I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Kathryn Anthony at the 2013 NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects) Conference in Indianapolis. Her body of work is amazing and is centered around gender and racial issues in architecture. She is the co-designer and co-producer for The African-American Architecture Alumni Project, an exhibit displayed as part of "Architecture Pyramids to Skyscrapers" at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, 2006 and at UIUC, 2005, 2004
She co-authored the article Why Hollywood Needs to Change its Conception of "The Architect", its a great read for anyone in architecture. Here are a few highlights from the article.
Writers, directors, producers, and actors in the Hollywood film industry play major roles in shaping how millions around the world perceive architects and the architectural profession. Television shows, too, create stereotypes of professions that are repeatedly drummed into the brain with each successive episode. Both make long-lasting impacts that may encourage or dissuade young people from pursuing architecture as a career.
"So, according to Hollywood, an architect is a hero, lover, hopelessly out of touch, financially in trouble, a workaholic, or some combination of these.
But what does Hollywood say an architect looks like? Our updated list of actors and actresses who have played architects on the big screen allowed us to examine not just the manner in which the architect was portrayed, but also his/her physical features – such as gender, race, hair color, eye color, and facial hair – as well. In fact, Hollywood film directors have created a distinct image of what an architect should be. In over three-quarters (79%) of the 45 films we reviewed, the architect is represented as being clean-shaven. Over half (56%) of Hollywood’s architects have brown eyes (25% have blue, 19% green); over half (58%) have dark hair compared to light (42%). Taken holistically then, Hollywood has created the stereotypic image of an architect: a white, clean-shaven male with dark hair and brown eyes.
Despite this one positive portrayal, the lack of gender diversity among architects portrayed in Hollywood films is disturbing. Equally startling is the lack of racial diversity. Compared to women, persons of color are even less likely to be represented as architects in Hollywood cinema. AIA’s 2011 membership statistics show that African-Americans represent only 1% of licensed architects and 3% of associate architects. Hollywood comes close to replicating these dire statistics. In just about all (96%) films, the architect is white. Only two movies, Jungle Fever (1991) featuring Flipper Purify (portrayed by African-American actor Wesley Snipes) and The Namesake (2006) featuring Gogol/Nikhil (portrayed by Indian-American Kal Penn) are exceptions to this rule.
Jungle Fever provides a glimpse into the struggles of an African-American architect through the story of Flipper Purify, a successful African-American architect in New York City. Writer and director Spike Lee touches on the lack of diversity in the architecture profession when Snipes, claiming that he is tired of being the only African-American in the office, asks the partners of the firm to let his new secretary be African-American. Later in the film, Flipper asks to be made partner, and promptly quits when his request is denied. Director Spike Lee casts Purify in an unusually seductive role: he has consensual sex with his female secretary on the drafting table in the office’s design studio.
Hollywood directors could similarly help restore the image of the profession by picturing architects more realistically and by creating films in which highly underrepresented gender, racial and ethnic groups, such as women, African-Americans, Latino/as, and Asian-Americans, play major roles as talented architects to be taken seriously. Perhaps Newsweek reporter and television pundit Eleanor Clift put it best in a segment (March 3, 2013) of the TV news show, The McLaughlin Group: “Movies are one of our most important exports and it’s how we change hearts and minds around the world…”
Read the full article on ArchDaily.com