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Long live the Architects' Ball!

16 of August '21

The interview with Dominika Janicka, Barbara Nawrocka and Dominika Wilczynska appeared in A&B 7-8'2021

StreetCloud is an online educational and animation microtheme by the anti-RAMA collective that popularizes the subject of interdisciplinary urban culture. Its main goal is to understand the processes taking place in contemporary cities. The talks take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m.
StreetCloud invites you to a conversation with a ball of female architects - Dominika Janicka, Barbara Nawrocka and Dominika Wilczynska. In addition to the usual dancing, Lukasz Harat and his guests will talk about discrimination against women in architecture, feminist design, and how to crush the archidziaders community.

Niech żyje Bal architektek!

Pictured from left: Lukasz Harat, Barbara Nawrocka, Dominika Wilczynska and Dominika Janicka

© anti-RAMA collective

ukasz Harat: I thought for a long time how to start this conversation. I had an idea to tell a joke about women in architecture. I spent a lot of time coming up with a suitable one. And then I realized that I'm a man... and this kind of joke would balance between ridiculousness and embarrassment. I gave up. I propose that we start our conversation, however, classically. What is the Architects' Ball?

Barbara Nawrocka: The Women Architects Ball is an initiative addressing the topic of women in architecture. We have divided the scope of our activities into three areas. The first area is the situation of women in the profession. We talk about gender discrimination, why it is more difficult for women. The second is about female architects in history. We bring back on our Instagram figures of women who deserve to be heard by everyone. The third area, which we'll probably be talking more about soon, is feminist design and how a woman views the city and how she finds herself in it.

Material about Halina Skibniewska prepared by Anna Kotowska

© Bal architektek

: The three areas you mention are still overlooked in Poland. One could even say that they are deliberately bypassed. Of course, there have been conversations and discussions about these issues, but they have never resounded decisively in the public architectural forum. And you - the ball of female architects - have appeared. Is that one of the reasons this initiative came into being?

Barbara: I think that's why the reception of our initiative was so positive. We are convinced that it was simply needed. We were all waiting for such a movement. At industry meetings, workshops and conferences, the topic came up, but nothing further happened with it. For more than a year we thought together about what we could do about it, how we could act.

Dominika Wilczynska: Why the ball of female architects? Let's also call a spade a spade - we wanted to have fun in connection with this topic. It's not about making victims of ourselves or crying over the fate of women, it's just to say clearly how it is - there are plenty of strong women in architecture who have amazing ideas and for some reason are less visible than men. This needs to be changed. We need to write the rules in our own way and invite everyone who wants to ball with us to implement them.

Luke: It is amazing that you guys try to bite this difficult topic in a witty way. Watching your Instagram [@bal_architektek - editor's note] and reading the posts in the Facebook group you manage [bal_architektek - editor's note], I feel energy, power and proficiency, rather than slumped hands. In addition, all the content you publish is substantive and very light-hearted.

Dominika Wilczynska: The content is created in a rather spontaneous way. Maybe it's because there are simply a lot of topics that need to be addressed. The fact that our communication is supposed to be light and cheerful didn't have to be planned.

Luke: You also promote the word "architect." I can't quite understand why people are so afraid of it. Men - well, it's hard, it's a bit of a different topic, but women also very often evaluate it critically. Many times I was admonished for this: "But I am an architect, not an architect". Where does this resistance come from?

Dominika Janicka: We are used to the word "architect". No wonder. Back in 2012, the Council of the Polish Language issued a statement questioning the validity of using feminatives [Position of the Council of the Polish Language on the feminine forms of names of professions and titles adopted at the Council's plenary meeting on March 19, 2012 - editor's note]. It functioned until 2019, when the previous position was rescinded and the use of feminine endings was encouraged [Position of the Council of the Polish Language at the Presidium of the Polish Academy of Sciences on the feminine forms of the names of professions and titles (November 25, 2019) - editor's note]. The websites of several of Poland's largest architectural firms still use only masculine forms. However, it seems to us that this is not malicious, we just got used to it and stopped paying attention to it....

