Architecture’s gender debate

Dame and Queen

Zaha Hadid: DBE by royally appointed title, ‘queen of the curve’ as described by the Guardian, a true inspiration to the architectural field worldwide. Taken from us last year at the age of 65, she left a legacy literally anyone in the profession would be exceptionally proud to have achieved in a lifetime. At the time of her death, Zaha Hadid Architects was the fastest growing practice of its kind in the UK. So why does the question of gender gap in architecture even exist? Is there evidence to support the theory that a male-dominated industry effectively drew a glass ceiling into the design of architecture? If so then surely now we are heading in the right direction when it comes to gender equality, aren’t we?

The polls are in

In February 2016, The Architectural Review published the results of the 2016 Women in Architecture Survey.

Salary figures suggest that the gap broadens between men and women as seniority increases. Women are paid £55,000 less than men at director, partner and principal level – a figure that has risen by £42,000 in the last two years. Female architectural assistants are paid £1,800 less than men doing the same job, project architects £3,000 less, associates £2,000 less, and female directors were underpaid by £12,700.

Across all levels of practice women were in agreement that their place in the architecture world had yet to be accepted. Just seven per cent of architectural assistants said the building industry had accepted the role of female architects.

The poll found that almost 30 per cent of all women surveyed felt they weren’t offered the same career progression as men. As seniority increases to associate level,  just half of female respondents reported a good work/life balance and just 45 per cent of those at associate director level think the balance is right. For directors and partners or principals this figure improves marginally to 55 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively.

An equal contributor to the poll, The Architects Journal revealed, “[the poll] paints a picture of a profession where a glass ceiling is firmly in place; women are penalised for wanting a family, and take the lion’s share of responsibility for the care of dependents; and sexual discrimination and bullying are rife.

Our opinion…

A contributor to the Financial Times’ article on architecture’s glass ceiling suggested, “Maybe we should get more women into Mining, or Offshore-drilling, or Fishing the North Atlantic… They’re all male-dominated industries, too…”. This point of view is neither here nor there as far as we are concerned as it has exaggerated and strayed from the issue.

Architecture shouldn’t and should never have been depicted as a ‘male-dominated industry’. Our industry, if we are to trust the evidence presented, must change in order to provide the same opportunities to everyone, regardless of gender.

If you are interested in a career in architecture, please use our Careers page to express your interest in working at MOAT Studio.

Lead and Copper Theft

It has come to our attention that members of the criminal fraternity may be leaving markers at churches where existing roof alarm systems have been attacked so accomplices can return at a later date to remove lead/cooper sheet.

As lead prices are rising again this may prompt an increase in thefts, please can you alert your members to be on the lookout for this type of suspicious activity

Where roof alarms are installed any activations or problems should be treated as serious & immediate threats and immediately addressed

Where properties are targeted we would advise owners/occupiers to:

  • contact the alarm company to check the system
  • contact the Police to tip them off about any possibly suspicious alarm activations, even where no obvious attacks on the roof have been made (yet!)

copper and lead stolen from church roof

Ecclesiastical Insurance

BIM – Solving the needs of future design

Credit: Anita Cooney, Gabrielle Esperdy

Building information modelling (BIM) is simply a single digital model of a building that an architect, client, suppliers, builders, environmental managers – can work on. If you are familiar with Dropbox Paper, this is a similar concept.

At present around half of architectural practices use BIM. It is a growing technology in the UK which is set to be used in all practices in the near future.

BIM Explained

BIM takes away the traditional ‘line drawing’ of traditional architecture and replaces these with ‘smart objects’. For instance BIM programs such as ArchiCAD, AutoCAD and Revit make the link between traditional design and match it to building elements. For example a particular set of lines are used to signify windows. Because the program understands the building, it’s easier to make alterations and automatically update the models. This means that there’s no need to make a new set of drawings, making the process less repetitive, saving a lot of time.

Smaller architectural practices can now compete with higher-staffed firms.

The aim of BIM

Since April 2016, the UK government has required any public-sector project to use the technology, to document the process. The requirement throws down the walls between each of the professionals involved in the design and construction process.  In turn this simplifies the environmental planning in a building, making for more sustainable projects: 39% of those working in British construction (architects, engineers and surveyors) think it will lead to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions, according to RIBA’s National Building Specification.

The future

The future development of BIM will see designers entering their buildings through virtual reality technology before they’re even built and get a sense of their space, something that was impossible with computer-aided design (CAD) – a truly amazing thought among the architectural world.

On the downside

The downside of BIM depends entirely on its uptake and subsequent development by the people who use it. It’s restricted by the products that are available. Although some may say that this simplifies the process for everyone involved, there are often ‘happy accidents’ in design which turn out adding creative value.

Our thoughts at MOAT Studio

So, although BIM could stifle creativity it might open up the gap between commercial practices and design-led practices. The beginning of a fusion between designers and technologists.

While we still have the capacity to shape the development of BIM, we must consider how BIM will eventually shape our future environment.