There was a sense of homecoming this year as Boston was hosting the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS). The first WLS in 2007 was started by a group of women in Boston under the leadership of the late architect Sho-Ping Chin, FAIA. Sho-Ping was a principal at Payette, a long-time leader of the healthcare practice and a fierce presence in the AIA in defining the national discourse of women in design. Many of us at Payette considered Sho-Ping a mentor and friend, and for those of us who didn’t have the pleasure of working here during her time, we still feel the incredible impact she has had on the practice.
A group of us came together because we felt like this was the chance to plan an exhibit to honor Sho-Ping and show the impact that her leadership has had on the profession. Her legacy is most evident in the recipients of the Payette Sho-Ping Chin Memorial Academic Scholarship and the Sho-Ping Chin WLS Grant.
We thought it was important for the exhibit to highlight these incredible women from around the country. We wanted to hear in their own voices how the Scholarship or Grant impacted their careers and how they have continued to impact the industry. Along with their statements we asked the recipients to send us a photo of them in action. We also asked those who had received the Academic Scholarship to curate some of their work for display. Our vision was to have a sea of faces, women architects in action, starting with Sho-Ping to show the ripple affect her leadership had in growing a community and a movement.
We collaborated with the Architects Foundation and the AIA to organize and put out a call for submissions. And we received an overwhelming response. It was very inspiring and powerful to see the work and read about the experiences of the Grant and Scholarship recipients. As we began pulling the exhibit together, we also had the amazing opportunity to dig into the Payette archives to display Sho-Ping’s work and photos and tell her story. With Payette’s unique in-house fabrication abilities, we began working towards designing and building an exhibit – a beautifully detailed self-standing structure that would be displayed center stage at the summit.
The exhibition’s shape aimed to reflect Sho-Ping’s influence on women, each panel overlapping the next, unveiling the growing ripple effect she had on people as the installation spread out on two concave planes elegantly slipping past each other. The milled texture reinstates the concept at the detail level. Red pencils displayed on both ends are a souvenir for the viewer to bring home, one of Sho-Ping’s object of affections. Photos and a commemorative video displayed on monitors also held tribute to her legacy.
The bones and shell of this exhibition were designed, fabricated and assembled in-house at Payette’s FabLab by an all-women team. Our firm’s WiD group, members of the fabrication team and people who collaborated with Sho-Ping were involved in the process.
During the design process of the exhibition, it was requested that the piece could travel to become a part of future conferences. From there, the materiality and method of assembly for the piece was decided. Our team tested multiple materials for the panels, ultimately settling on a colored MDF for its durability and light post-processing after milling the texture. We opted for a teal color, similar to the official WLS logo.
The plywood structure that holds up the MDF panels was designed to do so with a Z clip system. The structure was assembled entirely in Payette’s shop space as four pieces, split up to fit in the moving truck and though doors on site. These decisions ensured a quick installation process; our team would lift the four sections of the structure into place and then slot the panels onto it. From here we would mount printed acrylic panels, which we outsourced to John from Surface Matter Design, – a collaborator of Sho-Ping – onto the MDF. These panels tell the story of Sho-Ping’s influence, displaying numerous recipients of her memorial scholarship and WLS grant and acknowledging the importance of her legacy.