100 Episodes, 90 Stories, Four Years, Three Hosts

Celebrating 100 Episodes of She Builds Podcast: A Journey Through the Stories of Historical Women in Architecture

“This might be a limited series,” said a friend while considering the concept of a history podcast featuring the untold stories of women in architecture. Here we are, four years later, and our “limited series” will air its 100th episode this month.

Now, we cannot fault our friend who thought a history podcast about women architects would be a limited series. When you reflect on your architectural history class, can you recall how many featured architects were women? You can go as far as examining your office, your classroom, and your job site today. How many women are in your company, hold leadership positions, and lead meetings in the field? 

From architecture school, you surely remember learning about historical periods and styles like the Bauhaus movement, Classical Architecture, and the Renaissance period. You also likely remember great works like the Barcelona Pavilion, Chandigarh, and the Baker House Dormitory at MIT, and their ties to names like Mies Van Der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Alvar Alto. But what if we told you that Le Corbusier wouldn’t even have been commissioned for Chandigarh if it wasn’t for architect Jane Drew (ep.07), who turned down the job and recommended him to the client. Furthermore, while Le Corbusier served as the face of the famed project, it was Eulie Chowdhury who was the local architect who continued the work and ensured that the project was built (ep.64). Alvar Alto designed the basic structure of the Baker House at MIT, but it was HIS WIFE Aino who designed the interior and was the on-site project manager (while taking care of their children). When Alvar passed away, it was his second wife Elissa who would bring his projects to completion and document everything for us to reference today (ep. 45).

There are several stories like these that, for us at She Builds Podcast, make reaching 100 episodes easy. 

Finding women who have contributed to the industry was easy, we just needed to do some digging to appropriately tell their story. Fortunately, in the age of the internet, we have developed a list of resources that contribute to our research. Now, it was our job to amplify these stories and spread them as far as we could.

The origin of this podcast stretches back to 2008 when three individuals from three different places met as freshmen at Syracuse University to study architecture. Jessica Rogers from Miami, Florida, Lizi Raar from Holland, Michigan, and Norgerie Rivas Villalongo from Bayamon Puerto Rico, would become the greatest of friends. Twelve years later, driven by the lack of women featured in their curriculum, those three would enter the world of podcasting.

Norgerie gets the credit, for it was her brainchild to start a podcast. As a podcast and history lover, Norgerie was in search of an entertaining history podcast that told stories of women in the AEC industry – a history podcast with a sprinkle of levity, a la Drunk History. When she could not find the podcast she was looking for, she told a friend the idea of starting one herself. It was he who told her that it would be a limited series. Norgerie accepted his challenge and reached out to Jessica and Lizi to see if they would embark on this endeavor. They agreed and the rest is history. 

We set out to tell the stories of women in the AEC history, focusing on women who impacted the world of architecture in all forms. In August 2020, She Builds Podcast was born. And for that friend that thought it would be a limited series? We are happy to report that he is one of our biggest fans.

From the start, our goal has remained the same… we want architects like Julia Morgan and Louise Bethune to be as well known as Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.

To expand on that goal, we also spotlight a contemporary woman whose work or story relates to the historical woman featured in each episode. These contemporary women are identified as our “caryatids.” A caryatid is a sculpted female figure that serves as a column or a pillar supporting an entablature above. To us, our “caryatids” and their work “hold up” the profession today, continuing to build on the progress and foundation that our featured women laid before us.

Reaching 100 episodes is momentous for so many reasons. Podcasts of our size, typically don’t make it to 100. In fact, only 10% of podcasts do. Our podcast is unique in that it is not in a typical interview format. We treat each episode as a research paper – investigating the story of a woman, finding remarkable details, and identifying related projects and information to establish context for our listeners. On top of our day jobs in architecture, we collaborate across three different time zones to meticulously research and carefully craft these stories each week. To say this is a passion project for us is an understatement. But as three best friends, we will take any excuse to hang out. 

We are grateful for every moment and every opportunity that arose from our little podcast. In the past three years, we have spoken at conferences, firms, and even to students in South Africa. These opportunities energize us to continue to tell these stories, in pursuit of our original goal, to elevate the stories of women who have and continue to impact the world of architecture. 

To date we have told the stories of 90 women across 100 episodes, and the best is yet to come.

Is there a woman that you would like to hear more about? Check out our catalog… and we wouldn’t mind if you subscribed while you’re there.

***This article was written for Gābl Media by She Builds***
She Builds Podcast airs on Tuesdays for 10 consecutive weeks each season.

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