Gender and Racial Bias in Design Juries

Mark Paul Frederickson Source: Journal of Architectural Education (1984-), Vol. 47, No. 1 (Sep., 1993), pp. 38-48 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Inc

This study assesses the participation and interaction of various participants in the design jury process, that is, male and female jurors, male and female students, and racial minority students. Several consistently biased practices and procedures in design juries are identified and statistically examined. The findings presented here have been distilled from one portion of an ongoing comprehensive investigation of the inner workings and educational efficacy of design juries in architectural education. Initial portions of the overall research program were conducted by Mark Frederickson and Marvin Adelson at the University of California, Los Angeles. Investigation of studio education and review processes continues under Frederickson's guidance at the University of Arizona. THROUGH THEIR USE OF THE JURY SYSTEM, DESIGN EDUCATORS IN ARCHI- tecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and several studio arts share a fundamental method of evaluating design projects and render- ing feedback to students concerning their performance and abilities. The jury is a core element in many of these design curricula and a critical educational vehicle in which students verbally and graphically present their design work to an assembly of design teachers, visiting professionals, and student peers. It is a forum for building and com- municating ideas. Although intrajury communications are often flawed, I believe design juries to be rich in educational potential.1 After witnessing and participating in design reviews that were quite wonderful in their in- sight and thoughtful manner of communication, it became apparent to me that these few occasions deserved careful study, especially be- cause most juries appeared rarely to operate at, or even near, their full potential. For the past four years, Marvin Adelson and I have been in- vestigating both the potentials and the defects of jury environments in architectural design curricula. During the conceptual stages of our re- search, we initiated pilot studies as a means of ethnographically ex- ploring the subject.2 Early observations indicated that many problems seemed to be linked to interpersonal communications. One portion of this study revealed particularly destructive prejudicial behavior among and between jurors and students of different gender and race-biased conduct that likely discourages many of our most intelli- gent female and minority students from continuing on in school and the profession. There have been several interesting studies on studio education and the processes of designing and learning to design,3 but our initial literature review revealed little formal research on design juries except that of Kathryn Anthony. Her studies of design juries break new ground by refusing to accept the jury as sacrosanct. Although our study focuses much of its effort on the dynamics of intrajury commu- nications, Anthony's comparisons of faculty, student, and practitioner perceptions of the efficacy of the jury were helpful in establishing the need for more research in this area.

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