ERC Project - Women Writing Architecture 1700-1900
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Group Hultzsch

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf famously conjured up Shakespeare’s fictional 'wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith' to point out the inhibiting discrimination experienced by any would-be female poet in sixteenth-century London. Published almost a century later, Liane Lefaivre and Alexander Tzonis’ self proclaimed Documentary History from 1000 to 1810 (2004), which presents 140 primary texts on architecture, includes merely one female author, the fifteenth-century French poet and political thinker Christine de Pizan. The protagonists of architectural histories covering any period prior to (and often including) the twentieth century are predominantly male, a fact too often regarded as inevitable considering the undebatable fact that most architects then and there were, indeed, men.

While recently more women architects, or women who designed buildings throughout history, have been studied they remain a vanishingly small number compared to their male counterparts – again, because there simply were not more women practising architecture in the way men did. Our group takes a new stance. What if we did not have to invent a fictional sister of hero architects such as Viollet-le-Duc, John Soane, or Karl Friedrich Schinkel, to fathom widespread female contributions to architecture before 1900?

What if, instead, we searched for women who wrote around architecture, and thus participated in the architectural sphere 'on their own terms', to use historian Gerda Lerner’s words? Rather than looking for women following male-dominated practices of architecture, such as designing, drawing, or building – broadly, the Renaissance concept of disegno – we seek out women who found other ways to shape, influence, and reflect on the ways in which their contemporaries encountered the built.

Gruppe Hultzsch is funded by an ERC Starting Grant for the project Women Writing Architecture: Female Experiences of the Built 1700-1900 (WoWA). 

Group members:

Former group members:

Group Anne Hultzsch
Department of Architecture / gta
ETH Zurich

HIL D 72.2
Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5
8093 Zurich