Emancipation movements and in particular gender politics were driving forces in the 20th century. Women entered Modernism by conquering professions from which they had hitherto been excluded, by becoming politically active, in part taking extreme positions, and by trying out new gender relationships. The exhibition shows how 22 women encountered the massive upheaval by questioning the conventional standards of what was feminine and establishing themselves in the architectural profession.
“Frau Architekt” Over 100 Years of Women in Architecture
September 30 – March 8, 2018
Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM)
Schaumainkai 43, Frankfurt am Main
WHY FRAU ARCHITEKT NOW?
One reason: For some time now clearly more women than men have been studying architecture, and the trend is upward. By no means all of them actually make it in the profession; some do not even join in the first place, or they stop after only a short time. The “missing group”, the discrepancy between the number of female students and the number of women who are registered as member architects of a chamber of architects, is about 20 percent.
Of those who stay, few make it into the top league. There, architecture remains a men’s affair. So the big question is: Why do so many women who have often graduated with flying colors then turn their backs on architecture again? A second reason: A disturbing number arose when we looked back at the history of the DAM itself. Of the total of about 370 exhibitions that have taken place since the museum’s foundation back in 1984, about 100 were shows on individual architects; by contrast, of them, only four were monographic exhibitions on a female architect. FRAU ARCHITEKT took this imbalance as a reason to focus for the first time on women architects in Germany as a whole, on past and present, on their achievements in architecture, their lives, and their struggle to survive.
22 PORTRAITS OF WOMEN ARCHITECTS FROM 1900 TO THE PRESENT
FRAU ARCHITEKT presents 22 women in Germany who have substantially influenced architecture since 1900 – or still do so. To be precise, it is slightly more than a century, as the story begins with Emilie Winkelmann, who founded her own architecture office in Berlin in 1907. The line runs from the beginnings right through German history since 1900, the Reich under the Kaiser, the interwar years followed by the Third Reich, through the division of Germany and its reunification into the 21st century. Analogously to that history and all its ruptures, FRAU ARCHITEKT presents a broad spectrum of major female architects who not only come from different social milieus, but can also be assigned to conflicting gender positions and opposing camps in both architecture and politics.
Thus, the group includes female pioneers driven by Modernism, members of the women’s movement and staunch feminists, aristocrats and members of the middle class, left-wingers and right-wingers, socialists and businesswomen, Jews forced into exile and last but not least a prominent Nazi – the pioneers were not always to be found under the banner of democratic progress.
Some of the architects are as good as unknown even among the specialists, and certainly to the general public. FRAU ARCHITEKT seeks to give women in architecture more visibility, to ensure they do not remain anonymous and to put faces to their names and give them voices. The flashback into history also serves as an instrument that enables us to see the present and the future with a keener focus.
FRAU ARCHITEKT IN FILM
In addition to the 22 portraits, the exhibition aims to give women architects a voice – as examples and representatives. The house within a house, which Oswald Mathias Ungers inscribed into the DAM as a programmatic core, has been transformed into a “women’s room”, acting as a cinema for nine film portraits for the duration of the exhibition. Women architects address questions that have been important to women in architecture over the last century, and possibly still are today. Born between 1930 and 1995, they report on their experiences in the postwar period, in East Germany, West Germany, following Reunification and in the present day – a broad spectrum of very different professional foci and decades of bundled occupational and life experience in the male-dominated architectural profession.
FRAU ARCHTEKT AND “TREASURES FROM THE ARCHIVE”
Parallel to the exhibition the DAM is showing in its series “Treasures from the Archive” a small selection of the plans and drawings for an unrealized design for a Berlin office building by Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). The late Zaha Hadid is undoubtedly the most famous female architect of the 21st century. Even though she cannot be counted among German women architects, her early successes in Germany (Aedes exhibition, West Berlin, 1984; Vitra Fire Station, Weil am Rhein, 1997) played an important role in her career.