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Women Making Their Mark by Richard Dalman

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23 December 2017

We republish an article originally published in the November issue of Style Magazine (pp 28-30), written by Richard Dalman (Dalman Architects, Christchurch).

You can access a pdf version of the article here.

 image: Transpower by Jennie Lee, Dalman Architects

Women Making Their Mark 

I was recently reflecting on the passing of Iraqi born architect Zaha Hadid and the impact that she had on the world of architecture. Hadid was truly one of the great architects of the modern era. Her extraordinary curvaceous building forms showed the world another way to see our structures and experience space.

At the recent centenary celebrations of the Auckland University School of Architecture, one of the key discussion topics was “Women in Architecture”. When I was at the school in the early 1980’s, there was only one full time and one part time female lecturer and, very few female role models in practice. Whilst the number of female enrolments has grown substantially over the last 50 years to its current position of representing 60% of architecture students, this trend is yet to be reflected in the number of female led architectural companies in New Zealand.  In Auckland – perhaps because of its proximity to the architecture schools - the number of female led practices has grown, however this has not been the case in Christchurch.  But here in Canterbury we do have a number of talented women who have designed and been key architectural players in the design of our post-earthquake Christchurch buildings.

For example, the Project Architect for the new St Andrew’s College Chapel was Jane Rooney of Architectus. Interestingly, the architect for the original chapel on the site completed in 1955 and demolished after the earthquakes, was one of New Zealand’s first full time women architects, Margaret Munro. I have been in both chapels over the years. While the Munro chapel had a simple traditional elegance to it – inside and out – the new chapel is more dynamic with its twin gabled form and unlike the original, opens out with a folded glass wall to the river. The red brick “heritage” wall facing Normans Rd not only incorporates bricks from the former chapel but a number of iconic memorabilia pieces and the original stained-glass window.

Another women architect who is contributing to the changing face of the Christchurch post-earthquake landscape, is Jennie Lee of Dalman Architects. Jenny has completed a variety of buildings including the Transpower office building in Hornby, the Russley Retirement Village community centre – incorporating its main reception, dining and bar, commercial kitchen, billiard room, cinema, hairdresser and offices - and the award winning Acland House Halls of Residence for Christchurch Girls High School.

These projects show how adaptable architects must be in dealing with the varying requirements of different building types.  Styles for each building differ considerably from the rational glazed Transpower office building to the softer timber gabled community centre for the retiree residents (opened last year by Sir John Key), to the historic Acland House re-planning, extension and refurbishment.

Compared to Auckland, Christchurch has been a bit slow in promoting the talents of our female architects. Is there another Zaha Hadid awaiting within our profession locally and are we doing enough to promote our city’s women architects?  

Richard Dalman

October 2017 

 image: Transpower by Jennie Lee, Dalman Architects