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Daniel Libeskind: ‘Misogyny is built into society’

Daniel libeskind 4 copyright stefanruiz
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Starchitect Daniel Libeskind has blamed the lack of eminent female architects on a ‘generative prejudice against women’ in the profession

Libeskind was speaking at a London Festival of Architecture event on Sunday (11 June), during which he was asked why there were so few prominent women architects.

He said: ‘Women, still, are underpaid everywhere in every country. Women are under-represented on any boards that govern things. Women are under-represented in every profession.’

Implying that women are held back in their careers by having a family, Libeskind added that there is a ’generative prejudice against women’. 

According to the AJ’s 2017 Women in Architecture survey, female partners and principals of UK architecture firms take home on average £55,000 less than males in the same role – and, according to the survey, this pay gap has widened by £42,000 in the last two years. 

The survey also suggested that women architects delay having children in order climb higher up the career ladder. It revealed that the average age of a female architect when they have their first child is 32 – four years older than the UK average

There is a misogyny that is built into society, globally

Libeskind added: ‘It’s certainly true that there is a misogyny that is built into society, globally. This is what all the world religions share – misogyny. Because they are fundamentally negative about women.

’We hope that in our new era, the notion of equality and human rights and gender equality will really change our future. I think it will.’ 

The AJ survey revealed that nearly a third (32 per cent) of female architects have experienced sexual discrimination in the past year. 

Also at the event, hosted by Jewish community centre JW3 in Finchley Road, north London, Libeskind discussed the design of his shortlisted UK Holocaust Memorial proposal next to the Palace of Westminster. 

He said his plans, developed in a team including Haptic Architects, were inspired by a line in a poem by Romanian-born Jewish poet Paul Celan: ‘To stand in the shadow of the scar up in the air’.

Libeskind said: ‘I thought about [those words]. I created a very oblique wall that casts a longer shadow on the Holocaust day here in London. You go under through this very sharply inclined blade, which faces the sky.’

He added: ‘The Jews who were murdered were not buried, they are up [in the sky]. 

Libeskind said that in his design he references the Kindertransport, an organised rescue effort to take in Jewish children from continental Europe into the UK just before the outbreak of the Second world War. 

‘It’s something positive; it’s something to think about the British Isles: the English Channel, the water, the good luck of the geography of London – and also the good deed that happened.’

Libeskind, who is a virtuoso in the accordion and has performed on Polish television, also discussed the influence of music on his architecture, saying: ‘Architecture is based on music, not the other way round.’

In addition, Libeskind discussed his experience masterplanning the World Trade Centre in New York, as well as the designs for a number of his key projects, including the Imperial War Museum North in Salford; the Jewish Museum Berlin; and the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics at Durham University, which recently won a RIBA North East Award. 

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