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Controversial Passport Honors Architects

Friday, November 6, 2015

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Architects Elisabeth Scott and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott are among the prominent U.K. figures and landmarks featured in the country’s controversial new passport design.

Elisabeth was the designer behind the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Giles is known for his design of the iconic red telephone booth as well as the Liverpool Cathedral.

The designers were cousins.

Women Underrepresented

Elisabeth is just one of two women and seven men featured in the redesigned passport—a decision that has irked some, according to the BBC and other news outlets.

HM Passport Office

Architect Elisabeth Scott is featured in the U.K. passport redesign, which will be rolled out in December. In 1928, she won the international competition to design one of England's most prestigious public buildings, the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

Much of the criticism has come from those who had successfully campaigned for female representation on Bank of England notes, The Guardian reports.

“Here we go again- new UK #passport has 7 men featured and just 2 women. #weexist,” MP Emily Thornnberry, Labour’s shadow employment secretary, posted on Twitter.

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow tweeted, "So tired of this shizzle - home office could only find 2 UK women 2 celebrate in 500 years of history."

The government has further been accused of trying to airbrush women out of history.

Defending the Design

Government officials have defended the 34-page passport design, which is themed “Creative United Kingdom” and focuses on achievements from the past 500 years, reports note.

The other woman featured is Ada Lovelace, a mathematician.

In addition to Giles, the men showcased in the redesign are William Shakespeare; artists John Constable, Anish Kapoor and Sir Antony Gormley; clockmaker John Harrison; and computer pioneer Charles Babbage.

Landmarks honored in the design include the Houses of Parliament, the Falkirk Wheel and the Edinburgh Castle.

Red telephone
Christoph Braun / CC 1.0

The iconic red telephone box was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

When probed about why female figures such as Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters were omitted from the document, Mark Thomson, the director of the Passport Office, told media outlets, “Whenever we do these things there is always someone who wants their favourite rock band or icon in the book.”

He further noted the design was signed off on by ministers and demonstrated a “good representation” of the country’s icons.

The new passport is to be rolled out in phases, beginning in December. It will be used for the next five years.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Awards and honors; Design

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