Interview with Agatha Tvarok, author of Architects

Agata Twardoch (photo: Atelier Kryjak)

A has a lot of wonderful things to do: cleaning lady, aquarius. Why are you trying to be an architect? “- Agata Tvarok remembers the words of one of the lecturers. But the problem is much wider. It will be published on the 18th.

– This book is about anger – Agatha Tvarok speaks about “Architects”. – It was anger not at anyone in particular, but at the world, social relations, and how we were treated, because it was, of course, not just me. Many students, doctoral students and fellow architects tell me the same thing. I saw a system problem and it made me nervous– explain. Anger appeared once, but did not go away. Hardoch didn’t want to put him to sleep or ignore him, because that would be nervous. The only way to give him a sense of agency and hope for change was to describe the problem.

Every year, more girls than boys graduate from architectural faculties in Poland – 30 percent. Almost 60 percent at the University of Technology in Warsaw, Białystok University of Technology, Bal Architektek, according to an initiative dealing with the subject of women in architecture. Despite this advantage, the most famous architects are men. They appear more often in the industrial media and more often receive prestigious awards. According to Agata Twardoch, the winners of the most important architectural award until 2020 – the Pritzker Prize – were only three women: Zaha Hadid, Kazuyo Sejima and Carme Pigem Barcelo, the last two of whom consisted of two and three people. teams.

– Sexism in the architectural industry is not new, it is existing and systematic – explains the pages of his book by a professor who invited 24 women from the world’s leading architects and conducted 19 interviews. Among them are Dayan Davis from Harvard University, Karolina Połczek, who runs the Only If award-winning design studio in New York, Ewa Kuryłowicz from WXCA, Martha Sękulska-Wńńska, and Ekim Tan, president and founder of SARP’s Warsaw branch. Play the City consulting company.

Agata Twardoch (photo: Atelier Kryjak)

Even though they have titles and positions, they are sometimes presented at conferences as “Mrs. Agatka,” and the “professor” speaks in front of her. However, Agatha Tvarok’s bitter cup, a reviewer, a respected professor, was added with her comment on the habilitation thesis.. – I noticed a discrepancy in the place where I wrote about the adaptation of a historic building to apartments, and I explained it in the following words: “As an architect, I feel sorry for the building. I added balconies, but as an urban planner, I am glad that there will be more apartments in the city center. The reviewer added: “As a woman, I am afraid that the balcony will need to be cleaned.”This is a level of discussion that we should not allow ourselves to. What’s worse is that I know this professor didn’t want to be bad, he thought it was a good joke. – says the author of “Architektek”.

“Architect” enhances the prestige of the profession

The situation of women in the world of architecture is well described in language. – Bal Architektek suggested that the name of the Polish Association of Architects SARP should be replaced by the Association of Polish Architects and Architects. Several articles on the subject appeared in the industrial press, and the discussion that developed under them was an expression of a holy rage, as if we wanted to spoil something, almost dirty. – Twardoch says.

– Language forms consciousness, it cannot be denied Says the professor. – The point is that feminists in our Polish-speaking professions are less prestigious, that is, they are, frankly, associated with lower wages. We pass through our mouths like “kindergarten teacher”, “cleaner”, “teacher”, but when it comes to, for example, “professor” or “architect”, that is, to the classes that are considered prominent, arouses resistance. It goes like this: “It sounds stupid,” but it’s a naive argument, because we know the language is changing, and in five years it will sound natural, which seems strange today – explain. Twardoch points out that some women are also cut from women’s uniforms. – The worst thing is that they often subconsciously think that it will reduce their value.

Agata Twardoch (photo: Atelier Kryjak)

Do women design differently?

The subtitle of Agatha Tvarok’s latest book is: “Will Women Design Better Cities?” – Opinions are divided on whether there is “female” architecture, because everything depends on the specific woman. However, it is certainly true that we have different experiences and different social roles, and this depends not only on our lives, but on the whole cultural tradition, how women are thought and spoken, and what their role has been in recent times. min il – the professor explains. – According to statistics, we are more empathetic and we can listen better, and this can lead to both better architecture and better urban planning. But since this is just a matter of culture, it will change over time – Draws the bottom of the cottage cheese. He says you can see that architects are not ashamed to be more careful, and when the idea doesn’t come true, they often have no problem changing it or adapting it to the relevant requirements. – On the other hand, a man has confidence in his innocence, so a man will insist more often, will adopt the attitude “I know and I know better” – The author of “Architektek” adds.

Does this mean that cities designed by women can be more friendly to residents? – The research topics covered by architects show that they are related to inclusion, needs, including the elderly and the disabled, and various diseases. Researchers look at different groups of people and stories of different genders. Of course, it’s hard to say that women will improve immediately when they start designing, because we know that there is a huge gap between being designed and being created in the end, and many factors play a role. – Tvarok explains.

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Experience shows that urban planners pay more attention to the removal of architectural barriers and more greenery. – Women’s friendly architectural or urban design is also associated with 50 percent of the users of this space are women, and when they are underestimated in the total number of designers, it became clear that the needs of this half of society are not taken into account. It should be noted that men often did not realize this, not because they had bad intentions and did not want to take them into account. – the professor explains. – Such an example, although widely discussed, has not yet been resolved, it is a matter of toilets, ie there are very few seams in women’s toilets. Theoretically, if you count them, they should be straight, they are the same. But when it comes to small things with only one eye, this is always a problem, because men do not take into account that we women spend more time on dressing and hygiene, and do not work quickly. urinary service, that we often go to the toilet with a child or scare person. And this perspective is difficult to recognize from the outside says the architect.

One of the characters in the book is Eva Kail, a gender-based urban planner from Vienna. – In fact, already in the 90s, the city began to adapt to the needs of people of different genders – Twardoch says. – An interesting example is a study of the percentage of women and girls who use parks and sports facilities there. It turned out to be very little. Targeted sociological research has shown that this is due to the fact that women are afraid to enter. Parks are fenced, they have a gate, a group of boys whistle, sometimes extending them – The architect says and adds: – Now all students and architecture students are told to use a wheelchair or wear glasses that mimic a very serious eye defect, but it is still difficult to empathize with the optics of the opposite sex.

Change in foundations

Architect and academic teacher Ewa Kuryłowicz says in her book Twardoch that she once heard her mother-in-law, Alina Kuryłowicz, “I couldn’t work as an architect, but I’ll help you do it.” Although he graduated in 1952, when he was with his three children, he could not even imagine working in this profession. And at the same time, he knew that his bride would be difficult in a few decades. The profession of architect is still considered a profession that is incompatible with private life due to the time spent on work – more than 40 full-time hours per week.

However, the changes are already visible on the horizon. – When I graduated from the students in the early 2000s, I noticed something unbelievable: they no longer want to work in a way that does not give them a place in their personal lives. Increasingly, you hear voices from both girls and boys saying that life should not be like this. You can also see that the issues of equality for the younger generation are almost clear, they have coded it from the beginning – Agatha Tvarok says and adds: – It is nice, although it is always a pity that it does not apply to the whole society.

The book “Architektki. Will women design better cities?” Agata Twardoch will be published on May 18, 2022 by WAB Publishing House

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