Gabrielle Printz (MArch ’14)

Gabrielle Printz and her colleagues at f-architecture were recently invited to lecture at Studio-X Amman where they discussed their research on hymenoplasty. According to Printz (pictured with microphone), the surgical procedure for women relates to architecture as a practice that genders environments, experiences, and the physical sites of the body-object. Photo by Mohammad Maraqa

Gabrielle Printz and her colleagues at f-architecture were recently invited to  lecture at Studio-X Amman where they discussed their research on hymenoplasty. According to Printz (pictured with microphone), the surgical procedure for women relates to architecture as a practice that genders environments, experiences, and the physical sites of the body-object. Photo by Mohammad Maraqa

By Emma McAneny (MArch '18)

Published September 7, 2018

Gabrielle Printz is turning architecture on its head and challenging what it means to practice architecture today.

an image from f-architecture's project

An image from f-architecture's project, icalled, a deployable installation for political speech that has occupied Forward Union Fair, the New School and the Morgan Library and Museum. Credit: feminist architecture collaborative

To describe her work in a broad stroke, she is working to apply spatial practice as a form of critique and political action. Her work extends over many realms that she argues should not be outside the scope of architecture, including but not limited to: gender and body politics, technology, governmentality, protest and performance.. She is a co-founder of f-architecture, a research collaborative with her partners Virginia Black and Rosana Elkhatib that is  “aimed at disentangling the contemporary spatial politics and technological appearances of bodies, intimately and globally.” An exhibition of their work, Cosmo-Clinical Interiors of Beirut, will open this fall at VI PER Gallery in Prague. Gabrielle also writes, with f-architecture and separately, with work appearing in ED, DUE, Harvard Design Magazine, and  SUB_TEXXT, the online journal for ArchiteXX.

Gabrielle’s work at UB showed the beginnings of her current pursuits. Printz was one of the main organizers of the Beyond Patronage symposium held in 2012, a forum provoking conversation on the role of architects as instigators and enablers of alternative modes of architectural patronage. The findings and proceedings of that event were chronicled in a book co-authored by Printz by UB architecture faculty members Joyce Hwang and Martha Bohm.

After UB, Gabrielle went on to earn her master's in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture and Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Here Gabrielle shares her perspective on the role of architects in practice today, and how her time in Buffalo prepared her for her journey into architectural critique and research.

How did your time at the UB School of Architecture and Planning prepare you for life beyond school? Is there a particular skill, way of working or “approach” to practice/research that you cultivated here at UB and that has been particularly valuable in your professional work today?

I arrived at Buffalo with the idea that architecture was a way that I could both understand and intervene in the world. Coming to the discipline from art history and political science, I don't know that I was ever interested in making buildings, but I could see architecture as a means of negotiating between present and future circumstances in careful, meaningful and actionable ways. I was able to serve as a teaching assistant in both architectural history and freshman studio, and so I was especially motivated to bridge the theoretical and the possible for my students.

How do you see your role – and the role of architects/urban planners more generally – in the betterment of society?

Architects are the hardest working people I know, and the rigorous and sometimes crazed pursuit of something new still feels more exciting than exhausting. Buffalo, in particular, was an encouraging venue for enterprising work: where you can say, I am interested in this particular thing, and then the onus is on you to realize something toward that interest. From design-build emphases in freshman studio to independent research taken up in the graduate research groups, UB cultivates in students a spirit of action, and that's something that has guided my pursuits, even as they moved further afield from architecture-proper.

As someone practicing architecture beyond the ‘normal’ understanding of the practice, what can you tell us about an aspect of your current position that you find particularly interesting or challenging?

My practice, feminist architecture collaborative (our friends call us f-architecture), engages in architectural research and produces its public outcomes: publications, exhibitions, events and other designed appearances. This critical work is aligned with more overtly activist efforts. We partner with women's organizations and social justice initiatives to represent urgent issues and design confrontations against injustice. I'm inspired by the women that I work alongside. And I'm inspired by the efforts to organize in architecture (join the Arch Lobby!), and to make just by first making political.