Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Women in Architecture

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Title ideas

  • Women in Architecture helps create an equitable balance on the Spanish Wikipedia.
  • Recognizing, on Wikipedia, the contribution of women in the history of architecture.

Summary

  • Women are scarcely found in architecture history books. This is clear in the most renowned references in our libraries. This bias is also present on Wikipedia. Women in Architecture is a new working group on the Spanish Wikipedia that aims at changing this.

Body

Photo by Jalu, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Women are scarcely found in architecture history books. This is clear in the most renowned references in our libraries where the overwhelming majority of them feature men architects, with a slight reference to women sometimes. This is not because women did not perform architecture, but they have been systematically ignored by historians and critics.

A notable example of systematic bias is when the British architect Patty Hopkins was photoshopped out of a 2014 photo published by the BBC. The photo featured a group of outstanding architects gathered at an art exhibition.

Female architects were of the early pioneers throughout history. Some of today's public space norms, like having a play area for children, were a novelty in the first half of the 20th Century. The first architects to propose the idea were women.

The existing gender stereotyping in academic knowledge production has been shifted to Wikipedia. According to Wikidata, last year 5% of architect biographies on Wikipedia were about women. This absence distorts the history of architecture. In order to fix this, we have created a working group with the goal of increasing the presence of female architects in Wikipedia.

In 2015, as part of the global editing campaign Women in Architecture, we organized three simultaneous editathons: one at the University of Cordoba, Argentina, another at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain and the third was in Montevideo, Uruguay. During that event, the first category of female architects was created on the Spanish Wikipedia. That helped us realize that only 60 out of 1,200,000 biographies on the Spanish Wikipedia were about female architects.

Upon reviewing the articles, we found that the traces of female architects were obliterated and their contributions went to men such as their partners, husbands, parents, or siblings. Not only were the biographies of a lot of prominent women architects missing, the articles were shorter than those about men architects. Moreover, they were not mentioned in the articles of their partners. Women biographies always linked to articles about men but never in reverse.

For example, Villa Mairea was described as "a summer house built in 1938 in Noormarkku, Finland by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto." The article featured him all the way as the sole protagonist of the design. Some parts of the article read: "Aalto raised it as the main idea, Aalto tried to avoid artificial patterns, Aalto modified certain details of the second proposal," and so on. Though, all the pieces of work made at the office carried a mutual signature of him and his wife that read "Aino and Alvar Aalto," Aino's name was not mentioned in the article.

Other examples include the House of the Bridge, where Amancio Williams was named the only contributor ignoring his wife, Delfina Gálvez Bunge. The Amphitheater of Cartagena, was restored by Atxu Amann and Alcocer, Andrés Cánovas Alcaraz and Nicolás Maruri. Only Cánovas was mentioned. The same happened with Pascuala Campos of Michelena and César Portela, and many others. It took a lot of work to review the articles and apply an equitable balance supported by reliable references.

Premio Hexágono de Oro is a prestigious award in Latin America. Cynthia Watmough, Laurinda Spear and Sandra Barclay are winners of the award who had no articles on Wikipedia, while only men architect winners appeared in the article Colegio de Arquitectos del Perú at the section of the award. During the editathon, we have created articles for Premio Hexágono de Oro, Cynthia Watmough and Sandra Barclay. Laurinda Spear's profile is still missing.


Photo by Jalu, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The problem was present on Wikimedia Commons as well, since the images that we could use to illustrate the women articles did not identify them as authors of their own projects. We have created 212 categories of women architects on Wikimedia Commons.

This year, the working group has expanded. We created our own list using wikidata. In October 2016 we repeated the editathon experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montevideo, Uruguay and Valencia, Spain. We have also launched the Wikiproyecto Mujeres en la arquitectura (Wikiproject Women in Architecture).

Last year the Spanish Wikipedia had 5% of architect biographies about women. We helped increase this figure to 8% in 2016. We are very proud of the results and already excited for more work in 2017.

...

Andrea Patricia Kleiman, MA, and Ines Moisset, PhD AR, co-founders of Wikiproyecto Mujeres en la arquitectura (Wikiproject Women in Architecture)

Footnotes