publication of an article by Loni Gershoni in the
magazine "Architecture" about the Wizo Center,
I was invited by Arie Shilo to speak at the "Architects'
House". In this article 1 expressed by means of the
presentation of this building, my personal uncertainties
on this subject. As this was the first time a woman was
invited to lecture at the Architects' Society, I was
asked to speak on the subject of Women in Architecture.
My first task was to choose a name for the lecture. Until
that time, my prime interest related to women in
Architecture was the professional woman's need to balance
time and priorities in her life, but as to whether there
is a difference in style between men and women
architects, I still had no answer. For that reason I
chose a title ending in a question mark. "Is there a
The process of looking for an answer led me to
conversations with friends, colleagues ,women architects
and male architects as well as couples who work together.
I also will quote from the latest research studies made
on this subject. In addition, for the purpose of
answering this question, 1 will first present some
selected projects from my office, and through them,
present my design language:
Gaby Mode-Botelho Wizo Center in Givatayim
This Wizo Center
for women is located on the corner of Ben Gurion and
Aural Streets in an urban area where it serves as a
community and social center, principally for women senior
citizens. In this center there are offices that offer
legal assistance and day care center registration.
Because I felt that this building had to represent the
program as well as the site, I searched for a way to
express that this building is meant for women.
As a preliminary step I discovered four phrases from the
Talmud that refer to the subject:
comes from women" (Bereshit Raba)
That symbolizes for me a woman's role in the
continuation of the generations: pregnancy,
birth, children and their upbringing.
a nice room to a full meal" (Esther Raba)
This refers to the importance to women of
musn't go from door to door seeking help" (Ketubot)
This expresses the role of the Wizo Center in
helping women in need.
carries her weapons on herself. (Yebamot)
This phrase is excerpted from a story of a
conquest. The conquerers entered a dwelling. The
man was killed on the spot and the woman was
saved. Was it because of her grace? her smile,
her tears? or perhaps it was a story of rape?
The above four
phrases reinforced my idea to express women's role in the
continuation of the generations: pregnancy, birth,
children. The physical expression in the building of this
"continuity" is done by a cutting wall that
"grows" from the ground until above the rooftop.
Alongside is a slit with light, reinforcing its
continuation beyond all levels.
Gila Margalit wrote an article about this building in
"Itzuv" magaine in 1998 entitled "As a
Woman Who Chooses". Women are frequently in conflict
between two poles of the spectrum" "career"
or "home", with each and every point between
them as legitimate. The career woman who "cuts"
her way strongly is represented in the building by tall
straight gray walls "cutting" their way through
the lower and rounder mass of the building. The rounder
walls, creating softer lines, express care and
protection, representing the woman at home. Each woman
seeks and finds her own personal equilibrium between the
In the design
language there are contrasts that build up the artistic
equilibrium in the building. In my office's projects I
use several elements to create contrasts that are:
the cutting wall
cutting into each other.
contrasts created by "heavy" and "light"
materials and between stone, a local material and
metal of international architecture.
between the "translucent" and the
several examples of projects that exemplify the above:
Center for Family Health, Modiin
This building was awarded the title of "Beautiful
Building" by the Local Council of Modiin.
In this project the wall changes from a row
of columns to a wall with perforations,
ending in a totally opaque wall. The top of
the wall is slanted, creating a dynamic
skyline contrasting with the other
perpendicular lines of the building. The wall
and the entry arch are in semi-pastel colors
contrasting with the neutral ones of the
building's stone walls.
Clinic in Alon Shvut
A colonnade of round, silver colored columns,
leads toward the entrance of the building and
crosses it to the other end. Vertically there
is a learning wall with a glass box crossing
Labor Council Building, Ashkelon (a
theater and offices of the Labor Council)
The elements that "cut" towards the
building are here illumination dots. A
colonnade of lights, as part of the landscape
accompany the entrance pathway, while on the
other side is a line of "short"
round columns that match, perpendicular to
the above mentioned high illumination dots,
accompanied by "tall" round columns.
