Video Still from the Oral History interview with Berliner architect Christine Jachmann

Berliner Architekt*innen: Oral History

A project based on Oral History interviews with 26 Berlin architects
Completed: 2021

The “Berliner Architekt*innen: Oral History” seminars

"The “Berliner Architekt*innen: Oral History” seminars took place in winter term 2019–20 and in summer term 2020 at the Technical University, Berlin. The aim was to ascertain how women architects shape their professional careers, what stereotypes and discrimi- nation they still encounter in this context, and how the overall professional image of architects has changed as the presence of women is ever strengthened through processes taking place across the field in a capillary manner. Oral history and video interviews were, therefore, our line of approach. Oral history is a system of historiography that extends to sources beyond those mainstream and celebrated protagonists, and imparts voice to all contempo- rary eyewitnesses. It is part of the history-from-below movement. For that reason, we did not only interview well-known women architects, but instead we provided a forum for women throughout the architectural profession. The methodology of oral history enabled us to incrementally comprehend both the processes and the actual situation within the profession. Our hope was to depict the full range of career paths taken by women graduates in the field through these interviews, but this is something that we have not been able to realize in full. We made every effort to include better-known and less-visible architects on an equal footing, but, in fact, those women who have left architecture or have pursued other professional paths are not so well represented. Nevertheless, the interviews do show a cross-section of women in architecture to a certain degree, because our discussion partners reported on problems and discontinuities encountered in architectural careers with an eye to their full circle of friends and acquaintances. There were still many aspects of intersectional feminism, however, that we were unable to cover in the interviews." Sarah Rivière & Hermann Schlimme, 2021

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Winning student design for the exhibition, by Katjuschka Owusu and Hannah Steinborn

Winning student design for the exhibition, by Katjuschka Owusu and Hannah Steinborn


In the winter term 2019–20, students kept Critical Journals as a tool to develop a critical awareness of our thematic field, “Berlin women architects from 1970 onwards”. Here, students brought together architects’ works and statements, feminist texts and works of archi- tectural criticism, and teased out the key themes and central figures both in their journals and in seminar discussions. The Critical Journal format afforded students scope to develop a thorough understan- ding of the broader historic, architectural, urban, socio-political and gender-political context within which women architects practise, both now and in the past. The students thus explored a wide range of architectural and professional role models that could support them in their studies and in later practice. Based on these insights, a list of questions was drawn up in the seminar to serve as a common basis for the interviews, including, for example: “Why did you wish to become an architect? What, in your opinion, should architecture achieve? What resistance and problems have you encountered, and how have you managed to overcome them? What ambitions and wishes did you have, and were you able to achieve them? How did you manage to succeed? What did German reunification mean for your career? What advice would you pass on to the next generation?” Twenty-six interviews with women architects, planners, and crafts- women were held in the seminar. Taking account of the questions above, students cut and transcribed the videos of their oral history interviews to a length of twelve to fifteen minutes, to be exhibited in 2021.

Katjuschka Owusu & Hannah Steinborn's winning exhibition design

Katjuschka Owusu & Hannah Steinborn's winning exhibition design

In the summer term, 2020, students made an initial critical examination of the findings of the winter term. The aim was to design and prepare the “Berliner Architekt*innen: Oral History” part of the exhibition in concrete form. In the exhibition we showed all twenty-six interviews with the architects, plus a brief CV, a portrait, a quote and three works. Based on a critical approach, an overall film was also compiled from the interviews with the Berlin architects, and the publication was prepared. With the aid of teaching staff, students brought the interview transcriptions up to international standards, and added the portrait photographs and brief CVs of the interviewees. The exhibition and the publication give an insight into the architects who were interviewed, on which basis visitors can further inform themselves about the people involved and their work. In this way, we hope our interview partners may inspire and become role-models for students and for other architects. In addition, the simultaneity of the voices of these twenty-six architects, their significant presence and their professi- onal competence should allow a deeper insight into the opportunities and the limitations of our architectural profession – today and in the past – and enrich ongoing architectural discourse.