Last Friday over one hundred people gathered excitedly for the launch of Portraits of Practice: At Work in Architecture at the Tin Sheds Gallery in Sydney. Reviewing the exhibition for The Red and Black Architect is Graduate Architect and Parlour Agitator, Phuong Le
The exhibition, organised by Parlour, showcased two photographic series depicting the diversity of architects, as well as female architects within their workplace. As the curators explain, the exhibition “challenges dominant perceptions of what an architect looks like and what architects do. It uses documentary photography to reveal the minutiae of an ordinary day in the life of women in architecture”.
The main exhibition filled the gallery walls with collages of photographs depicting smartly dressed people within their workplace, a scene that one could imagine finding in many offices throughout Sydney. With the exception of the occasional flash of the fluro vest, hard hat, and physical building model, these images almost humanise the vision of the architect commonly presented in film as being a slightly antisocial older male dressed head-to-toe in black.
While wondering around the gallery, one could almost be lead to believe that female representation within the architecture industry was positively progressive. That is, until one turns the corner and is presented with some of Parlour’s research highlighting gender equity issues within the profession. As one finds their way into the central core of the exhibition, the struggle of female architects is presented wall-to-wall in text in what reads like streams of thought, senses of insecurity, and what almost appears like a warning to other women considering working in the industry. The contrast in what is presented in text adds a different dimension to the smiles seen in photographs filling the room and leaves the viewer with a sense of unease.
“Sometimes I do feel that it’s harder for women to move up. I just can’t quite put my finger on what it is. It’s not that obvious. Everything is a little bit underlying these days, because it’s actually un-PC to say things like that.”
Meanwhile, the second display was Documentation: The Visual Sociology of Architects. In this photographic series, portraits of architects were captured over the course of the Australian Institute of Architects National Conference in 2010 to demonstrate what architects look like.
In conjunction with this exhibition, Parlour has launched a social media campaign on Instagram encouraging architects and building designers to take photographs of themselves at work to share to the public what a day in the life of an architect looks like. To participate, take a photo on Instagram and tag #portraitsofpractice and @_parlour .
At the conclusion of the launch, there was much cause for celebration as Parlour announced they surpassed their fundraising target on the crowd funding platform, Pozible. The much needed money raised will go towards further developing their website and continue to build upon the research gathered to date. To check out their crowdfunding campaign, click here
Portraits of Practice is on at Sydney University’s Tin Sheds Gallery and runs until 11th September.
For more information See Parlour
About the Author:
Phuong Le is an architectural graduate currently working at MPA Projects as a Contracts Administrator. She is a committee member of the NSW Emerging Architects and Graduates Network (DARCH) and also sits on the NSW National Women in Construction committee. Phuong is currently undertaking architectural registration and hopes to soon be able to crown herself with the title of “Architect”.
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