Citizens Club, Yeruham
There is a colonnade with a beam enclosing an
exterior area. The same element acts also as
a pergola. In this way we have the vertical
and horizontal versions of the same element.
Brainen Reuben Kindergarden in Geha Hospital
The kindergarten is for children with
psychological problems, the first of its kind
in the country. From a morphological point of
view, it resembles a cube game with
tridimensional shapes. In addition to this
composition, is a set of bidimensional shapes
in the windows, slanted squares and
Municipal Library of Haifa (competition
proposal together with Arch. Hugo Rozenfeld)
In this case the geometric shape is the
triangle, expressed in the plan as well as
the elevations. This shape was selected
because of the form of the neighboring plot
of land which cuts into the plot of the
library at a sharp angle.
Givat Shmuel Kindergarden
A geometric composition of rounded roofs
cutting into the slanted ones at different
Beit Eliezer Community, Hadera
As in the Wizo Center in Givatayim, in this
project there is an aluminum covered cylinder
that contrasts with the stone and the gray
walls crossing the building. In this building
there is an aesthetic and artistic
equilibrium. In addition to the contrasting
materials above mentioned, there is also the
contrast of geometric figures. Two walls
"cut" themselves through the lower
and rounder masses, and another wall,
perpendicular to them, penetrates through the
main entrance. Also represented is a third
equilibrium, that of colors and textures.
Shimoni Sports Center, Kibbutz Ashdot Yaacov
(competition proposal together with Arq.
This project combines a Sports hall with
swimming pools and a Memorial Hall or place
of remembrance. In this case as well, I
looked for a metaphysical basis for the
Swimming, a horizontal movement, contrasted
with Remembrance. pointing towards heaven or
sky. The cone shaped entrance is the Memorial
Hall that points upward and defines the
vertical line. The roof covering the swimming
pools is metallic waves strengthening the
horizontal line,-of the swimming movement or
of the movement of waves in the sea. In this
project there is a greater use of light
metallic materials than in the one before.
The planes of glass and the uncovered
aluminum bars cross over the openings.
apartment units, Modiin
The meaning of the expression "translucent"
lies in a system of beams and columns that
create an airy screen over a back layer,
casting a lacework type shadow, thereby
creating a sculptural tension between two
These 112 apartment units create a clear
border toward the streets that circumscribe
it, according to the principles of the Town
Plan of Modiin, and surround a green park.
According to the local town plan, the corners
of the buildings must be rounded. I chose the
shape of the cylinder made of a grid of
columns and beams (quoting the original
projects of Modiin). The cylinder is the
basic translucent (lace like) element of the
project, repeated again on the straight
elevation: the round grid element, and on its
side, the straight grid element.
Civil and Community Center, Kiriat Ono
The project contains a city hall, a community
center, a library and a shopping mall, in
front of a large green park. The principle of
the "grid" has different nuances
from building to building according to each
function. In the community center, the "grid"
is a colonnade defining the building's
exterior open spaces. In the city hall, the
"grid" acts as shade for the
offices inside the building. In the case of
the library, the most introverted building,
the "grid" is used solely for
shade, skylights or pergolas over the
Community Center of Maboim, Merhavim
Here the lacelike elements are the colonnades
in several versions: round, straight, tall
Answer to the Question "Is There a Feminine
The term "gender" as opposed to the
term "sex" which defines biological
differences established a priori refers to social
differences acquired over the years, that change
with place and time.
In order to present a wide enough range of
answers and references, I carried out an inquiry
among my colleagues. My thanks to: Bracha
Haiutin, Iris Aravot, Perla Kaufman, Batia Malul,
Tali Hatuka, Orit Siman Tov, Michaela Eitan,
Tagit Klimor, Shike Finchi, Yuval Regev, Hugo
Rozenfeld, Shmulik Groberman, Peera Goldman,
Galit Mashiajch, Yfat Wincygster, Yaacov Yaaf,
Moshe Tzur, Beni Peri, Haim Dotan for their time
I once had a conversation with an important woman
architect of our country about a subject related
to my work. In the conversation she was very
cooperative, businesslike and matter-of-fact.
