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Odile Decq leads protest demanding equality for women in architecture at Venice Biennale

We have to fight against discrimination and harassment in architecture. We have to make women less invisible. Harassment still exists today: in schools, in offices, in the profession; everywhere
– Odile Decq

Odile Decq has led a protest today (25 May) at the Venice Architecture Biennale against discrimination faced by women in architecture, releasing a manifesto urging everyone involved in the industry to “make a vow to uphold fairness, transparency and collaboration.”

Architects including Alison Brooks, Toshiko Mori, Jeanne Gang, Francine Houben, Louise Braverman and Manuelle Gautrand were among those in attendance as Decq led a flash mob of over 100 people in Venice’s Giardini, one of the Biennale's two main venues, at 11am.

Decq was joined by architect Fashid Moussavi and the executive director of the Pritzker Prize, Martha Thorne, to address the crowd and demand “equitable and respectful treatment of all members of the architecture community irrespective of gender, race, nationality, sexuality and religion.”

Explaining her decision to protest, Decq told CLADglobal: “We have to fight against discrimination and harassment in architecture. We have to make women less invisible. Harassment still exists today; in schools, in offices, in the profession; everywhere. Like all women architects, I have had experience of harassment.”

She explained that she established the Voices of Women movement and developed the idea of the protest with architectural designer Caroline James two months ago, with the list of participants swiftly rising from 15 to 150 and counting.

Explaining why she was supporting the movement, Brooks said: “I am here to show solidarity with my female colleagues. It’s a statement that we are part of the greater conversation that needs to be had about equality and openness in the profession.”

Gang told CLADglobal: “I’m here to support non discrimination in architecture because I think architecture will be stronger when it is more inclusive and when it represents a wider range of people.

“I’m also here because oftentimes I find I’m the only woman in the room. It’s very nice to gather with our colleagues from around the world.”

Gautrand added: “I wanted to do this in a gentle and fair way. I hope that this is the beginning of a new step forward.”

This year’s biennale, which will run until 25 November, is themed ‘Free Space’ and aims to “celebrate architecture’s proven and enduring contribution to humanity.” It is curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects.

In a video interview with CLADglobal, Decq, Thorne, James, Moussavi and Braverman explained why they decided to use the platform of the Biennale to organise the demonstration.

The Voices of Women Manifesto

“We as Voices of Women are building conversations and taking actions to raise awareness to combat pervasive prejudices and disrespectful behaviour that appears to be systemic in our culture and discipline. We are united in denouncing discrimination, harassment and aggressions against any member of our community. We will not tolerate it. We will not standsilent.

“Women are not a minority in the world but women are still a minority in the architecture field and we want that it could reflect better the world in which we live.

“The Venice Biennale 2018 FREE SPACE is a crucial moment of awakening to promote equitable and respectful treatment of all members of the architectural community irrespective of gender, race, nationality, sexuality and religion. We will join hands with co-workers, students, clients, collaborators, and our male colleagues to create a new path forward toward equitable work and educational environments that promote respectful discourse and open exchange of ideas.

“Be a fan of Voices of Women. Make a Vow to uphold fairness, transparency, and collaboration in Architecture NOW.”

Odile Decq  Voices of Women  Venice Biennale  Alison Brooks  Jeanne Gang  Manuelle Gautrand  Fashid Moussavi  Martha Thorne  
Odile Decq has led a protest today (25 May) at the Venice Architecture Biennale against discrimination faced by women in architecture, releasing a manifesto urging everyone involved in the industry to “make a vow to uphold fairness, transparency and collaboration.” Architects including Alison Brooks, Toshiko Mori, Jeanne Gang, Francine Houben, Louise Braverman and Manuelle Gautrand were among those in attendance as Decq led a flash mob of over 100 people
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Fashid Moussavi, Odile Decq and Martha Thorne address the crowd in the Giardini / CLAD
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