Related Staff: Eunice Seng
Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: 2018-ongoing
Funding Body: HKU Global Partnership Fund
From the first cohort of Bachelor of Architecture graduates at HKU in 1955 to the present, there has been a substantial increase in the proportion of women in the student population – from 5% to about 50%. In the last three decades, there have also been a visible increase of women in higher-level positions in public agencies, corporate architectural practices and directing independent practices. Despite this and the high proportion of female architectural students in the universities in Hong Kong and Singapore – the two most advanced postcolonial cities in Asia – there has been no historical account of the practices or contribution of women architects during the period of post-war modernization, industrialization and professionalization in these cities.
Gender studies, transcultural and transnational studies on post-industrialized labor and professional networks is gathering momentum in recent years, evidenced by the increasing number of conferences and multi-disciplinary workshops on gender; and identified by the United Nations as one of its key sustainable development goals. Yet the knowledge and understanding of the role of women in architecture is still surprisingly lacking in architectural education, and historical and contemporary discourses in the discipline. Academic and professional publications on architecture and the built environment continue to overlook the contribution of women architects.
In North America and Europe, increasing efforts have been made by scholars and professionals to provide parity in the discipline, in terms of rights and equality in representation. In the last few years, “Women in Architecture” is a key theme in conferences in cities outside of the usual advanced urban centers, including Colombia, Istanbul, Nagpur, St. Louis and Turin. Between 2015 and 2017, With Dr Chee Lilian, we convened a panel on Domesticity in Asia: Translations between Housing, Domesticity and Asia” at the Society of Architectural Historians annual conference (published in 2017 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Architecture). I participated in an international workshop on “Situating Domesticities” in NUS which Dr Chee co-convened, and organized a multi-disciplinary panel on “Women and Architecture: Conversations on the Discipline” for the Singapore Institute of Architects, which she chaired. In 2018, I was invited to be a contributing author to The Bloomsbury Global Encyclopaedia of Women in Architecture, 1960-2015 (forthcoming 2021). Through these cross-disciplinary, multi-locational activities, we have begun to build initial networks and highlight the urgency of creating a knowledge base revolving around the role of women in architecture, within the Asian context.