Canadian Art - - Legacy - By Kate Wal­lace

New Brunswick’s Acre Ar­chi­tects is ex­pos­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural pro­fes­sion’s gen­der im­bal­ance

When New Brunswick’s Acre Ar­chi­tects made the Wall­pa­per* Ar­chi­tects’ Direc­tory 2016, a pres­ti­gious list of 20 ris­ing stars from around the world, its founders couldn’t get their hands on a copy—the mag­a­zine is not sold any­where in the prov­ince.

That dis­con­nect be­tween an un­likely base and global am­bi­tions is some­thing Acre co-founders Monica Adair and hus­band Stephen Kopp have turned to their ad­van­tage, build­ing, since 2010, a firm that cel­e­brates the free­dom of the fringe. When the cou­ple, who met as stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Toronto, left jobs at a large New York firm in 2007, they found a fron­tier of sorts in Adair’s na­tive New Brunswick, free from the con­ven­tions and con­ges­tion of de­sign cen­tres. “The Wild East,” Kopp calls it.

Now, in what may prove their most trans­for­ma­tive pro­ject yet, the cou­ple will turn their at­ten­tion to the ele­phant in their pro­fes­sion’s room by show­cas­ing in­spir­ing fe­male role mod­els as a counter to ar­chi­tec­ture’s stub­born gen­der im­bal­ance. “As ar­chi­tects, we are al­ways work­ing to ad­vance our build­ings. But what does it say if we can’t ad­vance our pro­fes­sion?” Adair says.

Af­ter win­ning the Royal Ar­chi­tec­tural In­sti­tute of Canada’s Young Ar­chi­tect Award in 2015, Adair started to no­tice the paucity of other women in ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tices. When she and Kopp asked col­leagues to name their favourite fe­male ar­chi­tects, many couldn’t name any beyond the late Zaha Ha­did or the wifely halves of prom­i­nent de­sign cou­ples. “For me it, was a bit of a floor­ing mo­ment,” Kopp says. “We were part of it, too. We didn’t have great an­swers ei­ther.”

Women make up ap­prox­i­mately half of ar­chi­tec­ture-school grad­u­ates in Canada, but less than a third of its reg­is­tered ar­chi­tects. While there are no­table ex­am­ples of women lead­ing firms, such as Pa­tri­cia Patkau of Patkau Ar­chi­tects in Van­cou­ver and Brigitte Shim of Shim-sut­cliffe in Toronto, there re­main few spots for women at the top. Com­monly cited rea­sons for this, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey by the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects, are long hours, child­care re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, un­equal pay and fewer ad­vance­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“There are very few role mod­els, very few prin­ci­pals,” says An­n­marie Adams, a pro­fes­sor and for­mer di­rec­tor of the School of Ar­chi­tec­ture at Mcgill Univer­sity. An ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian by train­ing, Adams has writ­ten ex­ten­sively on gen­dered space, in­clud­ing co-au­thor­ing ‘De­sign­ing Women’: Gen­der and the Ar­chi­tec­ture Pro­fes­sion (2000). For more

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