by Shailesh Kintsugi [ Architect | Activist | Artist ]
Let’s do this. Let’s picture the world kaleidoscopic, free from a limited spectrum of greys. All in all, we know we’ve built our worlds upon grim walls of ignorance. Let’s revisit these walls once before we strengthen our foundations. And build our rainbows. Shall we?
When I name an adjective, you add “for all”. Sustainability (For all). Access(For all). Transportation(For all). Sanitation(For all). Security & Pizza(For all).
All these words are synonymous to an inclusive society. (Pizza, probably in Spider-verse). We might have consolidated these objectives with urban design or maybe a public space. But we sure have shut out significant users from this design process. Humans collectively suffered for this exclusion. (God forbade us for being social animals!)
In architectural fraternity, most prevalent jargon is “Sustainable”. Economy, society and environment adjoin altogether to form this very word. And yet, ironically it is largely disfigured, twisted and misunderstood terminology. Architectural pedagogy often fails to develop empathy towards an egalitarian society. It teaches utility, logistics, shape dynamics, space language, avant-garde technologies but overlooks user’s diversity.
Gender Equality discussions in sophisticated design consortium often limit itself to women’s work environment & wages. Whilst ignores the rurban poor and disadvantaged groups.
Privileged can take access, transformation or sanitation for granted. Providing sheer conscious design attributes, for example, Rainwater Harvesting can prevent tons of infant deaths every day and save 27 days of Rural woman’s wage. Today itself, women in India walk miles to fetch perpetually depleting potable water and this distance increases exponentially every year.
Providing Better lighting, off-grid lighting solutions in remote villages or visible passageways in public spaces can lead to idealistic changes in society. By ensuring security & preventing girls from dropping out of Schools or colleges.
Women’s role today is crucial as an innovator and as a consumer. We urgently need to include women in the data on which substantial decisions are made. Women’s fresh, empathetic thinking can bring transformative change to Large-scale infrastructure, both virtual or physical. The plight of Women Architects, “Carriers of social change” globally is dismal. And It’s important to address their movement before their protest transforms into ugly brutalism. Do you know?
Just three of the world’s 100 biggest architecture firms are headed by Women and only two of these have management teams that are proportionately larger than male dominance. Women represent one in five licenced practitioners. (Revealed in Dezeen’s gender survey)
Women leave the profession for varied reasons. This includes inequitable pay, lack of advancement opportunities, inflexible schedules and long hours that are incompatible to raise a family or maintain healthy work-life balance. From the 1980s, women as homemakers, consumers or innovators are instrumental in bringing new approaches to design, interiors and achieving a shift from architecture to space. To ensure this legacy to prevail and to bring subliminal changes, men and woman must manoeuvre the aforementioned deterrence together.
Today, On international women’s day, it is inevitable to celebrate the momentous event in architecture when the wall parted and the column became. We’re featuring 3 Crusaders, who carried the torch of women’s right & gender equality.
1. First one is, Morphogenesis, India (*Thunderclaps*)
- In 2019, Indian Firm, Morphogenesis has become one of the world’s first architecture practice to report a gender pay in favour of its female employees.
Morphogenesis has a scheme called FLEX. This prevents women from being held back in the workplace. It also offers extended maternity leave, financial assistance for new parents, as well as flexible working arrangements for new mothers.
2. Second one is, Hunnarshala, India.
- Hunnarshala (Curry stone design prize winner 2013) has brought specialised roofing technique from Indonesia to Bhuj’s women. They inspired these women to form women’s collective – “Matha Chhaj” – A thatch company. For women who underestimated their capability and we’re afraid to step out of their homes, are now, earning substantial livelihoods for their families. They equally participate in the decision-making process and proudly possess their own visiting cards.
Hunnarshala provides advocacy to the communities to become an active participant in the urban design process concerning their cities, villages or muhallas. This prevents patriarchy to shape the world for all.
3. And third one is, supernova Marwa-Al-Sabouni; Women who brought identity to debris, Syria.
- Marwa-Al-Sabouni, a reformist women architect, who herself has tasted home imprisonment for two years in Homs, Syria has been honoured by Prince Claus Award. Her imaginative, innovative proposal to restore co-operation, social cohesion and a sense of identity, after the devastation of war has kindled the light of hope in a devastated community.
“Successful architecture can introduce us to beauty, safety, belonging, neighbourliness and production; whereas failing architecture can be sterile, ugly and ego-centric, and consequently surround us with negative feelings of loneliness and alienation,’ al-sound points out.
Students, fellow architects and designers pick up your pencils, we’ve to design for change. Or I might suggest the enlightened ones to name their pencils, ” Change”. We’ve readily innovated, innovate and will innovate. And this time our 2035 design goal will aspire to disrupt imbalances and create inclusive societies. I’m not willing to portray women above as an excluded entity but questioning the very need of it in the 21st Century.