Almas Sadique reviews Making Space for STIRworld magazine


Almas Sadique recently reviewed Elizabeth Cox’s Making Space: A history of New Zealand women in architecture
for the architecture, design and art magazine STIRworld. She says:

‘Various anthropological findings hint at an ancient society where men and women were at par with each other, with neither gender dominating the other. While the veracity of this finding is contested, one can arguably surmise that the nomadic tribes of the ancient past must have had little chance to establish gender roles and ascribe authority while hurtling from one location to the other in search of food and shelter. It is easier to ascribe the emergence of such segregation to a later period, perhaps when the earliest residences were built, civilisations were established, and the need for administrative bodies emerged. While these theories can endlessly be debated and refuted amongst archaeologists, anthropologists and historians, it is worthy to note that most of modern history bears disproportionate cognizance of the male population, with little mention of women’s contributions to innovations and inventions.

One can, again, arguably, cite this phenomenon to the practice of segmenting work (both in the domestic and public spheres), segregating workers (again, both within and without the household) and levying inequitable value to labour (in tandem with the profit generated). This system finds encouragement and enhancement under the helm of capitalism. Another aspect that has managed to destabilise the harmony of societies by levying disproportionate power to the male populace, is western colonialism. Various indigenous groups refute the common belief that sexism has pervaded societies since its inception. Despite performing different roles, labour carried out by both men and women was valued, and held at par, in such cultures.

With the all-pervasive role of capitalism in extant societies and the understanding that more than 80 per cent of the globe has been colonised by Europeans in the past five to six centuries, it is imperative to address and counter sexism and racism, even if it only serves as the treatment to the symptom and not the cause. A recent project, a book, that does a tremendous job in documenting the contributions of women both from among European settlers in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as those of ethnic groups, such as Māori, Asian and Pacific people, is Making Space. Edited by Wellington-based historian Elizabeth Cox, Making Space comprises 48 essays that delineate the presence of women in the architectural sphere and associated industries from 1840 to 2020. The book also ponders upon both individual and collective struggles faced and strategies employed to make the profession more inclusive.’

Read the comprehensive illustrated review here.