecture in an Expanded Field, Aalto Books, Auckland, 2015

Further Information

Architecture+Women New Zealand website https://www.architecturewomen.org.nz/

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