Pritzker Prize win breaks through architecture's glass ceiling

HAMISH ROBERTSON: The days when architecture was dominated by men may be coming to an end, with the awarding of the industry's top international prize to a woman for the first time.

The Pritzker Prize is regarded as the Nobel Prize of architecture.And this year, it's been won by the Iraqi-born London-based Zaha Hadid.Her win has been hailed as a great achievement by her colleagues around the world including Caroline Pidcock, who runs her own architecture firm in Sydney.Ms Pidcock is also the President of the New South Wales chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture, and she's speaking to Michael Vincent.CAROLINE PIDCOCK: I think the notion that this is the first woman who has won it does reflect a little bit on the profession, that it has not ever – even though it is a profession that most people think women are more aligned with, say as opposed to engineering, where it's clearly a more male-dominated area – it is a profession that hasn't really addressed the issue of equality and embracing more women in it.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Why do you think that is?

CAROLINE PIDCOCK: I think it's got something to do with the fact… look, it's a really tough question and in fact, there's… Dr Paula Whitman from QUT is doing a survey at the moment to try and find out.

I think it's got a lot to do with the notion that traditionally the single sort of arrogant and famous male architect is the type that has been recognised, and the notion that there's a whole bunch of people, a whole team of people collaboratively working together to bring about results hasn't been so well recognised.

And I think, speaking in generalisations, women are perhaps less good at putting themselves out there and saying hey, 'it's me, it's mine, it was my idea, and I did it', and probably better at saying, 'yeah, we all did this'.

And you know, it's easier to market a story of ego than one of working together.

MICHAEL VINCENT: So how is that changing in Australia? I mean, you're now the President of the New South Wales Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, I mean what does that say about the changing profession in Australia?

CAROLINE PIDCOCK: Well the fact that I'm only the second female president in about 70 years says a lot I think. And there's only been one female national president. So I think it sort of says volumes.

And people say, you know, I was just speaking… I went to a breakfast this morning with architects and engineers and of about 60 people there were only two females in the room.

And I mentioned this to one of my colleagues and he said, 'well all the women, we try to do things but all the women just drop out, you know about mid-30s, they don't come back, and so it's not our fault.'

And I sort of think that that's perhaps not really recognising the issue of how do you create workplaces where women can have families and want to go back, like their partners.

How do you create places where men can actually partake more in their families and work as well?

MICHAEL VINCENT: What about the sort of building designs that we're going to see in the future? Do you think that the issues that women are going to bring to the, I guess, development of new buildings; do you think that will be any different to what men will bring in the future?

CAROLINE PIDCOCK: There is a theory, and it's an interesting one and I prefer to say, rather than looking at male and female approaches, but a masculine and a feminine approach, and there's a lot of men who are very feminine and a lot of women who are very masculine, and vice versa.

But I think that there is a theory that the masculine approach is more concerned about the form, external forms and shapes and vision in that sense.


CAROLINE PIDCOCK: And size (laughs).

MICHAEL VINCENT: But the feminine approach is more concerned with the workings and how things fit together and work from the inside, designing from the inside out.

I sort of think that… I've taught up at Newcastle University, and I noted when I was thinking about this that the female students often presented their buildings about what the experience of moving through it and what it was like being there and looking out, and the male students often presented their buildings about what it was like to approach it and look at it and walk around it.

I think good buildings need both approaches, and I think that that combination of them interfacing and working well together and inspiring each other works really well.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Caroline Pidcock, who is President of the New South Wales Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture. She was speaking to Michael Vincent.

And Australia's top architectural honour, the Gold Medal, was awarded today to Gregory Burgess, a Melbourne-based architect known internationally for his culturally sensitive designs.

600450 Pritzker Prize win breaks through architecture's glass ceiling
Date: 25 March 2004

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