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International Archive of Women in Architecture, Special Collections

Collection Profile

The record of women who have contributed to the design of our built environment is being gathered and preserved in the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) at Virginia Tech. Special Collections houses 1,200 cubic feet of primary sources documenting over 300 women, and its biographical database chronicles 650 women from 51 countries. The online guide includes links to rich details in over 125 inventories, and the VT ImageBase provides over 1,200 digital images from the IAWA. Two traveling exhibitions were donated by the American Institute of Architects. The American Architectural Foundation of the AIA, on the centenary of the induction of women, created "That Exceptional One: Women in American Architecture, 1888–1988." The AIA's Women in Architecture Committee created "Many More: Women in Architecture."

The IAWA relies on donations but this has not limited the variety, breadth, and depth of careers preserved and available to the public. Eleanore Pettersen, Jane Duncombe, and Lois Davidson Gottlieb represent Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentices. Architect, artist, and educator Beverly Willis donated over 150 projects documenting the application of computers to architectural design and land analysis. Rosaria Piomelli was the first woman dean of any school of architecture in the United States and her collection details many facets of her career. Interests beyond their careers are also demonstrated in the artwork of Anne Tyng, Sharon Sutton, and Martha Crawford; the illustrated travel diaries of Sigrid Rupp; and the writings of Susana Torre, among others.

Founded in 1985 by Milka Bliznakov, the IAWA is a collaboration between the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the University Libraries at Virginia Tech. While Bliznakov was already concerned that local faculty and students were unaware of women's contributions, as she neared retirement she envisioned the potential loss of the record of her contemporaries' work.

Because women who initially practiced architecture and related design fields were often not allowed formally into the professions, "women in architecture" includes those who designed without formal training, registration, or licensure. Women in architecture includes all the designers of our built environment, including landscape architects, interior designers, industrial designers, and urban planners. The IAWA is full of stories waiting to be told about those who persevered in the face of veiled and blatant discouragement, including those who survived the long educational preparation and the rigorous registration process in spite of isolation and marginalization when they were, indeed, allowed to participate.

Annually, scholars and researchers vie for the Bliznakov Prize that rewards original research illuminating women's professional achievements. The first prize winner was Claire Bonney of Basel, Switzerland, for her research on Adrienne Gorska. The Bliznakov Honorarium rewards projects that specifically draw on the IAWA. Professor Joseph Chuo Wang, the first Honorarium winner, prepared the Chinese language article "The International Archive of Women in Architecture is Alive and Thriving at Virginia Tech," targeted for a national professional journal.

Collection Profile and Overview: Gail McMillan
Illustrations: Digital Imaging, Learning Technologies

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