The Power of a Women’s Archive: Revealing Diverse Cultures

A collection of original, revelatory work by women in architecture and design, curated and hosted by the International Archive of Women in Architecture

The International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) seeks to discover, collect, and preserve the work of women in architecture and the design-related fields, as well as sponsor research that will help fill the voids in the history of the disciplines. This unique archive receives work of women, be it in installments or as a whole body of work in its diversity of material. Founded almost 35 years ago by Prof. Milka T. Bliznakov from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech together with the University Libraries, the archive currently preserves more than 450 collections in Newman Library on the Blacksburg, Va., campus. 

Members of the Executive Committee of the IAWA Center are hosting an experiential session at Architecture Exchange East (ArchEx) 2019 to propel knowledge of under-represented groups and frequently hidden methods in architecture. The 90-minute workshop, titled “The Power of a Women’s Archive: Revealing Diverse Cultures,” will take place on Friday, Nov. 8. You can register to participate online.

To capture the experience of building an archive in real-time, women architects and designers attending ArchEx 2019 are invited ahead-of-time to contribute one piece of original flatwork, accompanied by a CV, and a handwritten paragraph noting the work’s significance, describing how this piece sparked a breakthrough in their education or practice. Flatwork may include sketches, drawings, diagrams, collages, prints, screenprints, photographs, outlines or synopses of written work, among others, artifacts of a “revelatory moment.”

All ArchEx attendees and workshop participants are invited to contribute an original work by other women. Work collected for this exhibition will become a part of the 1×1 collection of the IAWA.

The exhibit will be on display on Thursday, Nov. 7 and during the session on Friday, Nov. 8 at 8:45 a.m. In order to prepare the display and the discussion, the moderators request that you mail the material, CV, and the accompanying text by Nov. 1, 2019 to: 

IAWA Center c/o Prof. Donna Dunay 

School of Architecture + Design (MC 0205), 
201 Cowgill Hall, Virginia Tech
1325 Perry St., Blacksburg, VA 24061
United States

Please contact the organizers via email with your questions:
Donna Dunay
Paola Zellner 

Though time is short, the moderators look forward to receiving your work and are intrigued by the prospect of an exhibition created under the auspices of ArchEx becoming part of the historical record.

See samples from the archive below:

Courtesy of IAWA, Special Collections, Virginia Tech

Dunay Collaborates on Women in Architecture Exhibition

When Virginia member Donna Dunay, FAIA, visited Japan in February, it seemed like a standard trip abroad for a busy academician. A professor and chair of the International Archive of Women in Architecture Center at Virginia Tech, she met with her counterparts with the Union of Women Architects Japan to finalize plans for summer exhibition and symposium in Tokyo highlighting the contributions of women architects to their field. The exhibit would celebrate the center’s 25 years of the work and signify the cross-border collaborations that are becoming more common in the 21st century.

Within a month, however, Japan would be hit with an unprecedentedly destructive earthquake and an associated tsunami and nuclear crisis. Soon it became clear that nothing in Japan would be routine for a long time, if ever.

Yet after temporarily putting their plans on hold, the exhibition’s organizers decided to move forward with their plans. “Though there is much rebuilding to accomplish,” says Dunay, who teaches architecture in the School of Architecture + Design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.  “Our Japanese colleagues decided to have the exhibition on the original schedule to restore a degree of normalcy and take this opportunity to showcase important history with the benefits that knowledge can bestow.”

The exhibition, entitled For the Future: The Pioneering Women in Architecture From Japan and Beyond, features the work of women architects from Japan, the United States and beyond, highlighting their accomplishments and, Dunay says, reveal their contributions to the built environment by giving this unacknowledged segment of the architecture profession a voice rarely heard. Dunay and architecture professor Kay Edge were featured speakers at a symposium associated with the exhibition, which opened last month at the Architectural Institute of Japan in Tokyo. The exhibition will later become one of the featured venues of the International Union of Architects meeting in Tokyo this fall.

Established in 1985, the International Archive of Women in Architecture Center is a joint program of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the University Libraries at Virginia Tech. The purpose of the Archive is to document the history of women’s contributions to the built environment by collecting, preserving, storing, and making available to researchers the professional papers of women architects, landscape architects, designers, architectural historians, urban planners and critics, as well as the archives of women’s architectural organizations.

Dunay says that before the earthquake, the exhibition in Japan offered a chance to highlight the work of women in architecture. Now, she says, the exhibition will also “promote the solidarity of our two countries looking into the future through the juxtaposition of work from Japan and the United States in an international partnership,” at a time when Japan needs help recovering from an unprecedented disaster.