Women-led studios create sculptural pavilions for Women in Architecture exhibition

Architecture studios Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, Helen & Hard and Ensamble Studio have designed three pavilions for the Women in Architecture exhibition at the Danish Architecture Center.

The exhibition, which was curated by Sara Hatla Krogsgaard, aims to highlight the work that women architects have created in Denmark and showcases work by both historical and contemporary architects.

Visitors at Danish Architecture Center
The exhibition showcases work by women architects

"The exhibition is important because it spotlights some of the women through history who played a pivotal role in conceptualizing, designing, and building Denmark – but who were to a large extent forgotten," Krogsgaard told Dezeen.

"Women in architecture have been relatively difficult to find in the annals of architecture history," she added. "Nonetheless, the architectural achievements and breakthroughs of women in architecture have greatly shaped society and the world in which we live today."

Wooden pavilions designed by women architects
Three pavilions were designed to interpret the concept of A Room of One's Own

As part of the exhibition, the museum asked three prominent contemporary architects – Tatiana Bilbao, Siv Helene Stangeland of Helen & Hard and Débora Mesa from Ensamble Studio – to create pavilions for a section called A Room of One's Own.

"The entire exhibition is inspired by author Virginia Woolf's seminal essay 'A Room of One's Own' from 1929, which remains highly relevant at a time when equality and gender issues are at the top of the agenda," Krogsgaard said.

"The three studios offer very different perspectives on the theme."

Tatiana Bilbao's brick pavilions
Tatiana Bilbao's pavilion is a collection of circular brick structures

Mexican studio Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, named its pavilion – which comprises a number of circular brick structures – A Room, You and Us. The design was created as a space for reflection.

"It's a room of one's own, but none of us have the same concept of intimacy and our structure aims to exist in a way where spaces can be intimate even if they are open, or social even if they are closed," the studio's founder Bilbao told Dezeen.

Circular brick pavilions by Tatiana Bilbao
The architect designed the sculptures to underline the importance of understanding one another

"A Room, You and Us is a space for reflection upon the importance of nature to our bodies but also the importance of understanding one another, as we do need each other to exist," she added.

"By proposing different spaces we are creating a platform for anyone to define their own definition of self-care, of intimacy, of socialness and of sharing."

Helen & Hard pavilion at Danish Architecture Center
Helen & Hard's pavilion was designed for artist Marina Abramović

Norwegian studio Helen & Hard's design, meanwhile, is more inward-looking.

The prototype for a project developed together with artist Marina Abramovic as a meditative space, Body & Mind Spa is constructed from layered arched beams made from off-cuts of wooden flooring.

The design of the womb-like structure, which also has a backrest covered in felted wool and was made from upcycled materials, was informed by Turkish hammams.

"Working on the Body & Mind Spa for Marina Abramovic we were inspired by Turkish hammams, with the central space having vaulted roofs with overhead lighting and surrounding niches for different body treatments," Helen & Hard co-founder Stangeland told Dezeen.

Wooden pavilion with an arched roof
Visitors can lean back inside the wooden structure

"We decided to make a more organic vaulted shape with integrated crystals and seating in the slightly curved walls, which invites the body to interact and lean into it," she said.

"A womb-like space also gives an experience of being protected and embraced, one could say – which is essential to support relaxation and calm."

The Room pavilion by Ensamble Studio
Paper and cardboard was used to construct The Room pavilion

The third pavilion, by Ensamble Studio, was simply named The Room and was the result of a collaboration between the women and men on the studio's team.

Made from paper and cardboard and created as "a space of light and entertainment," the pavilion isn't an enclosed space but rather an exploration of what a room is.

Visitors inside pavilion at Danish Architecture Center
It was designed by Ensamble Studio

"In The Room, the floor curves to become wall, wall curves to become ceiling and ceiling becomes floor," the studio said. "Walls become windows and windows become doors that look onto the street, the woods and the sky."

"As the basic elements of a room – floor, wall, ceiling, window, door – get redefined, The Room breaks with the preconceived idea of what a room is and instead explores new meanings and potential."

Visitor at Women in Architecture exhibition
Women in Architecture looks at both historical and contemporary designs by women

Contemporary women architects are also celebrated in a part of the exhibition called Women Designing Denmark Today, which looks at works by people including architects Dorthe Mandrup and Lene Tranberg.

It explores questions such as whether gender and equality should still be on the agenda in 2022.

"We hope to raise questions about the role of women in architecture today," curator Krogsgaard explained. "Why does architecture remain an industry abundant with gender inequalities? Why is it a problem? And what can be done?"

Brick pavilion in A Room of One's Own exhibition space
It is on show at the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen

Women in Architecture also looks to the future, exploring the works of four young architects whose work aims to promote inclusion, diversity and security.

For the architects taking part in the exhibition, it offered an opportunity to think about their own practices in a wider context.

"It is always important to do justice to contributions made in times when gender equality was not practiced," Stangeland said. "I am so privileged to work mostly in Norway, a country where gender equality is evident and practiced."

"From this perspective – I think it is more interesting to explore how we become an inclusive and flourishing society for all humans – and all genders – and how we can work in the field of architecture without boundaries on ourselves," she added.

To Bilbao, the exhibition underlines the need for diversity in design.

"The only way we can make a world that is inclusive is for it to be designed by multiple and very diverse points of view," she said. "Women are part of that diverse multitude, as much as all of us are."

Other recent initiatives to highlight the work of women architects include a map that draws attention to built projects by women in London, and First 500, a website dedicated to work by Black women architects working in the US.

The photography is by Laura Stamer. Video is courtesy of the Danish Architecture Center produced by Curb.

Women in Architecure is on display at the Danish Architecture Center from 13 May until 23 October. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.