Women as Partners - Is Architecture a Team Sport?

Women Get the Short End of the Stick

Architects and designers Ricardo Scofidio and Elizabeth Diller in 2003
Architects and designers Ricardo Scofidio and Elizabeth Diller in 2003. Photo by Mark LaRosa/HO/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

She hasn't won yet, but I'm still rooting for Liz Diller to someday claim a Pritzker Prize. What are her chances? Can Diller win the top award as long as she collaborates with partner Ricardo Scofidio?

Pritzker juries have often awarded men while overlooking their female collaborators. Most famously, perhaps, was the 2013 organized effort to recognize Denise Scott Brown's work with 1991 Pritzker Laureate Robert Venturi—a petition campaign that did not sway the Pritzker jury.

Times are changing, but some say that female partners still do not receive the recognition they deserve. Check out these famous collaborations. Who do you think attained the highest honors?

Male-Female Collaborations:

Is Architecture a Team Sport?

No great project is the work of a single individual, and although we often talk about big names like I.M. Pei or Rem Koolhaas, we understand that their completed works are the effort of a larger team.

Still, in a card game, one person has to be the dealer, so even I have pinned greatness on a person rather than a committee.

When I first wrote about the Water Cube, the 2008 Olympic Aquatic Centre in Beijing, I mentioned Chris Bosse, who was a key designer for the Water Cube while he was employed at PTW Architects.

Within days, I received a testy email from a marketing manager for PTW Architects. "It is imperative to us that all the team at PTW are fairly and correctly acknowledged under the banner of our firm, which owns attribution to this project (under copyright) along with our partners..." And so, the name PTW Architects remained, but Chris Bosse's name was purged from the article. That was only fair. Or, was it? Here are some of your comments at the time:

August 13, 2008 at 9:26 am -- Heather says:

Bad form on the part of the marketing manager. With so many people capable of accessing your blog and reading how they reacted, it doesn’t make them look good. I think that the key visionary for the project should be recognized for his work. It seems like most modern architecture is collaborative and I would think that was a common understanding…
Thanks for furthering my “architectural education”, Jackie! I always learn something new from your emails and your about.com page!

August 18, 2008 at 11:49 am Chris says:

great team players to remove the individuals… check ptw website for more information on great architecture

The Way It Works

Attribution is not solely a woman's problem. Many male architects have had to speak up for themselves when their work on a project has not been recognized.

Individual men have accepted prizes to further their businesses, which keeps all staff members working. But men have also stood up and said "no," and accepted any consequence.

It's easy to say that today's women architects should not make short-sighted business decisions, but sometimes compromise is necessary to pay the bills. Some women are beginning to take the route of Jeanne Gang, who founded her own practice and made sure her name was part of the business of Sudio Gang Architects. Chicago's iconic Aqua Tower is now associated with her name—just like the iconic Maison à Bordeaux is associated with the name of Rem Koolhaas. Rem's Bordeaux project was an innovative house built with a room-sized elevator platform designed to integrate wheelchair mobility throughout the house. And, by the way, I bet you didn't know that Jeanne Gang was on Rem's team for that project.

Women in Architecture

Source: MAISON À BORDEAUX, FRANCE, BORDEAUX, 1998, OMA website [accessed June 23, 2014]