I say this because in Architecture, unlike in most other endeavours, there is the the added and all-important consideration of attribution, of authorship of projects that were in any case always collaborative. Where a female judge, if she fought her way to that eminence, will always have her name tied to her judgements used as precedent, an important female architect can have her contributions erased from history in favour of her husband or male partners, by the persistent misogyny of the profession. And it is willingly aided and abetted by the populist media.
It is better to read the coverage by the Architects Journal, including comments by a number of contemporary women architects, than for me to attempt a summary. I comment rather from my position as someone who has taught literally thousands of architecture students, and not irrelevantly, as the father of cherished daughters.
I started studying at University of Sydney in 1966, with eight women out of the sixty seven commencing architecture students. I started teaching there five years later in 1971, just a year or two before the proportion of women in the intake first exceeded 50%. With the exception of a couple of years at the then newly founded architecture program in Canberra, every year for the last forty four of my academic life, I have taught more women than I have men. I can testify that (reflecting the general trends in secondary and tertiary education) the girls outperformed the guys most of that time. I sent entries to formal student competitions, and turned many studios into live projects that were less formally, but still externally judged. Over the years, the women were over-represented in the premiated projects. Experiencing all this, it's been doubly hurtful for me to watch the demoralisation and the loss to the profession of most of these talented individuals, as their numbers thinned quickly after graduation. But this is all old news.
Where my personal experience comes to bear on the events that triggered this post, is that I started teaching at the height of the feminist push. Its towering figures like Germaine Greer and Anne Sommers were barely older than I, and had not long left Sydney. Other women of fearsome intelligence, who happened not to have turned their PhDs into foundational feminist manifestos, argued and partied and for a brief time tolerated my presence in their midst. As a consequence, I can say with my hand on my heart that I took the principles of equality very seriously, and always pedantically referred to the iconic architectural couples and partnerships by both names. Denise and Robert, Peter and Alison or Maxwell and Jane may as well have been siamese twins joined at the hips. Admittedly, we knew less of Wendy or Patsy, but had we known, we would have been just as careful.
We did this because we recognised that if we did not, or female students would have to fight their battles all over again. Along the way, it even appeared to become fashionable to accuse the big boys of ruthless appropriated authorship, most scurrilously that Wendy rather than Norman Foster was responsible for the seminal ideas of the Willis Faber and Dumas Building in Ipswich, or the Sainsbury Centre.......
So I don't quite know where things went wrong again. Perhaps it would have been possible for Robert Venturi to refuse the Pritzker unless the award committee also inscribed Denise Scott Brown. Those kinds of awards don't happen by opening an envelope on the night (He would have been a brave man gambling quarter of a million dollars). But the real point is that the award committee didn't think of it themselves.
And so here we are today, where we not only erase from history the contributions of women architects, we are actually willing to erase them physically?!?