winter 2004
table of contents
Letter from the Editor
Articles Online

Election Postmortem
A Center of One's Own
Abortion/Breast Cancer Link?
The Russian Wives Club


From Gadfly to Nobel Peace Prize
DemocraShe in Northern Ireland
Women's Film in Palestine
Networking Corner

Cover Story
Women of the Year
Jersey Girls | Jessica Seigel
Samanta Power | Catherine Orenstein
Betty Dukes | Ellen Hawkes
Saudatu Mahdi | Stephanie Nolen
Kathy Najimy | Ellen Snortland
Maxine Waters | Lisa Armstrong
Lisa Fernandez | Michele Kort

More Features

Women, Democracy and Hope | Kathy Sheridan
The End of Feminism's Third Wave | Lisa Jervis
The Fuck-You 50s | Suzanne Braun Levine
Rocking the Cradle of Jazz | Sherrie Tucker
Cheers and Cringes: The Year in Review
Women Who Made a Difference


Back to the Kitchen
Decoding anti-feminist writer Caitlin Flanagan | Hillary Frey

Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary | Rebecca Brown

It was a Good Year for Dreams | Cortney Davis
the seahorse as transubstantiation
|Quan Barry

Activists, actors, academics, athletes, writers and a great chef

Book Reviews
Patricia Cohen on Marilynne Robinson's Gilead; Jenoyne Adams on Michel Wallace's Dark Designs and Visual Culture; Debra Spark on Cynthia Ozick's Heir to the Glimmering World; Bernadette Murphy on Mary Gordon's Pearl; Valerie Miner on Alice Munro's Runaway

Plus: Winter Must-Read List

We Must Frame the Debate - Now! | Donna Brazile

No Comment

Send a Letter to the Editor >>
NATIONAL NEWS | winter 2004

A Center of One’s Own
Women architects create a unique college building

When architects Jane Loefgren, Linda Wagner and Martha Bennett brainstormed about what form The Merle Catherine Chambers Center for the Advancement of Women at the University of Denver should take, they thought first about who would actually be using the building most.

“How do women use buildings differently?” Bennett wondered. “Architecture is often asexual. How do women naturally operate?”

Photo: Matt Suby at the University of Denver

The archetypal 20th-century campus women’s center was a casual corner in a random university building, housing a few offices, a library and a meeting room. The Chambers Center infuses the archetype with 21st-century resources and vision, along with sophisticated, woman-centered design.

The architects wanted to create a safe “home” for the nontraditional, multigenerational students of The Women’s College, one of the Center’s three major tenants. To that end, they loaded the building — whose classic exterior is modeled after the church of Santo Spirito in Florence — with such comforts as a fireplace, gardens, art display niches and a dramatic 12-foot-tall amber glass oculus with a “chambered nautilus” theme.

Designers also wanted to encourage networking among students and synergy among tenants, so they eliminated many interior walls to foster collaboration (and let in the abundant Colorado sunshine).

The three major tenants — the other two are The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, which promotes women’s economic self-sufficiency, and Higher Education Resource Services (HERS), Mid-America, which works to better professional opportunities for women in academia — share common conference rooms, workrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.

“We wanted them to reinforce each others’ missions, and the only way to do that was to have them interact with each other,” says Loefgren.

Female-friendly design, the architects point out, is about a whole lot more than just adding stalls in women’s bathrooms.

“The building has apse forms, shapely, abstracted caryatids,” says Bennett. “The softening of forms was intentional. It’s more relaxed. … Every space was used, even window seats on landings, so women can stop and have conversations.”

The Chambers Center, which opened this September, offered a chance for women to strut their stuff in nearly every aspect of its creation, not just design. A woman-owned firm provided the construction drawings, a woman served as construction site manager, and most of the donors — including the major contributor — are women.

“A lot of people had never given to bricks and mortar; a lot were excited to have their name on something,” recalls Michele “Mike” Bloom, dean of The Women’s College. “They were giving in their own name for the first time, [whereas before] perhaps their husbands or foundations had given and they’d used their married names.”

Lead donor Merle Chambers — a lawyer and businesswoman who has built on both her father’s success in the oil business and her mother’s philanthropic bent — sees limitless opportunities.

We don’t know how the people involved will spark off of each other, make use of the opportunities, find themselves. And because we don’t know, that’s so exciting!”



Visit the Merle Catherine Chambers Center for the Advancement of Women.
Find out more information about the building, and take an interactive tour of the construction plans.

home | about | get ms. | current issue | feminist wire | ms.musings | issue archive | resources | store
Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009