Kissing Breakfast with Prof Sylvia Lavin

2 April 2015

KISSING Breakfast, with Prof Sylvia Lavin, held at 7:30am Saturday 11 April 2015, at IMA Deli in Fort St, Auckland.

The morning was a great way to start the weekend and as a lead-in to the Interstices Symposium weekend. Sylvia Lavin instigated and developed a lively discussion, as the approx 40 attendees enjoyed great company and fantastic food. (Thanks, Ima Deli!)

Sylvia reminded us all of the influence power, funding structures and politics have on architecture, and how these always provide either access or obstacles to architectural outcomes. We loved all the contributions to the discussion, especially Kitty Fan's comments regarding 'blind spots' in the profession, and how continual discussion in situations such as these events can help provide some clarity.

A+W•NZ recognise that equity issues stretch way beyond gender. Age, ethnicity, class, religion and sexual orientation are among the many areas of identity which provide both priviledge and obstacles in architecture. A+W•NZ are therefore using the (positively powerful) platform of gender to argue for access for all, and hope to have influence on workplace culture and policy so that there is equality for all in the architectural field.

Feedback via email has been interesting, also;

'I think Sylvia finished by firing an inspirational salvo - which was to say that as a profession the central issue is access. To my mind the existence of the Women, Architecture,NZ group is exactly that.....The 2 major concerns of architecture in NZ are climate change and inequality. Sylvia is right the "cat is out of the bag" in relation to gender equality and for climate change. But inequality is an educational, race, gender and religious issue. It is an issue utterly central to feminism. We can practice sustainability in our work and lives but the acceptance of inequality corrodes access and hope for many. The Women, Architecture, NZ group is more relevant than ever.' (email, dated 11 April 2015)

Thanks to all who attended and to Sylvia Lavin for her wise words - we loved your company!

Thanks also to Architectus, who supported the event.

You can see more photos of the event here. All images by Janice Au.

KISSING Breakfast, by Janice Au.

Ima Cuisine was already bustling with an enthusiastic turn-out of eager architects and graduates,
while the rest of the Auckland CBD hadn't yet woken up. The warmly lit restaurant, along with the
aromatic scent of coffee beans and bread, along with the heartily warm breakfast set the scene for
a beautifully intimate dialogue that was about to take place. The breakfast created a rare
opportunity for architects, graduates of all ages and gender to converse and get to know one
another in a relaxed and casual setting. It is with great privilege we had Sylvia join us for
breakfast.! !
It was time for discussion. When plates and cups were emptied into stomachs, it was time to digest
some ideas and work out our minds. The breakfast table setting created an open platform for
Sylvia and everyone who attended the breakfast to think and share with us how gender issues
affect our architecture industry. The question on how feminism translates into today's society was
raised, how women should address their own individuality and identity within a predominantly male
orientated industry, and what exactly we want to achieve when we talk about gender equality. ! !
Our team at Architecture and Women would like to thank Architectus, our sponsor, IMA Cuisine,
our hosts, and last but not least, our guests. It was heart-warming to see our guests give up their
weekend sleep-in to make the event the success it turned out to be. I hope the event has left
everyone feeling refreshed and hopeful. We look forward to seeing you for our future events!!

Our guest Prof Sylvia Lavin appreciated our local opening by Elisapetha Heta with MC Hannah Sharp formerly organiser of the 2013 A+W.NZ Southern exhibition introducing our guest.
 Sylvia spoke anecdotally about her experience of with power and prejudice mainly in learning institutes. With so many woman helming these institutes in the USA now she saw the power battle largely over, but did observe that the racial perspective was in much need of attention to the extent of greater likelihood of shootings occurring particularly with black Americans. She commented that in her case she became the boss then had children. She said that perceptions of ease  and success of society transformation on the other side of the fence were questionable eg from a US perspective it was easier to work in Mexico, though not if you were Mexican perhaps.
 On a broader note Sylvia was concerned that those that were hardest on them were  architects themselves in terms of growing a strong profession longer term eg Larger practices were in a position to discard their smaller inconvenient projects to smaller practices, in the public realm in particular, in order to grow strength in the industry. They were also in the position to sponsor/partner smaller practices in the same way. This may work in the traditional model in NZ, although without significant shift in the balance of diversity leadership in larger practices, the circle of influence could well remain the same. This presents a very strong case to developing mentorship opportunities in as many ways as possible and leads nicely into upcoming A+W.NZ mentoring speed dating in June ( AAW TBA ).

March 2015:

Professor Sylvia Lavin is presenting as part of the 2015 INTERSTICES UNDER CONSTRUCTION SYMPOSIUM (The Urban Thing), and while she is in Auckland A+W•NZ is hosting a breakfast event so that we can hear more from her in a relaxed environment.

Sylvia Lavin is an international critic, historian and curator from UCLA Architecture and Urban Design, and the promise of 'Kissing' arises from the title of one of her recent books, Kissing Architecture.

A+W•NZ want to thank Architectus for their generous support for this event.

When:  Saturday 11 April 2015, 7:00 - 8:45am
Where: IMA Deli, 53 Fort Street
Cost:    $30.00 per ticket

Tickets available via Eventbrite