When I brought up the subject of tonight's
lecture, feminine architecture, I sensed a
certain level of discomfort and dislike in her
reaction. When I was asked to speak on the
subject I also felt a certain level of anxiety...
and the question is, Why?
In the seventies, at the time I graduated, women
architects preferred to refer to themselves in a
neutral manner, not as women architects. The term
"feminism" aroused a certain hostility.
Lately researchers are more open to the subject,
and, instead of talking about "feminism"
the studies refer to "gender theories".
In 1949, at the beginning of the era when I was
born, Simone de Beauvoir wrote her book "The
Second Sex" from which I excerpted the
following quote which throws light on the origin
of the Piety of women of our generation:
"...In truth, to go for a walk with one's
eyes open is enough to demonstrate that humanity
is divided into two classes of individuals whose
clothes, faces, bodies, smiles, gaits, interests,
and occupations are manifestly different. Perhaps
these differences are superficial, perhaps they
are destined to disappear. What is certain is
that they do most obviously exist.
...In actuality the relation of the two sexes is
not quite like that of two electrical poles, for
man represents both the positive and the neutral,
as is indicated by the common use of "man"
to designate human beings in general; whereas
woman represents only the negative... He is the
subject, he is the Absolute-she is the Other".
In the inquiry I carried out, I found that the
women architects I talked to are divided in two
groups: the group of the "equality", me
among them, a group of women architects who
prefer to act as architects without emphasizing
their feminine status. Then there is a second
"inequality", women architects who work
in a partnership with their architect spouse or
any other male partner, and complement each other
with the differences between them, combining
their advantages with those of their male partner.
A woman architect that I interviewed told me how
she and her husband-partner use these differences
to create harmony in their work. Each of them
contributes to the area in which he or she is
strongest. He is more focused; she, because of
the need to fulfill so many roles, is better able
to subdivide her attention. As a result, in their
planning, he sees the details and she sees the
whole picture. As a negative aspect of this
division of areas she cites the clients' use of
stereotypes in their thinking, thereby creating
inequality in the assignment of credit for the
job done together. They assume that she is
responsible for the "interiors" and he
for the building's structure. They lack
confidence in her. If she comes to the building
site with a male employee, the contractor
addresses him and not her. When I asked her how
she manages with her second role, in her home,
she finds the solution in working close to home
or at home.
Another woman architect referred to the subject
of "the partnership". Because of
society's tendency to give authority to men, many
women architects tend to create partnerships with
men. This architect made an interesting
comparison: the Architect as "Conductor":
he or she conducts consultants in the planning
stage and construction workers in the building
stage. In Architecture as in music, a woman
conductor is a rare phenomenon. There are also
other advantages to this collaboration between
the sexes; the combination of "reality"
with the "artistic" and of the "sentimental"
and the "realistic".
Yet another woman architect talked about the
subject of recognition. She works together with
her husband and in her conversation described
several situations. In presenting a project on
which they had both collaborated at an
exposition, her name was omitted from the panels.
At a presentation before the mayor of a certain
city , the mayor directed the questions to her
husband regarding plans for which she was
responsible. On the other hand, she is satisfied
with her partnership which frees her from having
to hunt for projects and allows her to direct her
work from inside.
A more senior male architect remembers working
with his wife. He recounts the differences. He
was the "rational" one while she had
the "intuition". The work each chose to
do was different.
He took care of urban planning which required a
rational point of view, while she worked on the
aesthetics of the building, the elevation, the
choice of building materials and colors.
Humorously he adds, "she even chose my whole
wardrobe". He also told me that in the
subdivision of roles, she assumed the
responsibility over the finances of the office, a
situation that is common to other partnerships
with which he was familiar.
Another woman architect added that the problem
never was the lack of women architects in the
past but that they weren't ever "in the
front". Frank Lloyd Wright employed many
women architects who were responsible for some of
his work. Society hid them. Was it because of
Another woman architect referred to the
difference in the work process. Women, to avoid
the stigma of being thought of as too agressive,
try to be more flexible and understanding. Men
can allow themselves to present a finished
solution, fight to have it carried out , and this
way achieve their goal. Women have to maneuver to
achieve the same goal.
