I wrote this blog a couple of months ago, but for fear I’d come across as a ranting feminist I put off finishing it, and put it on the back burner.
With the recent success of the Architects’ Journal Women in Architecture Awards last month, the outrage over the 21 all male speakers at the RIAS Convention this month and stumbling upon Parlour archiparlour.org – it made me remember and revisit it. Hope you enjoy my insight into how I’ve found femininity in the architecture profession.
The more I learn about architecture the more I realise and accept that my designs are actually quite feminine.
In my five years of studying and working I have been pretty cautious and somewhat scared of designing what I like - organic shapes, curves, ornamentation, soft colours, delicate designs, subtle and elegant details. I’ve tried to train my brain to think and design along the lines of my co-workers and fellow students. Tutors always claiming the concept isn’t bold enough. It’s taken time, and trust in my self and my own opinion to understand that what I like and naturally aspire to design isn’t wrong, it’s just different.
Near the beginning of this term in a lecture about Adolf Loos I realised that being a modernist (of which we are all victim to, given our time) is to degrade ornamentation and reject nature. He was responsible for training generations of budding designers into thinking that clean and simple was the answer. Nature represents femininity. Nature is delicate, pretty, organic and subtle. It could be argued that abolishing ornamentation is to get rid of the feminine.
Without ornamentation, buildings wouldn’t have personalities, would they? Even Adolf Loos created a fairly ornamental bedroom for his wife despite being the man that proclaimed that ‘ornamentation = crime’. Is this because ornamentation is a feminine attribute or is it because architecture should be free from ornamentation, in order that personality can be injected into it by each of the individual occupiers?
My analogy is this : I have never dressed prettily, flowery, girly or frilly. I like my staple clean cut items, my mono block colours, my simple pallet. But I always always brighten this up, funk it up, or punk it up for whatever the occasion requires or my mood takes me with jewellery and accessories. I inject my personality and ornamentation into the outfit.
As a society, generally speaking we no longer express our wealth and status through our fashion. Sure, clothes can still be more expensive and of a higher quality, but there are no longer detailed, delicate folk dresses. Men no longer wear inner coats, outer coats, jackets, belts, suspenders, waistcoats and a pocket watch. We have modernised our fashion, throwing out the ornamentation to some extent.
This is a similar situation within architecture. We no longer spend extortionate amounts of money on a gold leaf and intricately carved marble lobby. It’s simply constructed and then interior furnishings are purchased to ‘jazz the place up’.
So do I have a right to criticise modernism, blame it for the lack of feminine ornamentation and suggest that the industry is more masculine when I myself walk around wearing examples of modernist design and the effect of de-ornamentation?