Little Architect celebrates Women’s Day
08 March 2014 Architectural Association, London   It was Manijeh Verghese, the young woman who runs AA Conversations, teaches Intermediate 11, is starting a new business and still had time to organise the AA Christmas party, who invited me several months ago to talk about my architectural workshops for children. This has now evolved into Little Architect, a new AA Visiting School programme in London, which I am enormously honoured to be directing. But because today is 8 March, International Women’s Day, I thought that it might instead be a better moment to talk about the human story behind the programme and the many wonderful women involved in the process…   The story begins with a woman, Karen Jacobs, who was the first person to give me the opportunity to run an architectural after school club in London. It was at Hugh Myddelton School and over eight weeks we developed a massive Future City mural. While Cathy Farinhas and Joy Shechendledecker were helping me with some English translation, Hester Wellings introduced me to Alison Lister, the Islington Museum director, who opened her doors to the “Future Cities Saturday Workshops” where I had lots of fun and very rich experiences teaching basically just a few of my close friends’ children (sigh! not much time and money for publicity back then) Those few flyers, advertising the mornings, were paid thanks to Jennifer Judd. Another woman, Sarah Bagnall knew about these activities and asked me to run two whole terms of architectural teaching at Clerkenwell Parochial Primary School; I had a student who was only 5 years old in that heterogeneous group! I still keep some of their designs as gold standards.   [caption id="attachment_2997" align="alignnone" width="360"] Girl + Architecture[/caption] Harriet Godman at St Luke’s Primary School gave me advice about the National Curriculum and pushed me to put all the ideas together. Eva Alvarez, Beatriz Villanueva and Sofia Cele's academic dissertations were on my desk before even asking for them. Finally Natasha Sandmeier during the AA Summer School, where I was teaching Unit 1, took me literally by the arm (you know her!) and sat me in front of Christopher Pierce, to show him the messy folder full of children drawings, articles, ideas and intentions that I had shown her. Her determination was crucial.
So, the timing was perfect as Brett and Chris had children’s education on the AA agenda already, or maybe they did... who knows?? The final push to start this adventure was Anita Pfauntsch, the facilities manager at the AA, who was trying to convince Chris of the fact that there was no better teacher to enrol in teaching his Visiting School programme than myself  (ha! that was a very sweet moment!)   Nowadays, while building the structure of this project, I am meeting some of Adelaide Bannerman’s contacts in education and the arts, while I research Ruth Asawa's education legacy and her art school in San Francisco (SOTA) with her daughter Aiko Cuneo’s guidance. She was strongly inspired by Buckminster Fuller during her period at Black Mountain College and so I, through them, would like to introduce Architecture and Sustainability into the existing primary school curriculum. As soon as we get schools interested in our courses, I look forward to teaching alongside Sylvie Taher, Nuria Alvarez, Natasha and Manijeh who are just waiting for the classes to begin. Everything seems to be going well, the booklet is still in Claire McManus' capable hands and Andrea Ghaddar is helping with the publicity. We are beginning to collect lots of stories to tell you, including Naiara Vegara's Spaghetti bridge or Hanna Höch's collages, Lina Bo Bardi's and Ray Eames' toys; all part of our first lesson, last February, as Little Architect…   [caption id="attachment_2999" align="alignnone" width="360"] Buckminster Fuller makes tetrahedrons with a primary school in San Francisco[/caption] There will be another time, I’m sure, when I can write about the many men who have made this programme possible: Christopher Pierce and Brett Steele especially, as well as Alex Lorente, Mark Cousins, Hugo Hinsley, Colin Ward’s books, Dominic Dunn, Juanjo Ruiz, Umberto Bellardi Ricci, Shin Egashira, Inigo Minns, Nacho Martin, Manu Collado, Frank Owen and Alex Furunes.
Of course men and women are writing Little Architect’s story together, and I would not have it any other way. The AA (although I am still quite new there) seems to be gifted with equal participation of women and men in decision making processes, we develop ideas and projects with this sense of community but our cities and our society are still places to improve on this and many other aspects.   After more than 13 amazing years practicing architecture, I know education is the answer. Architecture is a powerful tool to build a more creative way of thinking, which in turn will help to create more equitable and sustainable cities. By teaching children at school how to understand and love the city around them, imagining new ones and dreaming of a even better future, we will open their minds to a more global and inclusive way of thinking.   [caption id="attachment_2998" align="alignnone" width="360"] A Little Architect Collage of the Future City[/caption] We are just embarking on a long journey, and so today, on 8 March 2014, I wanted to say thank you to all the women who helped or are helping with this programme and of course to the rest of them who are not on that list and simply make my life happier!   For more information: Follow Little Architect on twitter: @AALittleArchi Like Little Architect on facebook: AALittleArchitect Dolores Victoria (Lola) Ruiz Garrido is the director of Little Architect and CEO of Semisotano Arquitectos Summer School Unit 1: I want your roof