Cape Town-based architect Ilze Wolff has been shortlisted for the prestigious Women In Architecture Awards – the only African on the list, which includes some of the world's most important practitioners.
The Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Woman Architect of the Year recognises the career and architectural contributions of women under the age of 45, and the nominees for this year feature big names like Gloria Cabral of Paraguay's Gabinete de Arquitectura, Anna Puigjaner and Maria Charneco of Spanish practice MAIO, and Sook-hee Chun of South Korea's Wise Architecture.
Wolff founded Wolff Architects with her husband and business partner, Heinrich, and their work has been built and exhibited around the world – heralded for its innovative approach to working collaboratively across disciplines to create "human-focused" design.
"As architects, we have a core obligation to make spaces that are human-centric and inclusive," Wolff told HuffPost.
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"I think that one must think holistically about architecture as a collaborative project. For me, architecture is one of the professions that can easily work intersectionally in many fields. So I think that these kinds of awards open up the discussion about the lack of representation of women, but I hope that they [also] open up a conversation about the intersectional possibilities of the field."
Wolff is currently an architecture fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research, UWC and is developing this idea of the potential for cross discipline spatial practice while designing an arts space for the centre.
"There are many opportunities for architecture to rethink the profession. It can be broad and encompass many ways of making – like Virgil Abloh, who has gone into fashion, Paula Nascimento and her dual practice as an artist and architect, Mpho Matsipa through her scholarship and curatorial practice and Sindiso Khumalo with her textile design. So we need to take the opportunity to take architecture in different ways, and think about how we create ways to practice intersectionally."
Wolff is focusing on ways that Cape Town can address the gentrification of communities.
"I think architecture is facing a few challenges – one is: how do we intervene wisely? How do we redevelop ethically in neighbourhoods that are growing, but are identified purely as commercial opportunities for private wealth? Of wanting to address urban renewal with the consciousness of also restoring collectivity and land restitution."
The awards will be announced on March 2.