Parity in History?

Seminar History and Theory of Architecture (052-0839-22)
Organizer: Group Anne Hultzsch
Lecturers: PD Dr Anne Hultzsch
Time: Mo 11:45-13:30
Location: HIL E10.1

Can we achieve gender parity in architectural historiography? Can we talk about equal numbers of women, men, and other gender identities when all textbooks agree that there simply were (much) more male architects than those identifying as female until very recently – and still are, if we accept the star system? What would shift, if we insisted on finding a woman with architectural agency for each man we are taught about? How would we find these women?

In this course, we will explore what forms of agency woman had before 1900, focusing on her pen as her main tool. Writing and publishing allowed woman a public voice long before she was allowed to enrol for professional degrees or have the vote at the ballot box. She was not silent, and she had a lot to say about her environment. Her lived experiences and her skill to ascribe meaning to spaces for others to relive is as crucial to our understanding of architectural history as that of contemporaneous design practices. We must listen to her if we want to come closer to parity in architectural histories. This course will broaden students’ understanding of the modern age by challenging existing canons in terms of gender, class, race, and other social categorisations creating systems of oppression.

Consisting of reading seminars and writing exercises, we will engage both with 18th and 19th-century primary sources as well as with feminist theory across the last 300 years, embedding these in the wider contexts to achieve parity. Writing is central to the course, both as primary source as well as a tool to develop our own engagement with architecture and its histories. Students will gain skills in historical research as well as with digital humanities tools. Concepts taught include situated writing, intensive/extensive reading as well as text mining and analysis. Students will be enabled to write their own histories, to take agency themselves in which ways they want to know about the past.

Assignments will consist of several written pieces, produced during the semester, of differing length and format, both creative and academic, always closely linked to our joint research. The pieces will be peer reviewed in class to produce a collaborative response to the question: Can we achieve gender parity in architectural historiography?


This course is linked to the EU-funded project WoWA Women Writing Architecture 1700-1900.


PD Dr. Anne Hultzsch