Page 1

IN THE Realm Of Perception a feminist design power tool



1 introduction---------P.3

2 view -------------------P.4-5-----3 read -------------------P.6-7------

4 consume ------------- P.8-9------

5 contain -------------- P.10-11------

6 sense ----------------- P.12-13------

7 integrate ------------ P.14-15----8 comments ----------- P.16-17 9 bibliography-------- P.18

intro this booklet is composed of six blogs written in CRITICAL STUDIES: architecture and gender seminar in the architecture school of kth in the fall of 2013. I attempt to use verbal description, illustrations and photographs to decribe the realm of spatial perception in my own way. as a chinese girl, I also think about this issue with an east-asian perspective. many thanks to everyone. i love this seminar so much. // boya

--- who should be viewed? -- read vs. unread

--- body consumption

--- insubjectivity and voids

-- a wet dream

--- think beyond gender

WHO should be VIEWED?

Farnsworth House, Illinois,1950


eslie K anes Weisman discusses in Wo m e n’s e nv i r o n m e n t a l r i g h t s : a manifesto how the architecture and built environment influence and reflect the situation of women, their status, roles in home and society, their rights of space and the spatial need. The writer appeals that women should act consciously and politically to get back their rights in space. As far as I am concerned, the most important issue in the area of gender and space is to survey the relations between male and female and the mass’s perceptions of space in gender perspective. Here are two stories.

1 A room with a view In Edward Morgan Forster’s novel <A room with a view>, the writer narrated an important conversation between female leading role Lucy and the male leading role Cecil, in which they used different metaphors to describe the relationship between men and women. Cecil described that women themselves were sceneries and Lucy thought men were rooms which are fixed and inflexible. The windows and doors of the rooms are also framing the beautiful sceneries in order to immobilize the view. In that case, men could stay in their interior space to enjoy the view outside the room. Women seem doomed to be viewed and be a consumption of the men’s watching.

piece of solid wall. Modern women is supposed to liberate their body under the banner of “liberate the spirit”, but they finally turn out to be the object for men’s viewing by the architect. They are placed in a desire of transparency and escape nowhere.

2 A transparent house In 1950, Mies van der Rohe built his Farnsworth House in Illinois, USA. Farnsworth House was also described as “embodiment of a certain aesthetic culmination in Mies’s experiment with this building type” and ”is perhaps the fullest expression of modernist ideals.” We could see inside the house directly and clearly without any barriers because the house is made of continuous glass walls and is totally transparent to people outside. Actually, the client of the house, Miss Farnsworth herself is a female single doctor and this house made her really uncomfortable and angry. Then, she accused of Mies for the house’s lack of privacy but finally she lost and moved out. The female client is hard to get along with, but comparatively, the male architect is far more arrogant and mightier. This is a definitely arrogant house, he is so stubborn that unwilling to add just a single

Jean Baudrillard , a French sociologist who wrote a famous book <The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures>, pointed out a truth sharply: “Women ‘consume themselves’ through sexual liberation, and sexual liberation ‘is consumed’ through women. ” This is not a game of words, but an accusation of the consumer society and the men control power regardless of the women’s need of the space. In the two examples above, we could easily find out the relationship between man and woman in modern society is monodirectional and can’t be changed: man is watching woman. What’s more, the relationship is functioned and as a framework to limit women’s thoughts and rights through architecture and space: inside the room/outside the room; see through the window/ see through the walls. These spaces used in the role playing between men and women are functioned not only as barriers of the gender communication but also as power resulting to the inequality.

housing decorations and on the way to office I met Miss A and chatted with her for 10 minutes. I received a parcel in post office near the city center in the afternoon and went to pick up my children from the kindergarten at 4 then came back home together.’


t starts from here: some researchers did an investigation among pedestrians to find out their daily (commuting) routes and activities. Here is a very interesting fact that nearly all men finished the questionnaire in 5 minutes but women got a long list to write and it took much longer time for women than men to fill in the sheet. The reason why this would happen is not too hard to find, because men would just write down like this: ‘I often drive directly to office in the morning and then come back home around 5.’ But women, who differ from men mentally and physically, act in a total different way. Some of them might write like this:’ I sent my children to school at 8 and cross the corner of Market Street to buy some

Read Vs. Unread We will learn from this research that women’s body moving is an uncertain process full of trivial changes and we will never find a straight line for women’s daily route. This kind of route is, more or less, disordered in its form, but uncertainty and unpredictability in essence. It seems that a woman’s daily life is consisted of abundant, fragmented activities in a perfect way. No one can define a woman or predict her thoughts. Women are full of quaint ideas, and this is what makes a woman unique.

