Chicks in Architecture Refuse to Yield: Reading the Feminist Architecture Exhibition

Critical, Curatorial + Conceptual Practices in Architecture, Thesis

Sarah Rafson

Mary McLeod, advisor

The socio-political development of architecture can, in part, be read through the ways the field has represented itself through architectural exhibitions. Specifically, exhibitions have played a significant role in developing and disseminating feminist thought in architecture. With this in mind, this thesis will analyze one vital and representative exhibition, “More Than the Sum of Our Body Parts,” which was staged at Chicago’s Randolph Street Gallery in 1993 by the collective Chicks In Architecture Refuse to Yield to Atavistic Thinking in Design and Society, or CARYATIDS. The collective amassed more than 70 members of both genders, and their exhibition was a protest to the joint convention of the American Institute of Architects and the International Union of Architects opening the same day.

An exhibition can be read on many levels, and this thesis situates “More Than the Sum of Our Body Parts” historically and theoretically, critically analyzing the message and its medium. The analysis is based on oral histories with the founding members of the CARYATIDS which engage  the women’s experiences as an integral element of the exhibition’s narrative and document the perspective a segment of the workforce marginalized or written out of conventional architectural historiography.