Page 1

Feminist Design Power Tool Instruction Manual Architecture + Gender

Feminism Figures and






1. Who are you? 2. Power Realations 3. Back to Basics 4. Container - Incontinence 5. Use Your Words 6. Limitations

7 9 11 13 15 17




Addendum: My blog comments.


Introduction This is work, based on readings from the Critical Studies in Architecture seminar course called: Architecture + gender: Feminist Design Power Tools. Studies focused on philosophy and feminism, within architecture and public space. For me, it has been mainly a way of writing freely about what comes to mind, after I read one of the suggested texts. My readings are listed in the end of this booklet. All illustrations are done quickly on my computer, only as another way to spontaniously translate and understand the text. So if you go on, keep in mind, sometimes, I don’t even know exactly what I meant myself. / Klara Östlund, KTH, School of Architecture 5


Who Are You?

”How do you develop a city-wide strategy when you are fascinated by the detail of things? And how can you make something small-scale in the here and now if you are driven by the urge to formulate strategic proposals for the future? ” These are the questions beginning the muf manual; This is what we do.

muf’s work develops from the particular, the detail (in my case the subjective and personal) to the general, the strategy (the voice of everyone and everything) and back to the particular (you). In muf’s work they use something they call premature gratification, that implies that you get the ’tasty’ parts earlier than expected. There is no build-up process, just instant happiness. The question is asked directly, without going through a middle hand. People are giving a teaser of what’s to come, and the possibilities seem endless. What if?

But what about if we change these questions into worries about humanity? For example: How can you represent a group of people, when you are just one? How do you develop an equal and democratic society, without hearing everyones voices?

When you are working with public space, you are also working with a broad spann of opinions from different kinds of people, often not that happy about change in their neighbourhood. I believe, that giving them

I am going to try to use the formula described in the manual to get to the bottom of this. (detail/strategy=DETAIL) 6

proof that something good is actually going to come if this change, instantly, might be the right way to go.

It is experimental and activating. Society at its best should maybe also be here and now, experimental and activating.

If you investigate your own needs, your dreams, your obstacles in life, you may come to feel like you know more about humanity. But you are still a singular person, limited by the years you have lived, your experiences, bound by your sex and gender belonging, hindered by society, by culture, religion or family. But remember you are also part of this society, this culture, religion or family. You are part of these times. You are part of this everything that you are trying to understand.

The laws and statues surrounding us are there for a reason, they have been developed through time, and are always evolving. Luckily, otherwise homosexually and abortion might still be illegal, while racist behavior could be norm. Exclusion the rule, and not inclusion. The utopia we all seek, a dark and depressing world. Let’s evolve into better beings, with the knowledge that no one is like you, and you are like no one else, but all are equal.

What do you want? muf’s work is worry free. It is here and now. 7


Power Relations

Altering practises, as described in chapter one of Doina Petrescu’s book, is about making a change. About changing, and becoming something else. It is both an active process of changing for the positive, in a certain place and time, but could also be an authoritative way of creating change in others, or even creating a yearning, a question of what we want to be or ”what we want the world to become”. (Petrescu, p.4)

Feminists always talk about power relations, about seeing the structure within and under the surface of society. One of the methods mentioned in the boook is a pedagogy of asking students to remember that they are in fact also the people they talk about, the ’ordinary users’, in their society. Like Lori Brown talks about in her ‘Introduction’ : ”What role does architecture really provide for the general public when 85 percent of the global household wealth is owned by 10 percent of the adults in the world?” (Brown, p.4)

It talks about what critical feminist theory in architecture really is. It is about discussing. First it was the ethical and emotional workings in architecture, the ’female’ concerns of building processes. Then comes the realisation that what we call feminist processes, is for the most part a way of placing yourself in a professional, political or social context by being a part of it, and wanting a change.

I also remember what the lecture last week with Kvinnors Byggforum, told us about traffic power structures. About the fact 8

that because cars has such a high status in planning in the modern world. And that it is mainly men who own a cars, who takes the car more often and on longer trips, this ofcourse makes for an uneven relationship between the users in urban society.

So lets talk about power relations on different levels, and about wanting a change in power relations, to make it better, for you and for me, and for all.



