Chicago Celebrates Women Building Change


Although women have become increasingly visible in the fields of art, architecture and design, they are frequently underrepresented in institutional exhibitions.

In the field of architecture, where women represent 50 percent of students enrolled in architecture programs, but only 18 percent of licensed architects, there is a pressing need to encourage the creations of females by bringing it to the attention of the public.

"Women Building Change," an exhibition at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, aims to do exactly that by highlighting outstanding works by female architects living and working in the city of Chicago. Organized by Chicago Women in Architecture, which was founded in 1974 and is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, the show includes architectural drawings, photos and other visuals of local buildings and the work of local architects.

It is held in conjunction with a number of other events, including a design dialogue between Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Reed Kroloff at the MCA, and a bus tour of several new buildings by women in Chicago on August 9.

The latter will lead ticket-holders to the new UNO Galewood Charter School, a glass and concrete masterwork designed by UrbanWorks, a female-owned firm. It will also feature a tour of the boathouse at Clark Park, which was designed by Jeanne Gang.

Gang is perhaps the most prominent of all of the architects featured in the exhibition. She has made an indelible mark on the skyline of the city with Aqua, an 82-story mixed-use structure that looks like stacks of paper stacked on top of glass to form a weightless tower in the sky. The skyscraper won many awards, including the 2009 Emporis Skyscraper of the Year award, as well as a place on the shortlist for the 2010 biannual International Highrise Award. Gang herself received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2011. If anyone will raise the profile of female architects, it will be in the wake of her legacy -- and at 50, she's just getting started making her mark on the built world.

"Women Building Change" is on view through December 2014 at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

--Brienne Walsh is a writer and photographer who, in addition to ARTPHAIRE, contributes to publications such as The New York Times, Art in America, Interview, ArtReview, Modern Painters, Departures, Paper, New York magazine, and Forbes among others. She has also appeared as an art expert and blogger on television programs including Today and Anderson Cooper Live. Brienne received her BA in art history from Brown University in 2004, and her MA in Critical Studies from Columbia University in 2011.