Hidden in Plain Sight: Women and Urban Design in the 1940s–1970s

Thu, Apr 23, 2015, 5:00 pm

Hidden in Plain Sight:
Women and Urban Design in the 1940s–1970s
Alison Isenberg, Professor of History, Princeton University

Thursday, April 23 / 5:00pm
School of Architecture, N107

Alison Isenberg (Professor of History and Co-Director of the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities) will discuss her research on gender and urban design in San Francisco, during postwar decades dominated by urban renewal and its backlash. During these years, women took leadership roles in urban design experimentation through allied fields such as architectural model-making, public relations, graphic design, property management, and public art. For good reason, architecture has been widely regarded as a stubbornly "male-dominated" field, but focusing systematically on the transformative edges of professional design during these decades suggests otherwise. In this light, the fact that influential urban critics such as Jane Jacobs and Ada Louise Huxtable were women becomes relatively unremarkable. How does narrating women's leadership before women's liberation induce reassessment of second-wave feminism's impact on the design professions? Does this merely "add women" in to the existing history, or does it fundamentally change that history? What relevance does the 1940s–1970s period have for today's debates over gender, architecture, and design? The thirty minute presentation is intended to provoke discussion.

Prof. Alison Isenberg is a Professor of History and the Co-Director of the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities. She is the author of the award winning book Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It, and her scholarship traces the roles of culture, economy, and place in shaping American cities. Professor Isenberg is an Affiliated Faculty member in the program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Faculty Associate at the Woodrow Wilson School and Co-Director of the Urban Studies Program, and sits on the Executive Committee of the American Studies Program. She holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from Yale University.

Women in Design and Architecture
The goal of Women in Design and Architecture is to provide graduate-level students with a forum for discussing the issues that face women pursuing design and architecture today. Through its programs, this group hopes to highlight the achievements of women, engender professional and social networks, raise awareness and empower women to tackle issues they may encounter both academically and professionally.

School of Architecture, N-107