collecting inspiration and thoughts
Whilst studying the identity of environments I encountered the fascinating idea of gender symbolism in architecture. Several researchers suggest the existence of a certain femininity and masculinity in urban design. There is certainly something to it: distasteful jokes on kitchens being a mere women’s place, and the workbench in the garden shed being the men’s domain, are some applications you might recognise yourself. However, this notion seems to transcend the idea of cultural roles onto a level of subconscious spatial interpretation.
The first expression of the idea is from a 1976-dated design review ‘Architecture and Urban Planning’ by Dolores Hayden and Gwendolyn Wright in Signs, and although I cannot get hold of it myself, it forms – through the writing of others1 – the inspiration for this post.
Over the coming weeks I will pay attention to different elements of gender in urban space: gender differences in spatial behavior, the role of women in the design field (dominated by men), and the experience and perception of gender symbolism. Spaces might ooze either ‘strength and virility’ or on the other hand ‘care and intimacy’ when encountering the space at first. Traditionally it is suggested that straight lines and height are typical masculine features, whereas curves and breadth are typically feminine features2.
Stay tuned for more happy days!
1. Ahrentzen, S. (2003). The Space between the Studs: Feminism and Architecture. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 29 (1), 179-206.
2. Gherardi, S. (1995). Gender, symbolism and organizational cultures. Sage Publications: London.