SAINT JOHN – When Monica Adair was studying architecture, the people she studied weren’t exactly diverse.
“When I went to architecture school, I only learned about one woman in architecture,” the now-partner of Acre Architects remembers. “I learned about Zaha Hadid who died a couple years ago. There were very few women that were actually even written into history.”
Adair, along with other women architects in the region such as Melissa Wakefield and Alex Weaver Crawford, hope to help change that with the launch of a new group: Building Equality in Architecture Atlantic (BEA Atlantic).
The group spurs from Building Equality in Architecture Toronto (BEAT), which was formed in October 2015 as an independent organization dedicated to supporting equality and diversity in the profession of architecture through advocacy, community engagement and professional development.
“Today women are not getting senior leadership roles and are getting paid less than their male counterparts,” says Adair. “They don’t really have a big support network when it comes to architecture and we wanted to change that.”
BEA Atlantic is geared towards women architects and designers, but Adair says since the region is so small, membership won’t be limited.
“It’s geared towards women in the field of design and architecture, but by no means is it just for them,” she says. “We want to have a focus so that we’re able to serve a group well and we absolutely want to expand that to women leaders in the community, especially in Atlantic Canada. If we don’t have a lot of architects, there are so many empowering women we can draw from.”
BEA Atlantic plans to offer members things like networking, live-streamed lectures, call-in sessions, and a retreat.
“It doesn’t have to be networking where everyone eats potato chips, shakes hands and takes business cards. That will be available if we want it, but I think it is really about being inspired by the women,” says Adair.
“Sometimes I think you need to get a bit more vulnerable in-person and breakthrough, something you can’t do in an hour. So a retreat is something we’re interested in and that could be open to a lot of people.”
The group will be launching with an event on Thursday in Saint John at Picaroons General Store at 5 p.m. called “Women of the Round Table.” The inaugural networking social and celebration will bring together friends, partners, allies, and colleagues in support of the new group and to share ideas. Following will be a street party on Grannan Lane, which has previously held such as nighttime events like Third Shift and Moonlight Bazaar.
There will also be a special photo taken in the alley during the evening.
“We wanted it to do something that in the event could have some kind of effect. For us, if you look through any history books, you will see photos of [men],” says Adair. “So the Thursday event is going to be a photograph that captures all the women in architecture that are present for that event.”
Adair says the goal of BEA Atlantic is to not just support women architects and designers through the challenges they face but to make them more visible and celebrate them.
“The more you see it, the easier it is for someone coming out of high school to go, ‘hey, there’s room for me there,’ ” she says.
If the previous events on Grannan Lane are any indication, BEA Atlantic’s message will be loud and clear.
“If people can come to this festival and remember women in architecture have also created a great time,” says Adair. “You might want to be on board with those people.”