Architecture, Education, Gender, IE School of Architecture, Martha Thorne, Pritzker Architecture Prize, Women in architecture

Ignorance is not an excuse for gender inequality in architecture says Martha Thorne

Martha Thorne, executive president of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and dean of the IE School of Architecture in Madrid, said using ignorance as an excuse for gender inequality in the field of architecture can no longer be justified.

During an interview with designMENA, Thorne revealed that she uses her position as dean as a means of supporting women in architecture, both as a role model as well as in actively engaging women architects within the education programme.

Thorne explained that only two out of 33 directors of architecture schools in Spain are women, including herself, so being in that position allows her to make active decisions in involving more or equal numbers of women as professors, students, guest lecturers, and round table participants.

“We try to have equal numbers of male and female professors and not have people in traditional roles,” Thorne told designMENA. “I have a lot of male professors who are teaching history theory and women professors who are teaching subjects such as mathematics and physics”.

She continued: “There are some ways of having discrimination such as a round table discussion or inviting guests for critics, and all of a sudden there are four men and one woman – at my school that doesn’t happen and if it does, then it is a big mistake because we believe that there are extremely talented women who would be wonderful for a round table discussion on any subject.

“And nowadays you cannot say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know’, or ‘I don’t know anyone’. So that is probably another thing that I do. I try to know who is doing what and who is working in the field; what are their areas of specialisation and from that network, when we need a guest speaker on smart cities or energy saving and building facades or the social aspect of architecture in politics, then you always have the option on calling a woman architect. No longer can you say ‘Oh I didn’t know’.  Ignorance is not an excuse,” she said.

Thorne also spoke to designMENA about the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which this year was awarded to Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi. Discussing the list of laureate’s, Thorne admitted that “the Pritzker Prize ‘can do better’ at involving architects from the Middle East”.