Back to Basics

Elizabeth Diller writes in Bad Press about how the body is being ruled over in different ways, how the body is being used, and how we use our bodies, to keep within the unwritten (or written) rules of society. In the end the text talks about folding. ”A folded mixture is neither homogeneous like whipped cream, nor fragmented like chopped nuts, but smooth and heterogeneous.” (p. 92) It is about ambiguity, about contrast, and about repetition.

ing it a slogan: Spare the public from your private parts! What does this really tell us about the private-public discourse, or semiprivate space? What does this tell us about how to act as a human being in this modern world? My thoughts becomes a murmur of contradicting social codes… … Keep your feelings to yourself, but do not be a quiet, boring person. Be yourself, but fit in at the same time. Stay in shape, enjoy food, keep moving, find serenity. Stay connected, and coherent, but find new friends, and be spontanious. Everything is speeding up. You have to have a good job, a partner, many friends, money, hobbies, knowledge about culture and art, to be a master in the kitchen as well as in the bed, to have dreams

”The play between the words property, propriety and proper” fascinated me. Your home is your private property (or rental place), were you make the rules, and your body is something (even more) private, but regulated from the outside. And it is not proper at all to show (to much of it) in the public space. To parafrase the text, and mak10


and plans for the future, to stay intouch with your family, to start a new family, to have a nice home, to care about the environment and animals. To know about history, philosophy, and math. To try out everything new. To be adventurous. To be on the internet. To be good looking, to wear the right clothes, to say the right things, to laugh at the right jokes, to criticize everything around you.. Breathe lightly, and do not be embarrased if you say something stupid. Never say anything stupid. Keep going. Look happy. Be happy. Know what makes you happy. Do not be afraid to cry. Don’t cry, you’re a big girl. Don’t be to feminine. Don’t be to masculine. Be you.You are singular. But you are not alone. Everybody dies alone. Take care of your loved ones. Be strong. Be funny.. Hahah. And so on … But.

What has this to do with architecture, you might ask? And it goes on… Calm down. Sit down. Rest here for a while. Under my roof. Behind this wall. Within this cultural context, in this place in time, and space… Let us go back to where it all began. Efficience is not the only drive anymore. People need room for thought and space for contemplation. Do not mind the dust in the corners or the spot on your cheek. Do not mind ”the corrosions of age” or the”standards and values (…) produced and sustained in the popular media.” Let’s go back to basics. 11


Container Incontinence

The notion that women are passive, caregivers, and that men are active, producers in society, is an old one. I do not even want to get in to the whole thing about if men are more prone to logic thinking and mathematics, or that women are more sensitive, and emotional..

Though the reasoning concludes that this is not really a matter of gender, more a matter of life itself, of history and culture, of meaning and ideas about the material and immaterial world.

But what Zoë Sofia discusses in her paper Container Technologies (Hypatia vol 15, no 2 (spring 2000) is a continuation and a response to the idea that parts of the world belong more to the female group, and other parts belong to the male group of human beings.

The interesting thing about containers, of all sorts, is the emptiness they hold, the space which make room for, and keep, other objects, materials, liquids and ideas.. The space though, is nothing without the container itself.The shape it makes, the size, the security, the limited or unlimited time it can hold that specific form. The mobility, the transparency, the flexibilty or the degree of incontinence.

”Artifacts for containment and supply are not only readily interpreted as metaphorically feminine; they are also historically associated with women’s traditional labors.” p. 182

An idea within Buddhism states that all things are empty, without self containment, without independent existence, without self. This may not be exactly what Zoë Sofia 12

means by ”No environment, no entity” but it seems like you can not really talk about anything, without taking in consideration, the surrounding environment. A container as not only a thing, a mere holder of space, a void, it is also itself a made object, from materials, for a reason, developed throughout history. And nothing comes in to existence, without its context.

holds information, the human brain is also a container. And what is the brain without the body? What is the body, without the brain? No environment – no entity. Finally we can also talk about imagined space, or ”potential space” as the text mentions, because this is where creativity can evolve. This is where (when) the unknown meets the already seen or experienced ideas about containers of our world. There is no such thing…

A container also changes with its content. The idea of the container changes. And if the container is also a tool, as Zoë Sofia mentions it all becomes much more complex. Both men and women are containers, containers by having bodies, with organs and blood and muscles and bacteria inside. And also containers of ideas, thoughts, culture, language and history. Like the computer that 13


Use Your Words

To write, or not to write? What to write? How to write? Without sounding like an illiterate little ignorant girl? (my greatest fear,

yourself, or be more honest than you could ever be with yourself. When you let your thoughts flow, it is unorderly, it is sometimes chaos, you never know where to end up, but once the thoughts gets written down, they become real.

and probably what holds me back, at many times)

When using another language – english instead of swedish – my way of writing, and even thinking, changes. Who am I in English? Who am I in swedish? My writing sounds different. Not better, not smarter, but different. Maybe it is not as scary to write in your second language, as in your native tounge? You have a mask on (or gloves on), to make your writing transform, through the adaptaion of a language that you have learned later in life, and not from your family, you can become someone else.

