ERC Project - Women Writing Architecture 1700-1900
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About WoWA

Source: Eugène Delacroix. July 28: Liberty Leading the People. 1830. Oil on canvas, 8'6¼" x 10'8" (2.60 x 3.25 m). Musée du Louvre, Paris. 
Women Writing Architecture: Female Experiences of the Built 1700-1900*, short WoWA, studies female experiences of architecture as recorded in documentary writing drawn from specific regions in South America and Europe between 1700 and 1900. While architectural histories often focus on male-dominated processes of design and production, this project takes a new stance by unearthing women’s contributions to the architectural sphere through writing and editing.
While not part of the canon, articles, travelogues, domestic manuals, or pamphlets authored by women in the period consistently featured descriptions of or commentary on buildings and cities, but these have never been examined collectively by architectural historians. Through a combination of macro and micro research, close and distant reading, geographical mapping and tracing of experience, WoWA addresses this gap opening up a new corpus and presenting architecture’s past through the female eye.

*This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No.949525).


Hultzsch, Anne. ‘The City “En Miniature:” Situating Sophie von La Roche in the Window’. Journal 18, no. Issue 15 Cities (Spring 2023).

Pérez-Martínez, Sol. ‘Mujeres haciendo espacio en Chile 1800 - 1900: Santiago y la poeta popular Rosa Araneda’. _Revista Historia y Patrimonio_ 2, no. 2 (30 June 2023): 1–30., (

Hultzsch, Anne. ‘Other Practices: Gendering Histories of Architecture / Otras Prácticas: Historias de La Arquitectura Con Perspectiva de Género’. ZARCH, no. 18 (2 September 2022): 30–41.(

Hultzsch, Anne, and Sol Pérez Martínez. ‘Reading-With: A Collaborative Method for Inclusive Architectural Histories’. Architectural Histories 11, no. 1 (12 September 2023).

Our projects

She Writes Architecture 1750-1850

PD Dr Anne Hultzsch

Project leader 

She Writes Architecture is located across WoWA’s geographies and focuses on three genres: travel writing, historiography, and advice literature. The project's aim is to read these texts as spatial critiques, revealing the influence their authors wielded over spatial practices,  norms, and transgressions. Reading between continents and in the colonial contexts of the period, it complicates their gender with their class, race, and colonial privileges while centering their work within architectural and spatial histories.

Image source: Haywood, Eliza. The Female Spectator. Frontispiece. 1, 1744.

Women Making Space in South America 1700-1900

Dr Sol Pérez-Martínez

Postdoc fellow

Women Making Space in South America 1700-1900 examines the writings of women in Chile, Perú, Bolivia and Argentina during the 18th and 19th century to explore their spatial practices and their participation in constructing their country’s built environment. This postdoctoral project focuses on making visible women’s accounts of their involvement in three different urban sites: the street, the convent and the school, arguing that women ‘made space’ for themselves in the late colonial and early republican period in South America.

Image source: Garreaud, Pedro Emilio. La Zamacueca. 1875 1863. Photograph. A0007-000007. Cultura Digital UDP.

Situating the Frauen-Zimmer: Women’s Writings on, in, and outside of the Architectural Interior, 1783-1876

Elena Rieger 

Doctoral fellow

This dissertation will examine the writings of five authors: Sophie von La Roche (1730-1807), Emilie von Berlepsch (1755-1839), Lucie Domeier (1770-1796), Louise Mühlbach (1814-1873), Louise Otto-Peters (1819-1895). The project utilises the spatial dimension that the term Frauenzimmer (women’s room) offers—a body present in space–as a lens for exploring the writings of women and their architectural descriptions. This dissertation argues, that women’s situated descriptions of architecture offer a valuable perspective that challenges dominant narratives which have historically excluded and marginalized certain groups.

Image source: Johann Michael Rüdiger, Frontispiece, Frauen-Zim[m]er-Bibliotheckgen [...], Güstrau 1705

Coming soon

“Chosen women” (sg. aclla, pl. acllacuna). Illustration from “El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno,” the chronicle of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, a Quechua nobleman, published in 1615. Public domain.

Mapa del Tahuantinsuyo published by Horacio Urteaga in 1926. Gallica archive.  

S11 – Women Making Space in South America, c.1400-1900

Chaired by Anne Hultzsch and Sol Pérez Martínez, ETH Zurich
EAHN 2024 Conference Athens, 19-23 Jun 2024

The period between 1400 and 1900 in South America is characterised by a set of transitions and processes of transculturation as indigeneity emerged from the clash with colonisation. Empires competed, indigenous cultures grappled with European colonisation, and both later fed into American nation building. This session focuses on the period between the creation of the Tawantinsuyu, the Incan Realm of the Four Parts, in 1438, thus the definition of Andean territory as a continuous region, to the 1880s when the Mapuche people in Southern Chile and Argentina were the last indigenous group to lose control over their territories. The session aims to address gaps in the architectural historiography of the Andean region especially regarding moments of transition where ‘cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other’ creating ‘contact zones’ (Pratt, 1991). We seek to start these new histories through the perspective of women – from any class or ethnicity – as one of the groups often excluded from scholarship on the period. We ask how those identifying as women influenced, shaped, critiqued, and made spaces within and alongside the force field of the contact zone, with its asymmetrical power relations, its struggles, pains, and opportunities?

Challenging linear Euro-American architectural narratives of styles imported to the supposed new world, we invite contributions exploring the role of women in shaping public and private spaces in the Andean territories – from home and convent to street and plaza. Practices to be examined for female space-making opportunities could include, for example, building, homemaking, designing, writing, patronage, financing, teaching, lobbying, gardening, or farming, even mothering. Contributions should explore questions emerging from the triangle between gender, architectures, and South America as a contact zone. What are the spatial categories most useful when exploring women ‘making space’ in the period and region (Matrix, 1984)? Does the public-private dichotomy of separate spheres serve here? What sources provide evidence how women made space? Which writing techniques yield the best results, from archival tracing to historical fiction? How can we fill gaps when there are few traces (Hartman, 2021)?

Besides a methodological appeal for new approaches, the session also queries key terminologies of architectural history: Who is the space-maker during this period? What is the relationship between space-making and the architect? Did the professionalisation of architecture during the 19th century further the exclusion of women from space-making practices? Was there a period of increased access colonial or institutional transitions closed doors to women? Are there comparable developments in other regions?

This session hopes to facilitate a pivotal change to how we look at the formation of architectural cultures in the past through the eyes of women and their lived experiences, considering questions of race, class, or religion, besides those of gender. As scholarship in the field of Latin American architectural history has so far often been dominated by isolated time periods defined by the male coloniser – such as pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial, modernism – the proposed period between c. 1400 and 1900 invites cross-readings based on dynamic approaches to historical moments, places, and protagonists.

Information about the session can be found here:

Group Anne Hultzsch
Department of Architecture / gta
ETH Zurich

HIL D 72.2
Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5
8093 Zurich