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Gender distinctions under scrutiny

Bruce Buckland offers a counter argument to July’s Viewpoints

I applaud your engagement on issues of women in architecture, but I was astounded at the sheer condescension of Ms Moussavi’s article on the subject (Viewpoints, AR June).

She refers to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, the French philosophers whose work has been loosely reinterpreted by the philosophy professor and feminist Tamsin Lorraine in Deleuze and Guattari’s Immanent Ethics; a book Ms Moussavi has undoubtedly encountered.

In her article she equates ‘being-man’ with being ‘status-quo’, she implies that every male in our profession is blind-sided by the default application of ‘prefigured formal rules’ and she makes other patronising claims about what are apparently exclusively male tendencies. She seems to be suggesting that absolutely any form of male mindset is incapable of thinking any other way to the men who have dominated architecture over the last century. As a young man I find this rather offensive.

Counter to the comprehensive negativity of ‘being-man’, she equates ‘becoming-woman’ with every kind of positive theoretical approach that exists in the minds of today’s most forward-thinking architectural theorists. Again she is implying that the female attitude is always better than the male no matter what form it comes in. It is also worth noting the substitution of ‘being’ for ‘becoming’ in the terms she uses − a clear denial of any sort of predeterminism.

The core debate here is about sexism in our profession and this article is sexist on the most fundamental level. I am surprised that the AR would include such unbalanced writing in its pages.

Unlike Ms Moussavi I strive to write balanced critiques, so I must say that I understand the message so deeply hidden between her lines. I suggest a more apt distinction between the opposing mindsets she presents would be achieved if they were labelled as ‘20th century’ and ‘21st century’. It is unfortunately still the case that most practices are headed by men with ‘20th-century’ attitudes, which continues to hold back the progression of people with ‘21st-century’ attitudes.  It is a shame that her excellent architectural ideologies are so tarnished by her insistence on drawing gender distinctions where gender is not the issue.

As for her agenda to abolish female role models, I must agree, but only because any role model, male or female, one is likely to aspire to in architecture these days will probably still be someone with ‘20th-century’ attitudes. Gender is not remotely relevant to myself or my peers, just as race, nationality, religion, or any other social distinction never enters my mind as a way of distinguishing between people.

It is the old guard with ‘20th-century’ attitudes who are prolonging the last gasps of sexism in architecture. I look forward to the day that the last of them are struck down from their podia and architecture becomes a profession entirely run by people, no matter what form they come in. I hope Ms Moussavi will consider herself a person of 21st-century architecture rather than so insistently defining herself by her gender. We are all equals here.

Bruce Buckland, Director at Buckland Architecture, Canterbury

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