MISS: Celebrating Femininity in DesignProfile

by Vere Van Gool (AA 5th Year) and Mary Wang
Founders of MISS

25 November 2013
Architectural Association, London

 

“Vere, I don’t know what to do with my life.”

“Mary, I don’t know what to do with myself.”

“But what would you do if you were unafraid?”

 

During one of our many dinners together, we poured our hearts out about how frustrated we were. Why did I quit architecture? Why am I still in it? We were uncertain about our futures, our selves, or even what dessert we wanted.

 

The Eamesian breakfast table ready for Bea & Bea
Image credit: Valerie Bennett 

What was it?

 

It could not have been architecture, because I left it a year ago. It could not have been reality, as I was still in architecture school. It was something bigger, something more inherent, something more difficult to grasp. They gave us a dessert menu without apple crumble on it – we just didn’t feel like we had access to the full range of possibilities.

What was it?

 

It was the time that someone asked me why my drawing was pink, the time that they dismissed beetroots as a weighty architectural topic, the time I decided not to wear a skirt, every time the boy got picked over the girl, the time that not everybody could afford to study, all the times I wasn’t taken seriously and the moment we realised the AA wasn’t half as bad as the rest.

 

Beatriz Colomina and Beatrice Gallilee discuss femininity around the breakfast table and beyond
Image credit: Alexandra Waespi

It was something more subtle, something more systematic. We realised we were embedded in certain conventions and hierarchies that held us back. But we also realised that we were talking about the things that other people think, but never say out loud. And that was exactly the problem – we needed to start talking. Not pointing fingers, not being angry, but simply having good conversations.

 

So we started MISS – a platform to celebrate femininity in design. Through hosting a series events at the AA, we aim to initiate the missing dialogue on gender roles and self-expression. We question the masculine hierarchy of a traditional lecture by moving away from the lecture hall and into a room of one’s own – a room for talking that is inviting, intellectual yet intimate.

And we needed to do it at the AA because the only rule here is that if you don’t agree with the rules, you create your own.

 

PROJECT!!!!!

 

Six months later, we were at a similar dinner table, but this time with our first two guests, Beatriz Colomina and Beatrice Galilee. This was the evening before our first event: a conversation on femininity between Bea & Bea over breakfast. And again, we discovered the power of talking. While these two women have worked very hard to establish themselves professionally as well as academically, they trusted us enough to answer the personal and intimate questions we fired at them. We could only hope they would be as honest over breakfast as they were over dinner.

 

Twelve hours later, 28 croissants were consumed and amidst 2 pretzels, 1 jar of Nutella, 3 spoonfuls of Marmite, 300 grams of raspberries and 5 pots of tea, Bea & Bea touched upon topics ranging from the breakfast table throughout architectural history to the hierarchies and class systems embedded in the design field, the importance of sleep and working in their pyjamas. They were honest, they were vulnerable and they told us: It’s going to be OK.

 

In the end, this endeavour is being made possible through good conversations. It brought us to the idea of MISS and it was the key to the breakfast’s success. It allows us to discuss the things we never say out loud.

 

For more information:

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