On 31 January 2019, the National Design Centre (NDC) was the epicentre of a day’s discussion and debate about the future of housing. The day’s proceedings had been organised by Spain’s IE University as part of its travelling ‘Venture Day’ program, which comprises a panel discussion as well as a competition for start-ups specialising in the focal area.
This Singapore edition of Venture Day (with DesignSingapore and NDC serving as venue host) had the participation of IE’s School of Architecture and Design. Making the trip from Madrid to Singapore for the event was the School’s Dean Martha Thorne, who is also the Executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize – a position she’s held since 2005.
We caught up with Thorne to talk about entrepreneurship and the massive shifts happening in architecture and construction, the future of cities and architectural education, the Pritzker, gender issues in the architecture profession, and, of course, the ideas that emerged during Venture Day.
I’m sure you’ve been asked many times about the gender balance of the prize. Are you happy to talk about that?
Martha Thorne: I am very happy to. I’m very passionate about opening doors, breaking the glass ceiling. It’s much easier for me to do that in an academic institution where I’m the Dean and because I’m at a point in my career that I’m not worried about my next job. It’s great freedom to know I can say exactly what I believe and try to do exactly what I think is right. And I won’t have to fear the consequences anymore.
At IE School of Architecture and Design, as most schools of architecture and design, we have more women studying than men… The one area where it still is difficult is in terms of bibliographies. History is alive. It needs to be re-looked at from many perspectives. It’s not just in the purview of men to look at it. Women can do that and many are wonderful authors. So that’s my next battle – getting the lists of books and articles that people read incorporating the voices of women authors and women scholars.
When it comes to the Pritzker, I know that the jury is enormously sensitive to the profession. I think the petition about Denise Scott Brown and a retroactive prize was a very powerful message to them. It was very painful to me because every time someone signed the petition, I received an email, and it was 20,000!
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