SAH News

Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation: Exhibition - BxW NYC

by Danielle Tcholakian | Mar 04, 2015

GREENWICH VILLAGE — A new show at the Center for Architecture features the work of more than 100 women.

The exhibit, "Built By Women New York City," also known as "BxW NYC," showcases dozens of sites all across the five boroughs, designed and constructed by female architects, landscape architects and engineers.

Created by the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, the show started with Willis' goal of finding 100 women architects to honor in the New York City area. After receiving more than 350 submissions, Willis decided to impanel a jury of celebrated female designers and engineers to choose the top 100 projects.

"The only reason it became a contest is because there were so many to choose from," Willis said at a Monday night opening for the show.

Willis said the same desire to situate women in the history of architecture that prompted her to start her own foundation in 2002 inspired the BxW NYC project.

"At that point, I was very concerned about women not being in the historical narrative, not being in history books," Willis explained.

She said the same "challenge" that motivated her then remains today: "To change the culture within the building industry, within architecture, engineering and construction."

"So many companies, particularly the large companies, are still working under beliefs and values that go back to the 20th century, to the 1950s, when there were articles in the paper that said women did not have talent," Willis said.

"What is so great about 'Built by Women' is that we're demonstrating that a lot of these buildings are, in fact, built by women."

The selections date back at least as early as the 1960s, when Natalie de Blois, a senior designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, designed the Pepsi Cola Corporate Headquarters on Park Avenue.

Many sites in the exhibit involved more than one woman — the Fulton Center, for example, was the work of more than two dozen women.

Willis' foundation plans to roll out similar exhibitions in other U.S. cities, and Willis said she hopes the New York exhibit becomes "a prototype of a national movement."

Marion Weiss, the architect who designed the Diana Center at Barnard College, praised the exhibit for highlighting "fantastic women designers and landscape architects and engineers."

"What's so terrific about this event is this is unlike any kind of awards," said Weiss, who was recognized in the exhibit for her building at 3009 Broadway in Manhattan. "All of a sudden, we're understanding that the panorama of what we see in New York is from an enormous cohort, so many of whom are women."

The show is scheduled to run through April 11, and there are plans to host related events over the next several weeks, including one on "the intersection of public space and policy" on March 31, Willis said.

"I hope that a lot of people will come and bring teenagers and little girls who will have a chance to see that this world is open to them, too," said Cathleen McGuigan, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record, and an adviser on the exhibit.

"I can't think of a better way to raise visibility about this really important issue," she continued, "about the role of women in architecture and in the history of architecture."

Built By Women New York City (BxW NYC) runs at The Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, (212) 683-0023. March 2 through April 11, 2015.

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