President of the RIBA, Jane Duncan, hosted the first President’s Debate on January 17th. With a topic close to her heart, Jane invited Peter Murray as the debate referee and speakers Holly Porter, Rory Olcayto, Fionn Stevenson and our MD Del Hossain to discuss “Architecture: A Man’s World.”
Arguing for the motion was Holly Porter, founding director of Surface to Air Architects and original instigator of Chicks with Bricks. She presented valuable facts on male and female statistics in the architecture industry, explaining her struggles as a female architect and how society is changing but at a very slow pace for women. She indicated that “child birth is a career bruise”; the industry is still a man’s world.
Rory Olcayto, Chief Executive of Open-City and former editor of The Architects’ Journal, supported Holly with his experience in the architecture industry. Visualising his gallery of event photos and award presentations, Rory has witnessed the outstanding ratio of men as opposed to women.
Arguing against the motion was Fionn Stevenson, a RIBA role model and Head of School at the School of Architecture, The University of Sheffield. Fionn believed that the motion was incorrect and should have been phrased as “Architecture: Every Beings World.” Fionn believes that architecture is more than just about the gender, it is influenced by people, animals, plants and the environment around us and should all be considered in this debate.
Our MD Del Hossain continued to argue against the motion by underlining how architecture should be framed. Architecture is surely about talent and not about gender. Del gave examples in other design industries: “until 2003 all crash test dummies were designed in male forms, causing deaths in car accidents with women who didn’t fit the average body type.” Another example: commercial airlines redesigned the cockpit to accommodate the physicality of female pilots. “What framing do you want to accept, rather than what is the majority.”
After hearing from the speakers, the audience proposed their opinions on either for or against the motion. With very valuable point and personal experiences from everyone in the industry, it seems that we can all agree that although it shouldn’t be, architecture certainly stands in a man’s world.
Closing the debate, the audience decided and with over 20 votes, the results were for the motion: Architecture Is a Man’s World.
Adrem work closely with the RIBA, with Del working as an advisor and publications editor to the RIBA and is a mentor to many architecture and design practices advising on growth and strategy.