French architect Odile Decq has led an unprecedented flash mob against ‘prejudices’ towards women in architecture at the Venice Biennale this morning (25 May)
Decq, who was in Venice for the festival and launch of her new residential project Antares, led a ‘pop-up’ protest of around 150 women close to the centrepiece pavilion within the event’s Giardini parklands.
The Voices of Women event, which started at exactly 11am and blocked access along the biennale’s main avenue leading to the Italian Pavilion, was a protest against ‘pervasive prejudices and disrespectful behaviours’ which Decq argues have become ‘systemic’ in architecture’s culture and discipline.
Decq was joined at the front of the mob by Farshid Moussavi and Martha Thorne, the chief executive of the Pritzker Prize and Women in Architecture who read out a manifesto
The manifesto said: ‘We are united in denouncing discrimination, harassment and aggressions against any member of our community. We will not tolerate it. We will not stand silent.’
The manifesto went on to argue the festival’s Freespace theme, selected by curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Dublin-based Grafton, provided a ’crucial moment of awakening to promote equitable and respectful treatment of all members of the architectural community irrespective of gender, race, nationality, sexuality, and religion.
Participants included Monica von Schmalensee of White Arkitekter, Francine Houben, founder of Mecanoo, Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang, Johanna Hurme of 5468796 Architects, Deborah Saunt of DSDHA and Alison Brooks. Speaking to the AJ, Brooks said: ‘[The event has been] great. It has been a show of solidarity with our female colleagues and makes a statement that we are part of the general conversation which needs to be had about equality.
‘This is a global stage for architecture culture. The agenda and the theme of the biennale is very close to the principle of freedom and equality of opportunity across the profession.’
A list of more than 100 prominent women in architecture supporting the flashmob has also been published.
During the biennale, Decq had collected names for the list which represents leading women within the field and associated disciplines.
She told the AJ she was ‘very happy’ with the turnout but had not had any response from the biennale curators about the event or its aims.
Those attending the event were also handed a flyer (see below) with a link to a website described as an unverified ‘crowdsourced collection of misconduct’ by men in the industry, in the vein of the Shitty Media Men list, which emerged last year. It is understood neither the list and nor the #patri_archi handout were created or distributed by Decq or those connected with the Voices of Women campaign.
We as Voices of Women are building conversations and taking actions to raise awareness to combat pervasive prejudices and disrespectful behaviour that appears to be systemic in our culture and discipline.
We are united in denouncing discrimination, harassment and aggressions against any member of our community. We will not tolerate it. We will not stand silent.
Women are not a minority in the world but women are still a minority in the architecture’s field and we want that it could reflect better the world in which we live.
The Venice Biennale 2018 FREE SPACE is a crucial moment of awakening to promote equitable and respectful treatment of all members of the architectural community irrespective of gender, race, nationality, sexuality and religion. We will join hands with co-workers, students, clients, collaborators, and our male colleagues to create a new path forward towards equitable work and educational environments that promote respectful discourse and open exchange of ideas.
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Venice biennale 2018 crop