After your long and successful career—spanning five decades—what drove you to create the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation in 2002?
I looked back and realized that the arbiters of architecture culture had systemically overlooked some of the great women architects of my mid–20th century era. Recovering the stories of women architects is a greater gift to future generations than the singular preservation of my own legacy. It's a living legacy, if you will.
What does your foundation do?
On our website is the “American Women of Architecture Timeline,” a wiki that allows users to contribute to a knowledge database about American women practicing in the 20th century. We [also] support programs that specifically help build a history of women architects.
Tell me about your collaboration with Museum of Modern Art curator Barry Bergdoll.
We're presenting a colloquium titled “Women in Modernism: Making Places in Architecture” this coming October the 25th. Our colloquium is part of the museum's larger re-evaluation of the history of modernism. [We'll explore] the historical connection between the era of modernism, the emergence of women in architecture, and the whitewashing of women's contributions to architecture during that period.
Why talk about the role of women in the profession?
Cutting-edge form and large projects have a place in architecture, but I believe most women are more concerned about society as a whole. Thousands of small interventions can make our cities a better place to live, while an occasional iconic, monumental structure does not. And then on the business level, there are more women executives today than ever before. These women are in the position to commission large projects, [and] I don't believe a single-sex team will make the grade.
Through your foundation and the upcoming colloquium, what do you hope to achieve?
Gender equity is not simply about recognizing women or retaining their talent but about building a better environment for everyone. If we incorporate the ideas of the many over the visions of the few, we will create, in my opinion, a much more equitable and humanistic environment for everyone. And, really, shouldn't that be the profession's larger ethical goal?