Dr. Schrenk - Colors of CAPLA

Tell us about yourself! Lisa Schrenk, Associate Professor of Architectural History.

I grew up in St. Anthony Village, a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. After graduating from high school I studied art, architecture, and urban geography at Macalester College, then worked for a couple of years in the Twin Cities for one of the first design/build firms in the country doing everything from construction management to architectural design. I left that position to backpack through Europe with a friend and caught the travel bug. I also realized that my real passion was architectural history and decided to return to school, receiving my master’s degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia. While at UVA I had the honor of being selected to live on the original campus designed by Thomas Jefferson. After graduating I became the Director of Education for the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, in Oak Park, Illinois, developing and overseeing a wide range of educational activities for youths and adults, as well as carrying out research related to Wright’s first architectural office (initiating explorations that eventually led to my book on Wright’s Oak Park studio). One of the perks of the position was having my office on the balcony of Wright’s drafting room. In addition to my full-time position, I also taught courses at Barat College and served as the president of the Chicago Society of Architectural Historians. I greatly enjoyed both teaching and doing research and so I returned to school once more and received my Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.

Why did you choose to be involved in WIAS? As the originator of the organization, I saw the need for CAPLA to have an organization that promotes women in architecture as there is still significant gender inequality in the field. I felt fortunate to have grown up in the 1970s and was in high school just after Title IX passed. I never considered gender to be an issue for me or my female classmates to reach our career goals. We believed that the Equal Rights Movement, Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine had paved the way for us. I was one of the only females in the top 20 of my high school class who did not to go into engineering. There were a lot of young women also going into computer science at the time. When I became a UA Faculty Fellow several years ago, I was connected to Gila Residence Hall, which at the time was the home of the UA Engineering Leadership Community. In talking to some of the female students in the dorm about their experiences in engineering and computer-related disciplines, I realized that the equality pendulum had swung back in some fields. This then led to a discussion with the honor’s students in my history class about issues of gender inequality in architecture and I suggested starting an organization at UA that would promote and support women in architecture. A few months later four students came to me asking if I would help them start such an organization and WIAS was born.

What is your favorite color and why?

Magenta, it’s an intense, happy color.

How do you bring color into CAPLA? One of my favorite ways to bring color to CAPLA is bringing the world to CAPLA. I have yet to overcome the travel bug I caught on my first trip to Europe. My travels to date have included visits to sites of architectural significance in over 85 countries. I have also taught on two around-the-world Semester at Sea voyages (the best way to teach world architecture as students can actually visit sites like Sagrada Família, Angkor Wat, and the Taj Mahal after we have talked about them in class, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the designs and how they fit into the surrounding physical and cultural environments today). Since at UA we are not able to just hop on a plane or ship to visit these places, I often include my own photographs and firsthand insights of the buildings we explore in my courses at CAPLA and talk about the importance of visiting works of architecture in person whenever possible. Something that, unfortunately, has become significantly more difficult to do during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can always open our eyes further and attempt to more deeply understand the everyday built environment around us.

Where do you enjoy teaching? In my Albuquerque backyard – love it when the roadrunners and other wildlife pay attention to my lectures.

Check out an article about Dr. Schrenk and the WIAS Bauhaus Exhibition on the CAPLA website!


Thank you Dr. Schrenk for bringing more Color to CAPLA!

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