This post is an extract from a Q&A by sixty7 Architecture Road, a Canadian site devoted to the built environment, which asked four individuals, from various professional backgrounds, and from different parts of the globe, to give answers to the question
What role can women play in helping to shape their built environment?
Read my contribution below and check out the other responses here.
A survey was once conducted to find out what teenagers, girls and boys, feel about their built environment. Predictably, it found that many teenagers dislike schools, corporate and hospital buildings. However, surprisingly, it also revealed that neither are they fond of places like museums, theatres and art galleries. They find them boring and associate them with stale, restrained and hierarchical traditions.
I refer to this example as the results of the survey reveal a problem we have with much of our contemporary environment, namely that it reinforces dated traditional values rather than fosters modern, exciting ones. And many of the traditions that our environment strengthens are patriarchal ones. In other words, male dominance has not only shaped architecture but architecture has also supplemented male dominance.
This is why much of our built environment today does not cater to the needs of women. Take for instance, the comparatively long queues that women often meet when visiting a public space’s restroom. Or more gravely, consider maternity wards, where women are crammed into formal and emotionless spaces in which they must experience one of the most intimate, humbling and frightening experiences that a woman may go through.
Like all technology and development, architecture needs to be more inclusive and modern in the 21st century. Architecture must work for women not against them. As professors, architects, community leaders, politicians and other professionals, women have to get more involved in the act of creating space. We can exercise our power by choosing environments that cater to female sensibilities. Whether it’s buying and decorating homes, choosing universities, hospitals, grocery stores or making mundane lifestyle choices like which restaurant to visit; wherever possible we should go for environments that cooperate with our visual and practical comfort as well as with our safety and we should articulate why we make these choices. The more voice we give the issue, the more the market will respond accordingly.
What do you think? Do you notice ways in which the environment meets/neglects the needs of women and how can women continue to shape the environment?