The following quote shows the basis of the
problem. Written by Nancy Chodorow. it is called
"Why Women Mother" (1978).
"...Most.. .theories see women's mothering
as central...They simply assume that it is
socially, psychologically, and biologically
natural and functional...
The argument from nature;
...the structure of parenting is biologically
self-explanatory. This assumption holds that what
seems universal is instinctive and what is
instinctive is inevitable and unchanging...Another
explanation from nature is bioevolutionary. This
explanation holds that women are primary parents
now because they always have been. It assumes
that the sexual division of labor...was the
earliest division of labor...necessary for
The assumption is questionable, however, given
the extent to which human behavior is not
instinctively determined but culturally mediated...Why
men by and large do not do primacy parenting, and
women do, is a centrally interesting sociological
We must question all assumptions which use
biological claims to explain social forms, given
the recent rise of uses of explanations to
differences in Israeli society
What causes the differences between male and
female professionals in our country: Compulsory
Army service? the Jewish mother? The fact that we
are a young country with a lot to accomplish?
Two women architects who practiced abroad
referred to this subject. The first one claims
that our society is very achievement oriented/and
primarily pressures men. Their main approach is
"reach the goal fast". In comparison,
women can afford to enjoy the work process. In
other countries, men, as well as women. immerse
themselves in the work process.
The second woman architect, who lived for several
years in the United States, claims that overseas
men are "sober". She says that the
seventies was a turning point in Israeli society.
Until then a man was considered successful if he
had gone to a technology oriented high school,
served as an officer in the Army and had studied
in the Technion (Technology Institute). Since
then there has been a process of change. There is
more legitimation for men interested in the Arts,
in being more sentimental. or loving to cook. etc...
Today parallel to the research done about women,
there is research being done about men. The
following is the beginning of a research project
and presentation written by Hany Trod called
"The Case for Men's Studies".
"men's studies"...emerges as a
necessary complement to "women's studies"...no
feminist theory can move women from the margin to
the center by ignoring men.
1. Work and family
Why are women parents in the paid labor force
seen as working mothers, while statistics on
levels of fatherhood in the workforce are
What is the connection between masculinity and
How much more would we know about health science
if gender bias had not prevented us from looking
for the DES son, for example, and the
miscarriages and birth defects among offspring of
males working with hazardous genotoxic substances
as quickly as we moved to protect the supposedly
frailer vessels of female bodies? How are codes
of masculinity and Type A cardiovascular disease
Is pornography constitutive, expressive, or
distortive of male sexuality?
How have concepts of the hero been shaped by the
rhythms of male life cycles, with their
particular patterns of separation and return?
The breadwinner role, arguably the traditional
core of male identity, is threatened not only by
the increased entry of women into the paid
workforce but also by changes in the nature of
work, such as increasing emphasis on mental
rather than manual labor.
One of the apotheotic films of the decade, "Rebel
Without a Cause", contains scenes in which
the James Dean character's juvenile delinquency
is clearly attributed to his father's wearing an
Differences in Style
"Do women practice architecture differently?
How do such differences manifest themselves? Do
women have a different sense of aesthetics, sense
of space and time? Do women use materials
differently, organize their practice differently,
prefer certain kinds of design methodology?
Further, how do we explain such differences? Do
they derive from biology or from society? Where
do we locate these differences in architecture,
in the building facade or the ground plan, in the
construction detailing or the interior finishes?"
(Jane Rendell, "Gender, Space, Architecture").
Most of the architects I interviewed claimed that
there is no difference. The building is the
result of the office's teamwork which combines
the work of women and men architects. Just one
woman architect mentioned that she remembered as
a student that she realized that women worked in
a more complex manner than the men students.
In an essay written by Karen A. Frank called
"Acknowledging Women's Ways of Knowing",
the author suggests seven qualities that
characterize feminine or feminist ways of knowing
1. An underlying connectedness to others, to
objects of knowledge.
