Location, location, location + discrimination
Enamored with Place: As Woman + As Architect is an eye-opening memoir—and a call to action—by architect, author, fiber artist, and activist, Wendy Bertrand. It is historically significant and offers a sharp critique of gender bias in today’s working world, also. The author has a genius for metaphor and her tale is written with a wry and resolute sense of humor.
Enamored with Place interweaves the story of Ms. Bertrand’s personal life and her work as an architect for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Forest Service. She is quite candid in sharing her experience of gender inequality in the architectural field. On the one hand, it is exciting to read how she was able to make her way as a professional architect from the 1960s to the 1990s, even when the field was dominated by men. On the other hand, readers will be angered and dismayed to hear about the great many barriers she encountered along the way, despite her aptitude, imagination, education, training, and good will.
Dedicated to inclusiveness, Ms. Bertrand expands the reach of her work by citing other important works that she learned from as she advanced in her career—including works on women in the field of architecture and on how to be an effective manager even in a difficult work environment. The book includes an invaluable bibliography of related works.
Ms. Bertrand came to manage large teams of architects, designers, and engineers. One straightforward technique she used to great effect was to solicit the input of everyone affected—both to improve her own architectural designs and to foster a productive, congenial work environment. Her professional goals as a woman, architect, and manager seem terribly sensible and are still worth striving for—architecture that will be good for the people who use it; a healthy work environment; diversity; promoting a sustainable work-life balance; beauty; sunlight; fair play.
Ms. Bertrand’s memoirs culminate in an essay that points future architects toward a yet underdeveloped approach to architecture which she calls “placitecture,” an approach that would give greater consideration and weight to the essential, original character of any place an architect intends to change by design. This beautiful book should be required reading for anyone considering working in the field of architecture and for everyone concerned with gender bias in the workplace (which would be all of us). This is an admirable book, and hers an inspiring life.
Book Review by Richard Voorhees, author of Shooting GENJI and other works at www.rgvoorhees.com