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Architect Elisabeth Scott on new UK passport design

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Architect Elisabeth Scott has been named as one of just two women to make it on to the designs for the new UK passport

Scott (1898–1972) was responsible for the design of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon (1932) – one of the first public buildings to be designed by a female architect.

She is joined on the passport’s visa pages by fellow architect and her second cousin Giles Gilbert Scott who is also featured alongside his designs for Battersea Power Station, Liverpool Cathedral, and the K2 red telephone box.

Just two women are featured in the nine new passport designs – Scott and mathematician Ada Lovelace, who is credited with creating the first computer code.

The lack of women has sparked a row, with Labour shadow employment secretary Emily Thornberry criticising the move, and inequality campaigners adding that it ‘airbrushes women out of history’.

Thornberry tweeted: ‘Here we go again - new UK passport has seven men featured and just two women. We exist.’

Sam Smethers of inequality campaign group the Fawcett Society, said: ‘Instead of being celebrated and remembered great British women are being airbrushed out of history.

‘This is completely unacceptable and the dismissive response of the Passport Office is revealing in itself. It appears that they have a problem with institutional sexism.’

But director general of the Passport Office Mark Thomson said the artists and designers chosen were a ‘good representation.’

‘It wasn’t something where we said “let’s set out to only have two women”’, he said.

‘In trying to celebrate the UK’s creativity we tried to get a range of locations and things around the country to celebrate our triumphs over the years, so there we are.’

A new passport is launched every five years and those featuring the updated designs are set to come into circulation from December 2015.

Named ‘Creative United Kingdom’, the new designs feature cultural icons and depict some of the ‘successes in innovation, architecture, art and performance that the UK has brought to the world.’

The designs also feature five ‘brilliant’ buildings from across the UK including the Houses of Parliament, Marks Barfield’s London Eye, the Pierhead in Cardiff Bay, the Falkirk Wheel and the Titanic Belfast.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • How many black, Asian, Irish, gay, transgender designers are featured on the passport? How about ones with physical or learning impairments?

    Why doesn't Emily Thornberry care about these groups, all of whom have been subjected to discrimination?

    That being said, if they are being represented in a manor which is proportional to their representation in the profession during the time period shown, then there should be no problem with it, and this is just a headline grabbing exercise, which only hinders progress on equality.

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  • I'm more depressed about how horribly ugly the whole thing is. I think as well as being institutionally sexist, the passport office is also institutionally ignorant about good design. Although it'd be nice to have a passport that looked towards Norway's for inspiration, this one is definitely representative of our muddled identity.

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