Why have so few women been architects of our cities

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Why have so few women been architects of our cities
Former Sydney lord mayor Lucy Turnbull and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull walk around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra / © Mike Bowers
Why have so few women been architects of our cities
Former Sydney lord mayor Lucy Turnbull and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull walk around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra / © Mike Bowers

Does it matter that so few women have designed city buildings in Australian cities? Is there a difference between the designs, sensibility and approach of men and women as designers? Why have so few women been the architects of our cities and public places? Why have so few been recognised for the places whose creation they have assisted? Why has city-making not been entrusted to women or been seized by them?

A number of women have been vocal and visible campaigners in the public life of cities but rarely as architects. Many more women architects have worked as generous, giving and unseen partners, wives, muses, assistants and volunteers. Our cities are full of plaques and nineteenth-century statues commemorating the efforts, leadership, achievements and good works of men in Australian society. There are few statues celebrating women from the era of European settlement in Australian cities, apart from the queens of England. The achievements of ordinary women were not celebrated in this way until the feminist movement of the 1970s, when busts began to appear in public places, like those of the poet Judith Wright, who sits in Canberra’s Civic centre, and the suffragette Mary Lee on Adelaide’s North Terrace. [Yet] where is Marion Mahony, as a prominent acknowledgement of her role as co-designer of Australia’s national capital?

While social patterns are changing, in Australia women remain the primary nurturers, care givers, mothers and grandmothers as part of the cycle of life, nature and nurture. They know how small simple changes like shady trees, paths, seats in a street and parks where children can play and dogs run make daily life better for everyone. Their nurturing instinct has much to offer in the design of public places in a more urban community. […]

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