Sometimes the Best Man for a Job Isn't

And with that victory by “the red team”, all is right with the universe for at least the next year. At the beginning of each football season, I establish a set of measures or goals for the season in an effort to help me put things in perspective. This year’s list:

1. Beat the orange team

2. Beat the orange and blue team

3. Win the National Championship

4. Win the SEC Championship

5. Win the SEC West Division

6. Beat LSU

You read correctly- I would take win against UT over a national championship. Thankfully those two are not mutually exclusive (as we have proven three of the past four years). This year’s game, however, was a melancholy one, as the circle suspended our tradition of traveling to the game together. We’ll be back at it next year, and I’m sure we’ll make up for lost time.

As much as I hated to miss the game and my buddies, I was happy to be home.   I’ve been traveling too much lately. Work travel can be taxing, but the upside is that I occasionally get to do and see things that I otherwise would not. For instance, this week I got to see a lecture by Denise Scott Brown. For those of you who aren’t architects, Ms. Scott Brown is one of the most influential designers and educators of the last century. She is a post-modernist whose influence is equal parts practice and theory. (See how I was able to describe her without mentioning her husband Robert Venturi?)

The reality is that you can’t describe the work of Ms. Scott Brown or Mr. Venturi without acknowledging the role of the other. While they are indeed individuals, their work is inextricably linked. This fact led to controversy as Mr. Venturi was awarded the 1991 Pritzker Prize and Ms. Soctt Brown got nada. A group of women students at the Harvard GSD started a petition asking the Pritzker organization to consider retroactively making a joint award of the ’91 citation. Their request was denied. (This is a good intro to the story, with an update, and the latest.)

Ms. Scott Brown’s attitude is fantastic- hell with the Pritzker (my words, not hers), the better award is the acknowledgment of the design community and a renewed conversation about the role of women designers. What I observed as a student in the 90’s was documented in AIA statistics in 2011- the architecture profession is full of dudes. Only 15% of licensed architects are women. Of course, that ratio man:woman ratio was troubling to me for different reasons when I was a student, but it is no less troubling now.

I must say, I’m a bit out of my depth in discussing gender equity issues. To my discredit, it’s simply not a subject I’ve spent much time contemplating. I can observe, however that men and women designers often see things differently, and have different design sensibilities. The gender dynamic in collaborative design environments also affects the process. The country is roughly 50/50 women/men. This means that half of the users of our spaces are women, while only 15% of the people who are designing those spaces are women. It has always seemed to me that user groups of a space should be proportionately involved in the design process. We increasingly think in these terms when designing in racially or socioeconomically diverse environments, why should gender not be added to that mix as well?

I have been blessed over the last few years to work closely with strong women associates, clients and colleagues. This has no doubt been of great benefit to my work and professional development. Chattanooga as a community is blessed to have a very talented women in the design community, women in established leadership positions, and an emerging generation of civic minded and engaged women. I am of the opinion, however, that Chattanoogans of both genders would benefit from greater balance in the design process.

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