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Editorial: Rise up and resist, there is much to defend and fight for

Editorialindex

If the marches and protests of recent weeks have shown anything, it’s that the city can be reclaimed

Too many women in architecture are bullied, harassed, underpaid and taunted, their contribution forgotten or erased. This is the sixth year of our campaign for gender equality, founded in 2012 by sister title the Architects’ Journal and supported by The Architectural Review. Its purpose is to expose systemic sexism, unpick how this has distorted the history of architecture, and inspire change by celebrating the work of women who have overcome.

Denise Scott Brown, whom we honour with this year’s Jane Drew Prize, once called on critics to ‘write about my work’ rather than scribble about her sex. Just so. In this edition, we write about the work of eight architects from around the world, with critics independently assessing their buildings. We also question the very idea of authorship and the creative genius in architecture. Using the survey results, we measure inequality based on the responses of over a thousand women and more than three hundred men.

‘Governments are curtailing the right to peaceful protest and increasing their control over public space’

Set in the context of the recent pussyhat protests and the political squeeze on human rights, the Women in Architecture campaign not only dovetails with the feminist global marches against the sexist policies of Donald J Trump and his war on women – it comes as free speech and the right to protest are increasingly under threat. As democracy wavers in countries that were once its cradle, from Bill C-51 in Canada to the ‘gag law’ in Spain, governments are curtailing the right to peaceful protest and increasing their control over public space.

Online, we organise in virtual piazzas, with the internet as the de facto forum for mass movements and freedom of expression. How does this impact our definition of the ‘public’ and public space itself? Social media is neither democratic, nor free. Monitored by security agencies, controlled by corporations, and siphoned by an algorithm that curates your personal feed, this is a distorted reality, easily faked and silenced.

The real city is more democratic – especially in its green spaces, from Central Park to Hampstead Heath. As Fumihiko Maki considers in his manifesto for another utopia, should the design of our cities begin with the provision of open space rather than buildings? For all its architecture, Maki expresses how Modernism too often failed to create the ‘joy of urban life’ – so much of which can be found in even a humble local park.

‘Urban freedom is under threat by the spreading city of Notopia, where the only public space is a private square’

But urban freedom is under threat by the spreading city of Notopia, where the only public space is a private square. Sanitised fractions of corporate estates lurk at predictable intervals in an eerie stage-set metropolis. In these clean and choreographed Stepford spaces, we are stars of our own Truman Show, subconsciously aware of our invisible audience, smiling for the surveillance cameras. Here capitalism meets 1984, and security guards move you along for the crime of not buying a cappuccino.

Rise up and resist, there is much to defend and fight for. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice … no lie can live forever’. If the marches and protests of recent weeks have shown anything, it’s that the city can be reclaimed, its streets occupied, and that social media, for all its faults, is an effective way to organise, rally the crowd and craft action. The virtual and the spatial are no longer islands, but interconnected realities; we need both to save our cities.