The Precious Doubt

October 6, 2013


In her introduction to the book, „Feminist Practices – Interdisciplinary Approaches to Woman in Architecture“ Lori A. Brown describes the lack of representation of female architects both in practice and academia, as a motivation for doing the project.

She describes her own experience, working as an architect in a New York firm, where she was facing an tremendous underrepresentation of women and, even more extreme, of  ethnic minorities. Encountering similar conditions when becoming teacher at university,  she questions the reasons behind this phenomena, given the fact that 50 percent of students in the first semester are female and questions the ability of the profession to act appropriately in a most diverse society.

Furthermore, Brown describes her beginnings of research on this topic which resulted in the „Feminist Practices“ book and exhibition, as well as the specific contributions which make its content, pointing out their specific, feminist perspective.


I was curious about the fact stated by Lori A. Brown that although every second student starting architecture school is female, a significantly lower percentage finishes school and goes into practice. It shows an equal interest in the field, but what makes the female students give up and can a lack of representation have to do with it? Brown herself, who studied on this issue for years, admits to not have a satisfying answer to this. I am for obvious reasons even far less able to provide such, but will instead try to share some insights into the obstacles of being an architecture student.

Academical failure in architecture school is almost impossible. No matter how bad you are performing, no matter how much your teachers dislike your project, as long as you are presenting something at the end of the term, it is quite certain you will pass whatsoever.

Dropping architecture school has other reasons. And from my perspective it seems that a deep doubt in both, oneself as an architect, as well as architecture itself and the conditions in which it is produced is often the main cause. Paradoxically architectural achievement derives from these very same sources, constantly questioning one‘s own work and ideas, and a will to do better than what and how architecture is produced in our society today. This means, success and failure are very close. I have noticed that it is often friends in which I see the biggest potential are also those who question the idea of themselves becoming architects the hardest.

We have to imagine the good architecture student as a very sensitive being. And I think therefore the individual influences on becoming architects, when not feeling equally represented by their sex in practice and academia, are hard to tell, but can not be underestimated. The book and exhibition by Lori A. Brown can be a good contribution in tackling the gender issue in terms of representation. But what else can be changed to stop thoughtful and critical minds from turning their backs to the field of architecture?

I feel that doubt should be given more space and attention. It has to be thought of as something precious, as a virtue rather than an obstacle. The power tool.


/ Christoph

Referring to: Introduction of „Feminist Practices – Interdisciplinary Approaches to Woman in Architecture“, by Lori A. Brown, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2011, pp. 1-12


One Response to “The Precious Doubt”

  1. gerdholgersson Says:

    I agree in your analysis and I think this idea of reevaluating dougbt is in fact very inspiring. Maybe the key point here is to distinguish when doubt turns out to be a generic force instead of a passivating blocker. When this criticism and uncertainty toward the field or practice of architecture doesn’t end in distrust but succeed in producing new ways of doing, become creative. As mentioned, doubt often springs from a careful close look at the situation being, and in fact indicates that the subject at stake is seen as truely mattering. What you doubt is what you don’t yet know, therefore an opportunity to change – your own beliefs as well as what’s finally produced. To be able to dare doubting we has to strive towards an atmosphere that encourages testing, thinking and best of all, failing.
    /Gerd Holgersson

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