It reminds me of a Chinese artist, Xu Bing, who is most known for his printmaking skills and installations pieces and, one of them, “Tianshu” (“Book from the sky”) is the representative work of Xu’s. Xu designed and print over 4000 Chinese characters that looked Chinese (they have similar structure and appearance) but were completely “meaningless” and unreadable according to standard Mandarin. Xu fragmented the old Chinese characters, pieced

them together, and then made his new Chinese characters to explore and express his thoughts on deconstructing language to challenge our existing cultural assumptions. I think there may lies some relations between Xu’s Tianshu and women’s behavior we talked above. Women’s behavior and Xu’s Tianshu are both unreadable, unstructured, unpredictable, and don’t need to be understood. People usually write in order to express themselves, to be understood, but what if one person writes an unreadable book? I don’t take it as a confusion of language, I regard it as an uncertainty which brings exploration and possible experience to life. Architects, often do the ‘readable’ job which means, ‘architectures with designs on the user – that the user will follow certain intended patterns of consumptions.’(Jane Rendell, 2010:29) Here is the living room, there is kitchen, and the bathroom is in the end of the corridor. The same ‘readable’ plans are also carried out by urban planners, which want that everything is in control, can be predicted and things always happen in a safe and ‘good’ way. The result of these readable plans is that the future house or environment becomes a function of the designer’s vision of it in the present, just as the machine is the product of the machine’s designer. While the unreadable things didn’t plan anything, they just provide options for users and invite people to have a good use of the space, just as the unknown routes of women, or the ‘meaningless’ Tianshu.

New English Calligraphy, Xu Bing

Chora l Works, J. Derrida & P. Eisenmen


n the passage of Elizabeth Diller ‘Bad Press’, Elizabeth talked about the housewives were considered to be the service-oriented menial labor and always had to stay at home to do housework. Though scientific designs were applied to housework to increase efficiency, actually they just burden female more because efficiency was often taken as an objective in itself. And then the writer went on with talking about men’s shirts: “with the advent of the electric iron, the task of ironing became progressively governed by minimum, both aesthetic and economic……The standardized ironing pattern of a man’s shirt habitually returns the shirts to a flat, rectangular shape……The shirt is disciplined at every stage to conform to an unspoken social contract.” I think men’s bodies in flat, rectangular shaped shirts look nice, but I also doubt that my aesthetic standards have already been influenced by the social standards. Actually, men’s good looking bodies (if they indeed look nice), are at the expense of women’s laboring and, women get used to standing beside the iron without a single complaining word: they think ironing shirts for men has already been part of their duty, their life.





It happens that there is a similar case in feudal society in ancient China: Foot binding. Foot binding is also known as the ‘Lotus feet’ and is a bad custom of tightly binding the feet of young girls to prevent further growth (The ideal length for a bound foot was three inches.). At that time, lotus feet is an icon of wealth (because the girls from wealthy families could afford to bound their foot and do not work) and also a symbol of beauty. The smaller feet are, the more beautiful everyone thinks a girl is. Nowadays, lotus feet has already been regarded as disabled bodies, because their bones of feet are misshapen. Girls with lotus feet can’t run or walk fast, what they do in their daily life is just wandering in the house and losing their minds. Both cases are about good-looking bodies. One is for men’s, the other is for women’s. The bodies looking good or not are judged by the opinions of the social currents, but in both cases, it is always women who sacrifice to make bodies look nice. They spend labors and time in the former case, and sacrifice their own bodies in the latter. Women seem to be the makers of good looking bodies, but actually, they are just the consumption of beauty, the slaves of bodies.