: And you have appeared!

Dominika Janicka: We want to promote this word, so that it becomes tame and doesn't seem ridiculous. Let's also remember that quite a few women, especially from older generations, use the title of architect, because it is an ennoblement for them. There used to be more men at universities and it was harder to break through. This is changing. Nowadays, as we know, female architecture students are equal.

: In fact, women are beginning to outnumber men in architecture departments....

Dominika Janicka: Yes! And another topic quite peculiar: Why do we go from being a female architecture student to becoming an architect?

: The main argument I heard was that a woman architect has "architect" written on her diploma....

Dominika Janicka: This also needs to be changed! There are more such examples. Who is the city architect of Warsaw? A woman! This also builds the conviction that when we say "architect" we have before our eyes... a man.

Lukasz: Aleksandra Wasilkowska very often emphasizes that if someone has a problem with the word "architect" then she invites people to call her "architect".

Dominika Janicka: Very good! This is also a beautiful word - architect or professor.

Lukasz: And you were architects from the beginning?

Dominika Janicka, Barbara Nawrocka, Dominika Wilczynska: No, we were not.

ukasz: I'm also puzzled by this topic in the context of opinion, that is, architectural and urban media. If you look at the major magazines, the leading role there is played by women. And still this topic, somewhere still escapes....

Dominika Janicka: The topic of media is very interesting. We, too, have been outraged a few times, reading at least the press, which promotes itself as the one supporting women, and, for example, uses the word "architect" instead of architect. Using feminatives in the media is very important.

: I notice this as well. Even the seemingly progressive media have a problem with it.

Barbara: At the Ball we came up with an action to decline the word "architect", that is, conjugate it by cases. It's a super exercise and a very funny online challenge. Several personalities have already declinated. We encourage anyone and everyone to participate.

declination of the word architectek

© Bal architektek

: All right. Now for the serious part. What do you think we can do to counter discrimination against women in architecture? What can I do, what can we all do? Every one of us.

Dominika Wilczynska: First of all, we should approach the other person empathetically regardless of gender - that's when the magic starts to happen. Let's try to empathize with another person and listen to what is reported as a problem. However, we will not run away from this difficult question - about discrimination or sometimes even harassment of women in the profession. We have created a guide on Instagram on what to do in such a situation.

Dominika Janicka: This is where we turn to our male and female readers. If you are wondering what to do to fight for gender equality in our work environment, start step by step. Try from now on to title your female colleagues per architect, lobby for changes in the company, use feminatives on your website or business cards, but above all, say stop to chauvinistic texts in the office. Each of us has experienced this, we are also informed of such situations by our female observers - it still happens notoriously. They seem to be innocent jokes: "She's on her period, that's why she's nervous," but they affect our sense of security, well-being and psyche very negatively. Let's not take part in it. Let's stigmatize this type of behavior so that it will finally stop. It's not much, and it can make a big difference.

Advice on what to do when you face bullying or harassment at work or university specially compiled by attorney Magdalena Kordas

© Ball of Architects

Dominika Wilczynska: Let's start with offices, but let's also remember universities. It is our dream to have feminatives on diplomas, in construction law, on stamps, in tables in projects. It's not a difficult thing to do, and with such gestures the mentality begins to change.

Dominika Janicka: Here we have another demand. We include figures of female architects in subjects such as the history of Polish or world architecture. Because they were and are. Let's present them on an equal footing with men.

Barbara: Let's also remember about design. We can start thinking at the stage of creating an architectural or urban design concept about how users and users will perceive the space. In fact, feminist designs are still to be invented, researched and worked out. It's worth considering different groups and needs in your designs.

: Can you somehow be supported in your activities or join you?

Dominika Wilczynska: We invite all willing people to contact us and develop biographies of women architects! The easiest way to reach us is through Instagram @bal_architektek. You can also write to

Luke: Thank you very much for this interview. Long live the ball of women architects!

interviewed by: L
ukasz HARAT

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