Jane Landry, FAIA

Jane Landry, FAIA

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Kathryn Holliday
Contributed by:
Kathryn Holliday
PhD

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Storytelling: Jane Landry, FAIA

What did it take to become the first woman Fellow of AIA Dallas? Equal measures of determination and inspiration.

Since moving to Dallas in 1968, Jane and Duane Landry have worked together to build one of the city’s most thoughtful firms. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and working in Corpus Christi and for O’Neil Ford in San Antonio, they moved north to be closer to their projects as associated architects with Ford at the University of Dallas.

The heart of their design work focused on ecclesiastical projects suffused with their deep appreciation of the links between community and spiritual belonging. The Chapel at the University of Dallas and the Mausoleum at the Temple Emanu-El Cemetery combine subtle readings of liturgy with radiant light and a masterful appreciation of construction, materials, and handcraft. As design partners, and as husband and wife, both Landrys have made a career of collaboration and claim mutual authorship of their work.

In her own right, though, Jane has been a trailblazer for women in Texas architecture. She was among the first women to study at the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin in the early 1950s. It was a time when she had to leave the design studio early every night to be back to her all-women’s dorm before curfew, a restriction her male classmates did not face. In 1988, she was the first woman to be elected a Fellow from the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects and, with Duane, was the first architecture couple to submit a single, joint application form for Fellowship. She has inspired generations of women after her to persevere and succeed in a field that has not always been welcoming. When AIA Dallas’ Women in Architecture committee first formed in 1991, one of its first actions was to celebrate Jane’s work with an exhibit that brought together her architecture, painting, and work as a seamstress.


Credit: Liane Swanson

Her advice to women today: “Try to have a balanced life. I don’t think you would tell a man that because you want to be an architect. You just better not have a family because you can’t do both. Keep going, keep pushing, keep trying. Don’t give up. You can do both.”

In keeping with this issue’s focus on Equity, Columns shares brief adapted excerpts from a series of interviews by Kathryn Holliday that focus on Jane’s experience as a woman in architecture. The full interviews are archived by the Oral History of Texas Architecture Project at the College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs (CAPPA) at the University of Texas at Arlington.

KH: What made you decide on the path to become an architect at a time when very few women entered the field?

JL: It was a life-changing decision that was made on the spur of the moment. As a freshman at the University of Texas, a friend of mine—another young woman who happened to be majoring in architecture but never completed the studies—said, “Jane would you like to hear O’Neil Ford? He’s a really famous architect from San Antonio.” And I said, “Sure I’ll go.” I walked in there an art major, never having thought architecture was even an option and after I heard him talk to the students for an hour and a half—he talked about things like porches, how do we build in the south Texas climate, how do we live with windows open, how do we live with shade, how do we make a place that is hospitable in this climate—I thought it was the most interesting thing that I had ever known that I could think about. The next day I went to my art class and I said, “Maybe next year I will change my major to architecture.” And my art professor said, “If that’s what you want to do, why don’t you do it now?” And I walked out of there and I walked straight over to the architecture school and said I want to study architecture. [She was 16 years old at the time.]

KH: How did you manage having children and having a practice?

JL: Well, a lot of that I can attribute to O’Neil Ford’s creativity. He always had a project that I could take home or work on my own schedule in the office. I had to do three years of internship part-time, but I did have some good help. I had someone who would come and keep the children while I was working. We didn’t stop with one—there were four [children] before we left San Antonio for Dallas, and there were almost four by the time I was registered and taking my boards. That was in a period of seven years—four children and setting up our own office and taking the board exams. I took part of the exam in the fall and finished in February, shortly before our last child was born in June.

KH: So you were very determined.

JL: Yes, I had started this and there was no thought by either Duane or me that I wouldn’t complete it. O’Neil Ford gave me a lot of moral support. He always encouraged me. I never looked back and I never thought it was something I couldn’t do.


Credit: Liane Swanson

 

Kate Holliday, Ph.D. is director of the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs (CAPPA) at the University of Texas at Arlington.