The spoken word has never been a strength of mine. I rarely speak if not spoken to. I wouldn’t say I’m that skilled in writing either, but the only one listening, is the page that receives the letters in order to keep my words, for at least a while. I can always erase what I have written. I can throw away the pages. But you can never erase what has once been spoken outloud. Writing is safer. Writing is slower, and silent, but a text can also be the most powerful tool on earth. A text can be transported, unedited through

Writing makes you transport yourself, transcend yourself, go through yourself, lie to 14

time. Through space. What changes are its settings, its context. It can change people, change history, without ever changing itself.

tures, through association, through translation, through context and across time. Use your words!

Names give things life. Words give thoughts life. A picture is more than a thousand words. But a word, can give you endless pic15



What is this thing called life? Is it only transport of energy between tiny particles in the universe? Is it magnetism, or an ecosystem? Do we evolve through chance, through chaos? Atoms becomes molecules that becomes matter. The smallest parts only being movement, a constant tremble from the old big bang?

To concretize; math is a way for us to understand the infinite, to calculate the unknown. But math is still part of our human brains understanding. Human beings are perhaps the most intelligent creature that we know of, but what about the things we can not see, the things no person can even begin to think about. What would that be?

Is it a machine? Does chance really exist or is everything calculable? The human brain has its limits. How could we ever know more than the extent of the capacity of the human brain, and its most creative ideas ever imagined?

I am not religous, I believe in science, but that is still a sort of a trust in something I can not really understand, or explain. It is only the latest discoverings in our small period on earth, what we have come to understand, and to know. What we keep on discovering, and new knowledge, it is what drives us, drives our kind of animal. We are curious, probably the most curious animal ever. We have to explain our life. Either by different religious be-

I mean, we can use philosophy, we can investigate, we can calculate, we can believe. And tho most probable truth is maybe where all these different systems collide. 16

lief systems, or by calculating, by researching the infinite, as far as we can see it, universe. The smallest and the largest. Everything is made up by numbers. It starts with ONE, and from there, by multipliyng or dividing an infine number of times, we explain everything else.

at? s th i t a Wh

We have to organize. Where is the place for human beings in this complex network of ideas about everything else? How could we ever see ourselves from outside of our own place? How could we ever explain a thing called life, without being limited by our imagination, our language, our history, and our biology? Lets keep that in mind, when we try to fix the world. 17

Bibliography 1.

Katherine Shonfield, ‘Premature Gratification and Other Pleasures’ in This is What

we do: a muf manual, London: Elipsis London, 2001.


Doina Petrescu, ‘Altering Practices’ in Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poet ics of

Space, London: Routledge, 2007. Lori Brown, ‘Introduction’ Lori Brown, ed., Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture, London: Ashgate, 2011.


Elizabeth Diller, ‘Bad Press’ in Francesca Hughes, ed. The Architect Reconstructing her

Practice, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996, pp. 74-95.


Zoe Sofia, ‘Container Technologies’ in Hypatia Vol. 15, No. 2, Spring 2000, pp. 181-200.


Hélène Cixous, ‘Coming to Writing’ in Hélène Cixous, Coming to Writing and Other

Essays, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.


Jane Bennett, ‘A Vitalist Stopover on the Way to a New Materialism’ in Diana Coole

and Samantha Frost, eds. New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010, pp. 47-69. 18

My comments It is a huge problem that women all over the world feel unsafe in their surroundings. That it is actually dangerous to go outside alone.

others suffering from oppression, when developing your spaces, places, environment and infrastructure. and you must try top create a spatiality that enriches the living quality of ALL people, and non-people.

I realize a first step has to be to create safe environments for these people. A place where you can stop worrying about wether or not you are going to be safe, and unharmed in your community. A place with walls and a roof, a shelter and a free zone where you can speak your mind.

To be consious about ecology as well as equality, in different scales, and times. Past, present and most importantly; future, that is the issue. For all people, both architects and other.

A second step though, has to do with equality. If people where to respect each other, nopt depending on how they look or which sex or gender you belong to, pricavy of this kind would not really be an issue.

Having to take responsability, but at the same time remembering that we can not do it alone, we have to communicate, and collaborate. And be mindful about what goal we really want to achieve.

As an architect you can support women and

Ok, that’s it, right? 19

Feminism and figures