Art historian and L'Espace Féminin co-initiator Christina Landbrecht shares her thoughts on a remarkable - yet obscure - woman architect.
Maria Giuseppina Grasso Cannizzo is a perfect example of how long it may take for an interesting female architect to get some media attention. So far there are two books about her work and some articles in magazines such as Baumeister or Architectural Design. The reception of her work started around 2006 after she had already been working for 40 years in Sicily, where she was born in 1952. She lives, as she admits, a remote life, which makes it even hard for anyone to simply reach her by phone.
This selfdetermined hermit-like seclusion, however, did not keep her from being awarded numerous awards such as the RIBA award for Architectural Excellence, which she received twice, a gold medal for her life’s work at the Triennale di Milano in 2012 and getting nominated twice for the Mies-van-der-Rohe-Award. But again: these prizes did not help to significantly promote the visibility of her architecture. Which is a shame since Grasso Cannizza is an extremly sensitive, meticulous and inventive architect who designs and works with extreme care. It has been stressed in all there is to read about her how careful she takes every single aspect of a new work into consideration – from the taste and aspirations of her client to the local context including the surroundings, climate and, most importantly, the existing substance when it comes to the refurbishment of architecture. Some argue that the little attention she received has to do with that particular diligence. And indeed, she is claimed to be a slow worker: a refurbishment of a single family home might take up to four years and a design for it alone up to eight months – a time that Grasso Cannizzo spends working and re-working the model in her office. A work style like this has of course nothing to do with an urge to simply produce. The architect rather seems to love working on the details and the unique character of her works. This again makes her work very personal and very intriguing and without doubt a prime example of female spatial practice.
Christina Landbrecht is an art historian with a special interest in interdisciplinary subjects. After graduating from Humboldt University in 2009 she worked as Assistant Curator at Berlinische Galerie - Berlin's museum for Modern Art, Photography and Architecture until 2012 and is currently writing her pdf on curatorial, photographic and studio work inspired by the concept of the laboratory.