A Feminist Approach to Architecture
The built environment that we use and interact with on a daily basis has been designed primarily through a patriarchal understanding of user experience. As a result, most urban and domestic spaces have been designed in a manner that is by default gendered. Therefore, there is an urgent need for rethinking the way that we approach architecture in order to overcome the gender bias that has been historically attached to this ancient design practice. The first segment of this presentation briefly explains why the majority of us typically inherit a way of thinking that is gender-biased. Then the second segment offers an overview of urban and interior architecture examples, demonstrating that architectural design as a practice (whether consciously or unconsciously) is heavily gendered. The third segment of this presentation moves on to explain how we may be able to overcome this deeply entrenched issue of ‘discrimination by design’ (Weisman, 1994). This presentation is a candid attempt to re-assess how we approach architectural design, revealing truths that perhaps we were not previously aware of, in the hope that through a collective effort of self-reflection we can slowly, but gradually, discover ways to successfully design for the many, not the few.
Dr Artemis Alexiou is a senior lecturer in design history at York St John University, UK. She holds a PhD in design and women’s history from Manchester Metropolitan University. She teaches design history (19th-21st c.) at undergraduate and postgraduate level, particularly focusing on issues of gender, race and disability. Her research concentrates on late 19th century feminist periodicals, and the manner design practice, visual culture, and text co-existed and co-functioned in relation to socio-cultural and gender politics. She is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a member of Design History Society, Royal Historical Society and Women’s History Network. She has held faculty roles at different HE institutions in the UK, including Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University, has presented at international conferences in the UK, US, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Spain, Greece and Cyprus, and has published articles with Taylor and Francis Group.
A Woman’s Own Architecture
The role of women in architecture and indeed in society as a whole, has traditionally been confined to the domestic sphere, yet, as Alison Ravetz wrote in 1995 ‘although women are identified with houses in our society as in many others, throughout history they seem to have had remarkably little do with house design’ (1989, p. 187). Drawing on the work of late 20th century feminist design historians, this lecture looks at the role of women inside, but more importantly outside, of the architectural professions. Through the work of Ravetz, Elizabeth Darling, Judy Attfield, Pat Kirkham, and others, this lecture focuses on the affect women had on the development of the domestic built environment. Design, architecture and urbanism, so often male dominated spheres, have significant contributions from women, often erased by traditional methodologies in architectural history. The role of women has often been diminished by being seen as amateur or advisory, thus peripheral to male creative endeavour. Looking at the Architects Revolutionary Council (Coates, 2015) and Matrix (1984) this lecture will also explore the non-professional ordinary people, focussing on the women who contributed to the resistance by the people of the (male) architects’ grand plans for us all. It was so often women residents and their communities that led to some of the most radical (social and political) advances in late 20th century domestic built environment. The pressure of women, so vital in their communities was major catalyst for the ‘uprising’ of many working-class communities in response to mass
regeneration in the period.
Michael Coates is a Principal Lecturer in the Manchester School of Art, Manchester Met University. Educated in both Architecture and Interior Design, Michael has taught at Manchester Met since 2008. For the last 2 years he has been the Head of Postgraduate Taught for the Faculty of Arts & Humanities overseeing all its MA, MFA and MSc courses. His research is concentrated on radical approaches to architecture and the built environment generally; particularly urbanism, place making, psychogeography, regeneration/gentrification, and alternative modes of participatory architecture. His principal focus has been on mass housing and the domestic environment in Britain since 1945. His work concentrates on the relationship of anarchist modes of doing, and organisation of the architectural profession. He advocates for the desacralisation of architectural knowledge and skill, and the democratisation of access to the “building of buildings”.