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.