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Tracking the elusive female architect

Tracking the elusive female architect

What happens to New Zealand’s women architects after they graduate? That's the question behind Architecture + Women.

The website seeks to capture the who, when, where and how of the country’s women architecture graduates. Founded by University of Auckland architecture alumna Sarah Treadwell, who heads the School of Architecture and Planning, with Lynda Simmons, a registered architect earning her Masters of Architecture at the University; registered architect Megan Rule and Julie Wilson, a practising graduate of architecture, it will serve as a database in New Zealand and abroad, increasing opportunities for networking and mentoring.

information gathered will become part of an “Architecture + Women” exhibition in 2013, a show to mark the 80th anniversary of New Zealand’s first female architecture graduate, as well as 120 years of the suffrage movement.

Beyond that, Simmons says the longer-term objective is to create an “umbrella structure” owned by all the contributors that works organically to promote employment, publication and research.

The idea for the website was born early this year, from a conversation between Simmons and Wilson, who at the time was a mother of three children under five and was concerned that she would never be able to get registered.

“It occurred to me that this is how women architects get lost – the registration process just didn’t account for women trying to juggle running a practice, having babies, paying annual fees and keeping up with registration requirements,” says Simmons.

“We needed a way to find each other and increase our visibility as female architects and graduates of architecture.”

However, she says voluntary suspension is now an option for registered architects.

The website has been developed with support from the University of Auckland, the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) and the Block Foundation.

Dr Treadwell says there is a sense of “invisibility” around female architecture graduates despite their prominence in tertiary education.

“The University’s School of Architecture and Planning has more than 50 percent representation by female students, who generally do very well, yet there are very few women working in principal roles in architecture firms in New Zealand.

“The research that we are undertaking at this time, in conjunction with a similar project in Australia, has the potential to identify new patterns of architectural practice for both men and women in the future.”