Hilde Heynen & Martha Thorne in conversation, chaired by Doina Petrescu

Feminist Theory and Starchitecture

Series: AA XX 100 Lecture Series
Date: Tuesday 24 February 2015
Time: 18:00
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 91 mins

In conversation Hilde Heynen, the Belgian historian, and Martha Thorne, Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize, address and attempt to unravel the star system in architecture in which ‘starchitects’ tend to be male. The discussion will range from issues of authorship and language to gendered concepts of genius and architects’ traditional role models, which are unfailingly male. The conversation presents and interrogates the positive benefits of the award, its recent encounter with sexual politics and the argument that the star system is exemplified by the Pritzker Prize. This conversation is part of the AA XX lecture series.

Leading up to the centenary of women at the Architectural Association in 2017, over the next three years, a series of lectures, organised by AA XX 100, will draw different generations, disciplines and voices into the AA conversation. Through presentations, dialogue and debate, the series will highlight and challenge the concerns and values of the profession from a theorised gendered perspective which recognises the inclusive and collaborative nature of architecture, while serving as a catalyst for bigger ideas and a wider discussion of women in architecture. The series will feature prominent practitioners from contemporary global architecture and urbanism, as well as articulate the substantial contribution that AA women have made in the last 100 years, creating engaging conversations between past and present, men and women, staff and students.


Martha Thorne is currently the Executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize a position she has occupied since 2005. She also holds the position of Associate Dean of IE School of Architecture & Design, Madrid/Segovia, an institution with an international focus and devoted to quality, innovative architectural studies. From 1996 to 2005, she worked as a curator at the Department of Architecture at The Art Institute of Chicago. She is the editor and author of several books on contemporary architecture, and author of numerous articles for architectural journals and encyclopedias. Ms. Thorne received a Master of City Planning degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Affairs from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She undertook additional studies at the London School of Economics. She currently sits on the Board of Advisors for IE Higher Education and on the jury for the ArchVision Women in Architecture Prize.

Hilde Heynen is Professor of Architectural Theory at the KU Leuven, Belgium where she specialises in cultural theory and the history of architecture in the modern period. Her books include Architecture and Modernity. A Critique (1999) and The Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory (2012, co-edited with Greig Crysler and Stephen Cairns). She publishes in journals such as Home Cultures and The Journal of Architecture. Among her many books and other publications is "Gender, genius and architecture: The star system as exemplified in the Pritzker Prize" (Architectural Theory Review, 2012).

Doina Petrescu is a Professor of Architecture and Design Activism at the University of Sheffield and Visiting Professor at Harvard GSD. She is also co-founder of atelier d’architecture autogérée. Her research focuses on gender and space in contemporary society, co-design and participation. Her approach broadens the scope of architectural discourse by bringing cultural, social, and political issues to inform the design and thinking processes in architecture. Her research methodology combines approaches from architectural theory and design, social sciences, political ecology, and feminist theory. She is the editor of The Social (Re)Production of Architecture (2015), Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space (2007) and co-editor of Architecture and Participation (2005), Urban Act (2007), Agency: Working with Uncertain Architectures (2009), and Trans-Local-Act: Cultural Practices Within and Across (2010). 

All lectures are open to members of the public, staff and students unless otherwise stated.

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The Architectural Association receives Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Lords of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.

The Architectural Association (AA), the oldest independent school of architecture in the United Kingdom, is pleased to announce that it has been granted the power to award its own degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards and is working to create some of the world’s most pioneering courses in architecture to shape and build the future.

Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Prospective students worldwide can apply to the AA Foundation Course (Foundation Certificate), Experimental Programme BA(Hons), Diploma Programme (MArch), and nine taught postgraduate programmes encompassing History and Critical Thinking in Architecture (MA), Projective Cities (Taught MPhil) and Sustainable Environmental Design (MSc/MArch), amongst others.

AA Director, Eva Franch said, ‘since our founding in 1847 we have never ceased to create new horizons, institutionally and academically. This is a significant milestone for the AA and demonstrates how we have grown and progressed as an institution that has always valued independence. Receiving TDAP marks a new era for our institution; these are exciting times for the AA. The process has required considerable work from all members of staff and students. I would like to take this opportunity to credit them for this major achievement’.

President of the AA Council, Victoria Thornton added, ‘the TDAP process has recognised our strong governance, academic standards, scholarship and teaching as well as the environment supporting the delivery of taught higher education programmes’.

The School’s application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers was supported by the Architects Registration Board, the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Open University.