WOMAN

THOUGHTS OF A FEMALE ARCHITECT- ARC. Sylvia Larbi

WOMAN

Though the title ARCHITECT holds a more privileged position for both male and females in the society, the industry is top heavy with males who are perceived to be assertive, business minded, confident and authoritative, the very qualities that are highly valued in the industry.

Certainly, in terms of talent and professional skills, there is no difference between men and women, however, the grueling demands of the profession with respect to time spent on the job and its ‘task –disciplined ‘ format is not suited to family commitments. Women get torn between pursuing their profession and their desire to have a family and spending time with family.

Global trends also demand lots of travel both national and international, complicating matters for women. The end result is that, most women are not seen at the top of their profession. They turn to remain in the shadows.

In some cases, their male counterparts have exploited their contributions for their own professional gains, leaving them anonymous and financially abused in their (men) quest for fame.

Global awareness and social consciousness however, is seen moving away from ‘self glorification’ towards a more collaborative design process within the profession and across disciplines.

The good news is the introduction of new technologies that have increased collaboration among disciplines in ways that benefit women who want to pursue work outside conventional offices to enhance their aptitude for design, planning, problem solving and teamwork.

Like their male counterparts, women want to be valued for the quality of their work and not framed by the fact of their gender.

After almost three decades of practice both in and outside of Ghana, the introduction of a female Architect always and continues to raise eyebrows from both sexes. I always find myself having to go the extra mile to convince my audience of ‘what stuff I am made of’ as well as mention projects already executed by me that they can relate to, in order to allay their fears. The question is whether this happens with female doctors, lawyers, bankers and the like.

Another notable issue is the switch from the ‘design mode’ to ‘ the care of the nuclear family and home’. This transition is virtually non-existent, one only overshadows the other momentarily depending on what time of day it is. My desire to satisfy my Clients has often times required strategic planning, long hours of work, occasionally forfeiting my annual leave, and leaving me with very little time for the care of nuclear family and home. But for support from the extended family, striking a balance would have been a nightmare, especially during my child bearing years.

Incidentally, a woman’s natural instinct for love and affection permeates into her work as an architect! I usually find myself empathizing and sympathizing with my projects to bring satisfaction to my Clients painstakingly!!! The end result is a fair balance between contributions from both sexes for the socioeconomic development of our built environment.

It may be complex in origin but ultimately simple, composed of space , light and materials. These elements convey everything from weather to cultural values. Expressed through form, they take on a physical presence.

The language of the Architect is FORM through which a balance is struck through proportion, and arrangement of the various elements. We embrace the ideas of the past and build upon them. Forms evolve over time to reflect present situation.

A thin line exists between harmony and cacophony, every connection between material elements gives opportunity to design which always starts with a simple line resulting in a progression of spaces…