Marion Mahony Griffin and The Magic of America: recovery, reaction and re-entrenchment in the discourse of architectural studies

Birmingham, Elizabeth
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The discourse that defines and supports the discipline of architectural studies has historically focused its attention on the study and veneration of great men and great monuments, a focus that has erased the contributions of many women in the field. By examining the secondary scholarship surrounding one such woman, architect and theorist Marion Mahony Griffin (1871--1961), this paper argues that women are invisible in the history of architecture because they are described in ways that dismiss their contributions, characterize them as essentially different from male architects, and undermine their status as "real" architects. A long and complex involvement of women in architectural practice has been written out of history because habits of scholarship accept and reassert the culturally received notion that men build while women decorate. This case study reveals the cultural assumptions that inform and reinforce practices of scholarship that habitually ignore women, and their architectural and theoretical work, suggesting this is not a problem that disappeared with the introduction of feminist scholarship to the discipline. In fact, after a decade of scholarly recovery of women's architectural contributions, a strong backlash has swept into the area of Griffin studies, confronting not just the historical figure of Mahony Griffin, but "disciplining" the scholars whose speculation has attempted to open the field to a wider range of research questions.

English, Rhetoric and professional communication