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"Dreamers of cities", or women of architecture on screen with DOCS Against Gravity

12 of February '21

Documentary filmmakers are increasingly turning their camera's eye to the role of women in the modern world. Who are and how did the greatest female dreamers, architects and urban planners live? The film's director Joseph Hilliel takes a closer look at the profiles of four exceptional women who inspire, but also provoke important discussion.

Joseph Hilliel's film is a kind of tribute to women gifted with unparalleled talent, Phyllis Lambert, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and Denise Scott Brown - dreamers who left their mark on the vision of major metropolises on both sides of the Atlantic.

DREAMERS OF CITIES is a film story about the pioneering women who were the first to fight against the domination of men in the world of architecture; they were the ones who invented green spaces in city centers, anticipating the needs and problems of today; they defended the heritage of architecture by opposing senseless demolitions. The director managed to show their strength, courage and faith in the beauty of architecture.

We had the opportunity to see the film at the 17th edition of the Millenium Docs Against Gravity documentary cinema festival . There it won the prestigious TVP Kultura award. As of recently, the documentary is available on the VOD service of the festival's creators and distributor Against Gravity.

Link to the film: HERE.

An extremely interesting conversation with the film's director, who is also the author of several other productions about architects, is available on Facebook. Why did he decide to focus on women this time?

From Canada through the world

It started with Canadian architect, urban planner and educator Blanche Lemco van Ginkel. Director Joseph Hilliel discovered that it was through her efforts that an older part of Montreal was saved and decided to look into her fate. From this story was born another and another... In the end, viewers will learn the stories of four inspiring female pioneers - in addition to Lemco van Ginkel, Phyllis Lambert, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and Denise Scott Brown. Isn't this the unique power of real dreamers who live their creativity?

What do they have in common?

Phyllis Lambert, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and Denise Scott Brown are inspiring women pioneers who create in the shadow of men, yet they were the ones who shaped the thinking of modern urbanism. They, architects, planners, educators, curators and activists have worked with some of architecture's biggest names, such as Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi, but their names have not been heard of by many.

They designed in North America and Europe. Each of them is still active professionally, although the average age of the heroines is over 90! And today they share a similar vision of a modern city, fully integrated with nature and man. Phyllis Lambert is behind the construction of the skyscraper Seagram Building in New York and was the founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture and Heritage in Montreal. Thanks to the efforts of Blanche Lemco van Ginkel and her husband, the old part of Monreal was protected from highway construction. Cornelia Hahn Oberlander found a new way to use urban green spaces, as well as green roofs in several metropolitan areas. Denise Scott Brown, on the other hand, together with her husband Robert Venturi, revolutionized thinking about contemporary architecture and urban heritage.

What do they have in common? A vision of a city that is modern, inclusive and open to human needs.

women's voice

Some young women in architecture question the need for a feminist movement, claiming that they have not experienced discrimination. My concern is that while school is not free of discrimination, it is probably the least discriminatory environment they will encounter in their careers. For the same reason, the early years of practice bring little differentiation between men and women. As they progress, difficulties arise as companies and clients avoid giving women high responsibility. Seeing their colleagues pull out in front of them, women lacking feminist consciousness may feel that their failure is their own fault. - She writes in her essay "Peace at the Top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture" by one of the film's protagonists Denise Scott Brown.

The year 2020 has shown that despite many changes, the topic of gender equality is still foreign to many in many aspects. The fight for women's rights continues. How is it in the world of architecture?

Marta Kowalska

The vote has already been cast