Women in Architecture: Anne Fougeron / Fougeron Architecture

Antonina Ilieva by Antonina Ilieva,
05 December 2011

Anne Fougeron. Pictured right: Fougeron Architecture's Tehama Grasshopper. Image: Richard Barnes & Rien Van Rijthoven

 

Anne Fougeron was raised in Paris, France and moved to the San francisco Bay Area in 1977 to pursue her Masters degree in Architecture at UC Berkeley. She is principal and founder of her own San Francisco-based firm. Ms. Fougeron's keen interest in crossing disciplinary boundaries has led the firm to develop a collaborative process that capitolizes upon relationships with craftsmen and artists who are experts in their fields. The firm does not separate between the design and production parts of the work process. The relentless pursuit of these beliefs has won the studio a number of awards and commendations, including a 2008 National AIA Award for Tehama Grasshopper loft.

 

1. Did you ever face any gender-based prejudice in architectural school? Do you think lecturers/ co-students regarded you and your work differently, because you are a woman?

There was blatant discrimination in school when I attended. A number of professors treated the women students differently making us feel as less talented and able than the males. Luckily there were some great professors male and female that could treat us all as equals. I spent my time with them.

2. In work, have you ever felt a particular attitude from co-workers/clients/employers because of your gender? Do you think women and men receive the same chances for professional development?

When I was younger I would bring a male associate with me to meetings since the minute the conversation got technical, all eyes would be on him rather than me. I was mostly the most qualified to answer the questions but that did not seem to matter.

I called this the Remington Steele phenomenon.

“Remington Steele’s premise is that Laura Holt, a licensed private detective played by Zimbalist, opened a detective agency under her own name but found that potential clients refused to hire a woman, however qualified. To solve the problem, Laura invents a fictitious male superior whom she names Remington Steele.

Seems silly but it worked in real life.

As I am much older now, I no longer feel the need to do this. I think my old age has conferred maturity and people assume I know what I am talking about.

As for how much more successful I would have been if I was a man I find this impossible to answer or know. I have no doubt that many doors where not opened to me because of my gender.

3. Why do you think there is the large discrepancy between the number of female architecture graduates and practicing professionals?

Architecture is a tough field where working hard and being devoted to the work are an integral part of the equations. If you are meant to feel inferior, if you have fewer opportunities for advancement than the men, then it is easy to become discouraged and to drop out.
I think school is generally more forgiving than the outside world. You can mostly ignore sexist professors since there are many other classes available to you and you are only in school for a few years. In the real work, it is impossible to ignore your boss. Repeated discrimination over a decade or two can really wear on you.

Fougeron Architecture's Tehama Grasshopper. Image: Richard Barnes & Rien Van Rijthoven

 

4. Is architecture a 'Man's World'? 

No not in its essence, any no more than art or physics are only made for men.  Women just have a ways to go before they can carve out an equal place for themselves in this field. Let it be said architecture does not treat minorities much better. African American architects are few and far between.

5. How do you think the profession can change to encourage equality?

Frankly I cannot see the profession as a whole taking arm on this issue. The AIA is populated with aging white males who do not seem to be overly concerned about women right in the architecture profession. Who can blame them, there are enough difficulties with the profession with this terrible recession?

I think women need to fight their own battle here.
I say: Think different; become empowered; be the best at what you do and pretty soon the world will be full of talented, accomplished and star women architects. Can’t guarantee the profession will be any easier!

Find out more about Fougeron Architecture.

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