Female Architecture: Unbuilt Digital Archive

Female Architecture: Unbuilt Digital Archive

Alice Franchina (University of Palermo, Italy), Francesco Maggio (University of Palermo, Italy) and Starlight Vattano (University of Palermo, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8379-2.ch018
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The objective of this study is that one, starting from the initial considerations, to give back to the history of architecture, through drawing as a critical means of inquiry, the thought and work of some women-architect who, between 1926 and 1962, have designed and/or built buildings of fine architectural quality. The critical re-drawing, which in this case is mimetic to the construction of the project, wants to make manifest the thought of some figures of the Modern Movement often relegated to an unknown fate; in particular it analyses a part of the activity of Lilly Reich, Helena Niemirowska Syrkus and Charlotte Perriand. The study aims to build a graphic inedited and exhaustive repertory of some unrealized projects, carried out by these women that can be defined “pioneer” of modern architecture, giving back a female thought of the project's construction. The drawing of architecture, as ambit of critical analysis, in this study assumes a substantial role when it investigates the project which is the central place of its true expression.
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For a long time the architectural profession has been considered typically male. About this distance of the woman from the architecture has been a strong supporter also Benito Mussolini when in 1927 stated “The woman must obey (...). She is analytic, not synthetic. Has she ever done architecture during all these centuries? Tell her to build a hut, I don’t say a temple! She can’t do it. She is foreign to architecture, which is a synthesis of all the arts and that is the symbol of her destiny”.

But has it been like that? Who were the first ones, the pioneers? Where do they come from? How did they move? These ones are the questions, very simple, which are at the origin of the study that is proposed. We will remembered below some “mothers of modern architecture”, the historical period in which they have placed, their work, their thoughts and themes that characterize them. In this way you can get an idea, although brief, about the richness and originality of their contributions.

In Germany, at the beginning of the century works Lilly Reich (1885-1947) who is the first woman, in 1920, to be elected in the guidance of the Deutscher Werkbund, becoming responsible for the preparation of the important exhibition promoted by it. She works with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with whom shares an intense and lasting experience. She also invented the discipline of exhibition design. Since 1923, Helena Niemerowska-Syrkus works in Poland, she graduates at the Warsaw University of Technology. Designer and politic militant, she is part of the group “Praesens”, and embodies totally the instances of Polish Constructivism. In France there are many designers that study at the École des Beaux-Arts. The most famous are, no doubt, Eileen Gray and Charlotte Perriand. The first one, of Irish origin but French by adoption, has been an independent and reserved figure; her work is opposed to the excesses of a certain design culture by herself considered “too rational and intellectual”, the second one, Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999), is known for her collaboration with Le Corbusier and much less for her important contribution to the history of interior design, the design of the use’s object and for the continuous dialogue that she has been able to create between East and West, starting from her mission in Japan, in 1940. During the Twenties and Thirties the names of women become more relatively numerous, if you consider that the architecture stays in the belief of the vast majority of society: “a male profession”.

The drawing, such as proper place of the architectural criticism, is the tool that allows, more than any other way of the criticism itself, to get mostly closer to the recognizable consistency of the design process for its continuous “coming and going” that is characteristic of both the drawing and the form’s construction, which, without it, cannot take “body”. If this proposition is true, then the drawing, conceived as analysis and so as a critical tool, is the medium between words and things and, when these latter are “drawn”, is the only survey instrument capable of retracing the critical points of the project, certainly the hidden ones, which the word often cannot identify if not in an obviously different way.

To reconstruct the thought of the three authors, through the reconstruction of some unrealized projects, it is necessary to rely on digital representation, as it allows multiple hermeneutics manifestations.

The construction of the digital model is the logical consequence for the verification of the project’s intentions, not only because the model contains, within itself, the expressions of the “translator”, in this case those who re-draw, but above all for the fact that it allows you to view all the problems that would arise if those representations were materialized in a true, real, architectural “body”.

The digital model is thus to be understood as a “starting point” for the graphical analysis of the architecture and not the final outcome; in fact, are associated with other graphics, sometimes not derived from the model, useful for understanding/translation of the architecture. The construction of the model is not an action of putting into the form a simple image, that is an operation which is often carried out for the representation of the project, but it is the hermeneutic and critical result of the drawing substantially tending to the analysis of the shape.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Critical Analysis: Architectural text reading operation through the decomposition of the shapes and recognition of their meanings.

Graphical Analysis: Architectural text reading operation with redrawing operations and figurative reasons revival of its visible structure.

Redrawing: Scientific knowledge of an architecture and its meaning.

Female Architecture: Architectural production of designer preferably not team performed.

Translation: Not impersonal operation of transition from one language to another one.

Digital Archive: The set of selected interpretive digital representations of drawings in the archives.

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