Seeing beyond the heroic male member and sharing credit where it’s due
Reading David Rosenberg’s piece on Spatial Agency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture titled ‘Till et al under the spotlight’ − you might have been mistaken into believing that the main author of this book was Jeremy Till. While he is of course the most prominent figure among the three authors, all the same, there are three: Nishat Awan, Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till. We all have our share in the thinking behind and production of the book; the research was conducted collectively, which was in the spirit of the groups and practices researched.
The text that was allowed to appear in the AR, however, focuses on the senior male member of the team. And, you could say, the easiest one to attack, too, given Till’s standing and professional status. By doing that, your reviewer does exactly what we find architecture to be complicit in: the focus on the single male ‘hero’ instead of the recognition and acknowledgement of the multitude of ‘others’.
Had the reviewer spent as much time investigating the background and biographies of the two other more junior and female members of team he would have found rich and varied backgrounds of activism and practice. Simply because those backgrounds were not as easily accessible, this superficial reading leads to a superficial set of assumptions.
Don’t get me wrong, Rosenberg can have his opinion. What I object to is the way in which the reviewer makes assumptions about the set-up of the team and the role of the women within that team. That Till − simply because he is the professionally highest-ranking figure in this collaborative endeavour − was in charge of this work intellectually; that, because of that, he has got to be ‘responsible’ for it, and, that Spatial Agency must therefore be the logical extension of his oeuvre.
While Rosenberg makes mention of the ‘collective’ behind the writing of the book, it doesn’t have any consequences on the conclusions he draws. He doesn’t even consider the possibility of another reading. In other words, the women − for whatever reason − seem to be a mere accessory, not important enough to even mention by name (apart from the reference to the full book title at the end of the article − again this refers to the web-based text).
I find it unacceptable that Rosenberg as the author of the review did not rise above this most obvious reading and that the AR as the publisher did not challenge Rosenberg’s interpretation before going to print. Considered in the light of debates around the historic and contemporary role of female researchers and practitioners in particular and of teamwork more generally, this leaves me puzzled as well as furious.