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From Women in Architecture to the W Awards

Following eight years of Women in Architecture, the W awards look to the future even as they remain reflective of our past, of the lineage of work we seek to continue

‘You’re a damn fine woman painter’, the artist Jackson Pollock tells Lee Krasner in Ed Harris’s biographical film centred on the aforementioned man painter. The qualifier stings; smarting with the weight of thousands like it, with Krasner’s historical neglect, this particular sting is not entirely unfamiliar today. A winner of last year’s awards, Sheila O’Donnell insists that ‘We have to get to the point where it doesn’t have that Pollock connotation – a damn fine woman painter’. The road is longer yet. 

Following on from eight years of Women in Architecture, the W Awards celebrate exemplary work of all kinds; from the design of the world’s most significant new buildings to contributions to wider architectural culture, from lifetimes of achievement to the work of women with bright futures ahead. 

Our ideas around identity are constantly evolving, and require constant re-examination. We want to signify the shifts we continue to undergo in how we think about gender in the profession. What we call these things matters in the process: as the very basis of communication, the words we use underlie the formation of our society. They structure how we think and how we act. Some have countless associations, but they are also necessarily limited. 

We are not leaving an old tradition as much as continuing to evolve it: W is reflective of our past, of the lineage of work that we seek to continue, but the suggestive signification opens to the future. What remains of utmost importance is the celebration of exceptional design by people who are systemically undervalued by the society in which we live. 

The W initiatives will continue to build on the work we have done to date, continuing to raise the profile of women in architecture worldwide, inspiring change as a united voice of this global call for respect, diversity and equality. We look forward to the year ahead, joining forces and celebrating the outstanding contribution these architects make to the wider profession.

Find out more about the W Awards here. If you are a principal or director of a practice and would like to join the W programme to share best practice with your peers and help us build a sustainable future for the profession, click here