2. a desire of inclusiveness, and a desire to
overcome opposing dualities.
3. a responsibility to respond to the needs of
others, represented by an "ethic of care".
4. an acknowledgment of the value of everyday
life and experience.
5. an acceptance of subjectivity as a strategy
6. an acceptance and desire for complexity.
7. an acceptance of change and a desire for
Connectedness and Inclusiveness
Lately many studies differentiate between the
"connection" in the woman's world
compared to the "separation" in the
man's world. This derives from the presence of a
woman's role model in the home, next to her,
while men's role models are far away from him.
The man's world based on separation, influences
his separational way of thinking and a "black
and white" view of the world: the ideal
opposed to the real, the static and the changing,
the cultural and the natural, man-woman. The
woman's world sees connection, continuity,
As a result of this, in the woman architect's way
of designing there is a proximity and mixture of
programmatic parts; for example, in the Beit
Eliezer Community Center in Hadera that my office
planned, the foyer is also the cafeteria; the
inside walls are transparent to see the activity
on the other side.
Ethic of Care, Everyday Life
The woman architect, Eileen Gray realized the
changes in bedroom customs; eating or reading in
bed, not making them up in the morning, and she
invented colored sheets. From the same approach
she became aware of the ever-present need for
storage space, creating ingenious designs,
including drawers that pivot.
The furniture of Lilly Reich, who collaborated
with Allies Van der Rohe, showed a similar
attentiveness to human comfort. Reich's chairs
featured backs contoured to the body while Mie's
took idealized lines.
A male architect that I interviewed stated that
male architects prefer to make an aesthetic
statement with their design while women
architects are more aware of the functional and
practical sides of the design.
Subjectivity and Feelings:
The woman architect creates spaces
that encourage human interaction. In 1929 Eileen
Gray criticized the architects of the Modern
Movement saying: "Modern designers have
exaggerated the technological side. Intimacy is
gone, atmosphere is gone... Formulas are nothing;
life is everything. And life is mind and heart at
the same time".
Complexity and Flexibility
Eileen Gray attributed this lack of
intimacy to the simplification derived from an
atmosphere of technology caused by the Industrial
Revolution. Women architects since then have
voiced their desire for greater complexity. The
woman architect Sheila de Bretteville sees
complexity and ambiguity as desirable design
qualities because they undermine control and
invite user participation. lane Thompson calls
for an architecture that embraces both the
aesthetics of the industrial age (valuing
simplification) and the earlier aesthetic, which
derived from religion and magic (valuing
The desire for complexity is allied with an
attention to multiple use, and more generally
with awareness of change and the need for
flexibility and transformation. Eileen Gray's
understanding of the use of an object over time
allowed her to design a table that could be used
as a coffee table, side table or bed table.
Flexibility of the anticipation of change also
guided Lilly Reich's design of an open plan
apartment where she divided the apartment across
the narrow dimension to create areas for rest,
study and meals. The furniture could be
rearranged to change divisions or to unite the
entire room. In contrast, Mies's open plan
generated a hierarchical set of spaces for fixed
To conclude, I would like to quote a
phrase written by Elizabeth Groz from her essay
"Women, Chores, Dwelling". Please
ignore the provocation and concentrate on the
concept it embodies.
"Men forgot their debt to the first space of
all, the maternal space from which every human
being was created... The production of an
artificial or cultural environment, the
production of an intelligible universe, religion,
philosophy, the creation of true knowledge is
implicated in the systematic and violent erasure
of the contributions of women, femininity and the
maternal. This erasure is the foundation or
ground on which a thoroughly masculine universe
This phrase was written in general terms,
however, as architects, who during our training
engaged ourselves in the use of spaces....which
was really the first space we ever knew?
architects in the projects presented:
Ifat Wincygster, Galit Mashiah, Tali Hatuka, Iris
Levin, Hamutal Levi, Michal Atzmon, Michael Mutznick,
and Iaacov Fisher.