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  • Designing Decatur: Leila Ross Wilburn

    A pioneering vernacular architect whose family moved to Decatur during the Great Depression, Leila Ross Wilburn's style defines many of the in town neighborhoods in Atlanta. Attending school before women could be trained as architects, Wilburn received private instruction and began practicing at the age of twenty two. She leveraged the prevailing social attitudes of the time and convinced clients that with a woman's knowledge of the home, Wilburn was better placed than many male architects to design livable and functional domestic spaces.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Explain how Leila Wilburn learned how to be an architect.

    2. Describe the advantages attributed to Leila Wilburn for being a female architect.

    Expansion

    1. You have been approached by a client who needs a new home built. Design your own residential home or apartment complex. The teacher may set parameters like square footage, yard size and a specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

    Vocabulary

    architect: someone who plans, designs, and reviews the construction of buildings
    vernacular architecture: an architectural style that is designed based on local needs, availability of construction materials, and reflecting local traditions
    commission: being hired by a client to prepare designs and reports for a desired structure or building
    domestic sphere: the 19th century idea that women are better suited to a private life of child-rearing and housekeeping rather than professional careers or politics

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Explain how Leila Wilburn learned how to be an architect. 
    Because there were no architecture programs that were available women at this time, Leila took private classes while she was attending Agnes Scott College. 

    2. Describe the advantages attributed to Leila Wilburn for being a female architect.
    Because she was a female, Leila's clients believed she had a better understanding of residential homes and spaces. Her perspective as a woman was seen as an advantage because--as a female--she was viewed as an expert in the domestic sphere and had an intricate knowledge of household space.

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