by Meghna MehtaJun 15, 2020
March 8 is globally celebrated as International Women’s Day, and this year the theme is #EachforEqual, reiterating that an equal world is an enabled world.
The architecture and design community globally is identified by countless working partners, male and female, who bring forth not just fascinating buildings but a philosophy and a style that often combines two diametrically opposite voices that forge a shared vision. The key here is to create a gender equal workspace that embraces diversity of perspectives.
History has seen many powerful partners, such as Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, iconic furniture designers Ray and Charles Eames and ground-breaking modernists Aline and Eero Sarinen keep up this tradition, and STIR speaks to some remarkable contemporary architects and designers who continue to let #EachForEqual lead them at work.
Maria Warner Wong and Wong Chiu Man, WOW Architects, Singapore
"Equality is a mindset that transcends gender, age, race and lifestyle rooted in deep respect and compassion for all living things. The great transition to gender equality for women, following millenia of inequality will require concerted effort and resources over several generations to reset the patterns, beliefs and traditions rooted in patriarchy and the systemic subjugation of women. My advice to younger women is to be themselves, unapologetically authentic and uncompromising in demanding justice."
Nina Puri and Sanjay Puri, Sanjay Puri Architects, India
"The 70 per cent of our office is comprised of women. Six of the nine senior associates are women. The highest paid in our office are women. As an office we believe in women empowerment and that women are better at multi-tasking and managing multiple projects effectively and efficiently."
Sonali Rastogi and Manit Rastogi, Morphogenesis, India
"At Morphogenesis, we merely went with the grain and nature of equality. The firm’s values govern all choices. Our choice was to be mindful of all ‘needs’ and not just all ‘norms’. We got globally recognised for negative pay parity and gender equality in leadership. This was great but it was not born out of a desire to be exemplary. Simply put, an equal world is an enabled world."
Sonali Bhagwati and Sohrab S. Dalal, Design Plus Architecture, India
“Sohrab and I both come from extremely forward thinking and emancipated families where gender equality is a given. We are three sisters, each one a successful practicing professional and have never missed having a brother. We were brought up to fend for ourselves and deal with whatever life had to offer,” says Sonali.
"The question of limiting oneself due to gender was unthinkable. We have shared a truly equal partnership, we run two equal verticals at work. We respect each other’s advice and opinion but eventually follow what each one considers best for the project. We have equally shared the responsibility of raising our kids and fill in for each other where required. Our relationship comes from a deep bond of friendship and mutual trust, which only equals can share."
Maria Isabel Jimenez Leon and Kayzad Shroff, SHROFFLEÓN, India
"For us, something as simple as Maria being called by her actual name has been a constant struggle throughout the years. We used both of our surnames to name our firm, Shroff and Leon, we have equal weight in it, and we handle equal amount of work and projects. But for some reason the industry refuses to acknowledge or remember her name. She is not Mrs. Shroff or Maria Shroff," says Kayzad.
Seema Puri and Zarir Mullan, SEZA, India
"Succeeding in life is more about a positive mindset than it is about gender. We are all equal and we require to believe that."
Lalita Tharani and Mujib Ahmed, Collaborative Architecture, India
Both came from formative backgrounds that couldn’t have been dramatically more extreme. Mujib came from Auroville with a strong studio culture; Lalita’s formative years were working with corporates and multi-nationals, one of the reasons why Collaborative Architecture could straddle a wide canvas of programmatic typologies.
Mujib is a classic procrastinator, Lalita the opposite. The list will be endless if we go down that road, but that is the biggest strength the studio has. Our visions converge, in spite of our ways of looking at the world from totally different perspectives.
Tanushree Gulati and Manish Gulati, MOFA Studios, India
"Our roles in our office are very clear. I work as an architect, Tanu works in the capacity of a planning engineer. Being a planner and an engineer, she looks after feasibilities – be it the socio-economic feasibility, budgets or the programmatic response – she makes sure the project happens. It’s a fairly vast role which she looks at, for which a simple word is compliance," says Manish.
Tanushree adds, "Whether it’s life or otherwise, we thrive on the fact that we have different mindsets, and different approaches to solving problems. The fact that we bring to the table diametrically opposite viewpoints related to architecture, design, construction or environment makes us a very holistic practice. Conceptually that is where the equality comes into play."
Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg, SO-IL, USA
Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg of New York-based practice SO-IL reflect on their time working at SANAA, the Japanese firm where they first met. Idenburg remembers a statement by Pritzker-winning woman architect and SANAA co-founder Kazuyo Sejima that deeply inspired them. “Gender is not an issue."
“This was hardly a proclamation of an ideal world. It was the mindset with which she approaches her work. Similarly, Jing and I operate together. We collaborate as companions, striving for an office without obstructions.”