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We celebrate women in architecture on #EthelDay

We celebrate women in architecture on #EthelDay

Next week the RIBA plans to mark the inaugural International Women in Architecture Day with a social media celebration of Ethel Mary Charles, the first female architect to gain membership to the institute, and the inspiring women architects from around the world who have followed since.

Under the banner #EthelDay, 5 July 2017 will be a day of international social media campaigning to celebrate the achievements of women in architecture. At 1pm BST, members are being urged to watch as messages are simultaneously shared around the world.

Everyone is being encouraged to share a picture or film of a female architect they find inspiring, or of one of their designs, with the hashtag #EthelDay. You can sign up to the Thunderclap to show your support for #EthelDay via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or all three.


Eva Jiricna: an inspiration whose work is as fresh, exciting and brilliantly detailed as ever, says Caroline Buckingham. Photo © Matej Slávik.

‘I encourage architects, students and their educators, design professionals and enthusiasts from around the world to join me in celebrating the contribution of women in architecture,’ says RIBA President and founder of International Women in Architecture Day Jane Duncan.

‘Whether you participate on social media with our #EthelDay campaign by sharing a photograph of an inspiring woman architect, host a Wikipedia ‘edit-a-thon’ to improve the visibility of women architects, or host a special event in your office or college, I can’t wait to hear about it. Let’s get the world celebrating the talent, ideas and creations of inspiring women in architecture.’

Ethel Mary Charles, barred entry to the Architectural Association in 1893 after three years under the tutorship of Ernest George and Harold Peto, took university extension courses at the Bartlett instead.

While working for arts and crafts architect Walter Cave, she passed RIBA examinations for associate membership and was nominated for RIBA membership by George, only to face a petition signed by architects arguing that ‘it would be prejudicial to the interest of the institute to elect a lady member’.

Her application had to go to a vote, which went in her favour (51 for, 16 against). Her sister Bessie would become the second woman to gain RIBA membership two years later in 1900.

Ethel practiced in Cornwall with her sister largely on domestic work despite her interest in larger-scale projects, then still reserved for men. In 1905, the same year she won a competition against 200 entries for a church in Germany, she was awarded the RIBA Silver Medal.

Ethel was the original role model for aspiring women architects at the beginning of the 20th century. Ahead of next week’s #EthelDay celebration, which the RIBA hopes will turn into a social media avalanche of nominations for inspiring women role models and mentors, three architects offer their own personal nominations.

Jane Duncan, RIBA President 2015-17, on Denise Scott Brown:

'There are many great women architects upon whose shoulders today’s women architects stand. I salute them, and hope that all architects will join me in celebrating the often undervalued and even unsung contributions that women in architecture have made to our world. I choose Denise Scott Brown as my inspiring woman architect – one of the most influential in America through her architecture with husband Robert Venturi, her writings and teaching.'

Caroline Buckingham, VP Profession and Practice and Director at HLM on Eva Jiricna:

'As a student architect I was desperate to visit 'Way In' at Harrods, refurbished by Eva Jiricna. I was fascinated with the hi-tech, futuristic steel fittings and the floating glass. Her works are fresh, exciting and brilliantly detailed. Her recent staircase at Somerset House is every bit as dramatic as the original wiry shelves I cooed over at 'Way In'.'

Barbara Kaucky, co-founder and director at Erect Architecture on Margarete Schuette-Lihotzki:

'Whilst studying at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, a group of students started visiting Magarete Schuette-Lihotzki for coffee, cakes and more importantly stories. She was the first female Austrian architect, now best known for her design of the Frankfurt kitchen (forerunner of the modern fitted kitchen), and a communist activist. At the time she was in her nineties. She was an amazingly uncompromising and inspiring women and I still find myself thinking of her.'

Sign up to our Thunderclap , and on the 5 July, share images of a woman architect who you find inspiring and/or one of their designs – and don't forget the hashtag #EthelDay.

Thanks to Jane Duncan, RIBA President; Caroline Buckingham, VP Profession and Practice and Director, HLM; Barbara Kaucky, Co-founder and Director, Erect Architecture.

Text by Neal Morris. This is a ‘Practice News’ post edited by the RIBA Practice team. The team would like to hear your feedback and ideas for Practice News: practice@riba.org

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