A Woman's Place | Arts and Humanities, April 1, 2016

A compelling account of a young woman architect growing up and living in Syria; a compact but thorough introduction to a surprisingly persistent question: where are the women architects?
redstarAl-Sabouni, Marwa. The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria. Thames & Hudson. May 2016. 208p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780500343173. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780500773284. ARCH battle for home 032316As a trained architect, Al-Sabouni offers a singular perspective on the ongoing conflict in Syria. A lifelong resident of Homs, her eyewitness account describes the destruction the conflict has visited on the built environment and the high human toll Syrians have suffered. It also considers the more nuanced roles architecture and planning have played amid the chaos. She underscores how the loss of homes and neighborhoods also means a loss of identity for the people of Syria and describes trends in architecture and planning before the outbreak of violence that contributed to a situation in which cities and neighborhoods were increasingly stratified. The author is sharply critical of the government corruption that is rife in planning and construction, and her frustration working in this dysfunctional system is evident. VERDICT The book’s focus on how the problems of the built environment grew out of and feed back into Syria’s other challenges makes for intriguing reading; Al-Sabouni’s matter-of-fact references to keeping her children occupied during mortar attacks or risking injury or abduction traveling to the university to defend her dissertation make her account absolutely compelling.—Amy Trendler, Ball State Univ. Libs., Muncie, IN redstarStratigakos, Despina. Where Are the Women Architects? Princeton Univ. May 2016. 128p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691170138. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781400880294. ARCH women architects 032316Stratigakos’s (architecture, State Univ. of New York at Buffalo) collection of essays is an excellent introduction to the recurring question that serves as the volume’s title. In the first essay, the author summarizes the historical context and women’s entry into architectural schools and practice in the Western world. Next, she looks at the current state of females in the profession, which continues to lag behind the progress toward gender equity that has been made in other fields such as medicine and law. The additional essays focus on recent occurrences in the story of women in architecture: the controversy surrounding the “Architect Barbie” doll, the gendered criticism directed at Pritzker Prize winner Zaha Hadid, the petition for Denise Scott Brown to receive a belated Pritzker Prize, and the sometimes contested efforts to include women architects in ­Wikipedia. The author doesn’t have all the answers but does point to possible contributing factors, such as a lack of role models and mentors for women architects. VERDICT A compact but thorough introduction to a surprisingly persistent question: Where are the women architects?—Amy Trendler, Ball State Univ. Libs., Muncie, IN

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