On 23 September, the international conference "Women, Design & Heritage" will take place at the Museum of Art & History in Brussels, as the capstone of the Wiki Women Design project. The conference brings together researchers, experts and designers to reflect on women, heritage and historiography and the future steps needed to advance research on women and design and to make a concerted effort to bridge the gender gap in the heritage field. Later that day, the evening debate "Women in Architecture Today" will also take place at MAD Brussels.
In October 2020, the Flanders Architecture Institute launched the Wiki Women Design project with the aim of recording and unlocking data and knowledge on Wikipedia about the contributions of women to the designed environment in Belgium, from (interior) architecture and graphic design to fashion and product design. By making knowledge about these women accessible online, the project aims to bring to light these often forgotten or underappreciated figures.
In recent months, Wiki Women Design has done this by organizing Wikipedia edit-a-thons in collaboration with 27 project partners from heritage institutions, academia, the Wikipedia community and contemporary designers. During these writing sessions, all parties involved contribute in a participatory way to a more inclusive registration of designer heritage by women.
The kickoff of the day will be the keynote lecture by Jane Hall, British architect, researcher, member of the architecture, design and art collective ASSEMBLE and author of Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women (2019) and her latest book Woman Made: Great Women Designers (2021).
The following speakers will present their research around women in design in a broad and multifaceted way according to three central themes.
Women in history, heritage collections and design professions
This will focus on the methodologies and strategies that can be used to make space for women in history, heritage collections and design professions.
Feminist, decolonial and queer approaches to history and heritage
These lectures reflect on the strategies that can be employed to rewrite the dominantly male, white, heteronormative and Western histories that fill most history books today, and that shape our overall understanding of what design, fashion and architecture are.
Women in design archives and collections
The underrepresentation of women in design archives and collections is one of the main reasons why many women have remained invisible. This final panel will consider how to rethink current collection development processes. Museum and archival collections should be more inclusive, to ensure greater preservation of primary research materials about women and other groups that are underrepresented today.
During this final session, the project partners will reflect on the preliminary results of Wiki Women Design. This will include not only written Wikipedia articles, important (re)discovered Belgian women designers and new research that the project has inspired, but also the awareness the project has brought to a wider audience and the positive impact this has had on the design sector.
The common thread throughout these thematic sessions is the inclusion of women in heritage collections and the promotion of research and education to achieve better representation of women in design history. The contemporary heritage field will be examined to answer the question of how a concerted effort can be made to bridge the still very present gender gap. These reflections will be extended to women in contemporary architectural professions, which will be further elaborated during the evening debate at MAD Brussels.
As an evening program accompanying the Wiki Women Design symposium, the Flanders Architecture Institute is organizing a debate evening on the same day in collaboration with MAD Home of Creators in Brussels. For this occasion, architects and researchers are invited to debate the role of women in contemporary architectural practice. They will address why the representation of women in the profession is so important, as the presence of women in architectural history and in contemporary architectural practice is absolutely essential for future generations. In a debate with each other and the audience, the architects will engage in a discussion about role models and key figures, entrepreneurship, creativity, finding a place as a woman in the profession and the challenges this can bring, and feminism in architecture and design more generally.
The location of the debate, MAD Brussels, fits perfectly into the context of the project. The Wiki Women Design project revealed that the MAD building was originally an office and showroom for Usines Peters-Lacroix (UPL), designed by female modernist architect Eliane Havenith in collaboration with Marcel Anneet. This discovery makes the center the perfect location to start the conversation about women in contemporary architectural professions.
23 September 2021, 9:00-17:00
Art & History Museum Brussels
Jubelpark - Parc du Cinquantenaire 10, 1000 Brussels
Registration for the conference via Eventbrite
23 September 2021, from 20:00
MAD, Home of Creators
Nieuwe Graanmarkt - Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains 10, 1000 Brussels
Registration for the Evening Debate via Eventbrite