“ Paradoxically, the subjectivity of the individual

presupposes the existence of two subjects who together create an intersubjectivity through which the infant is created as an individual subject. The infant as subject is present from the beginning although the subjectivity exists largely within the context of the psychologicalinterpersonal (containing/contained) dimension of the relationship of the infant and the mother. ”(Ogden 1992, 619, as cited in Zoe Sofia, 2000:184)


oe Sofia talks about “Intersubjectivity” in the philosophy of container technologies. There are many definitions of intersubjectivity in philosophy, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, while in my mind, intersubjectivity means one subject becomes more completed, varied and richer through other subjects, gets a better understanding of ego. This is significantly related to the container. As the self is formed in the intersubjectivity model in spaces, the container is playing a role of negotiating with inner and outer worlds of the subjects, continuing the existence of the connection between mothers and infants.

tersubjectivity And Voids

Container links subject to the environment through intersubjectivity. It then becomes an integral part of the nature. But due to its characters – containing, preserving, and breeding, the containers usually are regarded as passive or negative spaces which are tightly connected to “feminine” features. In contrast, most tools for production (or destruction) signify masculine power and male body – that the hammer is like a fist, the spear an arm. Nowadays, the mass production (or destruction) is stressed everywhere in the world, together with the exploitation of the space (see the skyscrapers) to show this kind of masculine power. However, the so called “passive/negative” containers related to “feminine” are largely overlooked by the society. Functioning as containing, breeding, accumulating and continuing, the containers not only give spaces to the material production, but also become the spaces per se, exploring how to preserve and extend the the process of human civilization, showing what treasures we have to our descendants, and letting the river of wisdom is surging ahead endlessly. The main character of the container is void. Ready to accept anything anytime, is the very nature of containers. Void does not mean nothing, instead, it means everything because void is the softest condition both for human and non-human. Thanks to not having any real contents, void could become anything, or become bearer and home to any object. This is absolutely great. You would say that it gives itself up and become anything else? No, it is itself, it is the container. It could be a utensil, an apparatus or a utility, it could be something without borders, it could also be a space, a piece of land or a patch of sky without specific forms. As a result, from a broader perspective, it is a ubiquitous environment, it is the mother of nature. This kind of voids, could always be found in Chinese painting and calligraphy. Leaving some blanks for the painting and calligraphy can inspire viewers to think and imagine. That’s the most beautiful part of a piece of creative work.

Catching a cold couldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t smell, anything, Noâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;could still smell the call of the selling fish in the alley. lying, lying on the cold floor, naked Narrow and small empty room contained my existence, Pink pop song escaped from downstairs I touched myself, there is nothing except the dry and rough skin, lying on the floor. A stream of tide swept me suddenly surrounded me and my underbelly Womb became wet, warm currents gently flew, through my body without any sounds Yes! I know your name, Please please make it a home.

A Wet Dream - about senses




感冒了 嗅不到任何,东西 不,嗅到了巷子里小贩卖鱼的声音 躺下。 赤裸地躺在冰凉的地板上 狭小的空房间容纳了我之存在 我触碰自己的身体 除了地板上的枯燥皮肤之外, 空无一物 一股潮水袭来 霎时将我和我的小腹包围 子宫是湿的, 体内一股暖流缓缓淌过 没有一片声音 是的!我知道你的名字 请你 请给我一个家。


n the passage <Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture> written by Lori A. Brown, Lori starts from her life and education experience that there are few female professors and students in architecture school. I think there is an assumption in her argument that the social paradigm tacitly approves that men are in charge of the “professional area” and career women are definitely led by the masculine power in “professionalism”. And then Lori surpasses the barrier of gender issues and comes to a broader conclusion: “Feminist does not necessitate the project to be female focused; nor be gender specific.”(Lori 2011, p.05) And Gillian Rose, a feminist geographer, also quotes Teresa de Lauretis :“the subject of feminism is thus constituted ‘nor by sexual difference alone, but rather across languages and cultural representations; a subject engendered in the experiencing of race and class, as well as sexual, relations; a subject, therefore, not unified but rather multiple, and not so much divided as contradicted.’” (Gillisn Rose 1993, p.138) This kind of modern discourse, most interesting, as far as I am concerned, is what people living in ancient eastern countries always thought and did, thousands of years ago. The picture I show above is a couple named Nvwa and Fuxi, who created the world and made men and women in ancient Chinese myths. Nvwa is the goddess and Fuxi is her brother. Nvwa created the marriage system and she was the ancestor and also the leader human tribes and this represents matriarchal society of ancient age. Just look at this picture, you will see that this couple have human’s heads and snake’s bodies. Their snake bodies, are twisted with each other, and seems there is no definite difference between the couple. This picture also looks very harmonious, because they want to integrate with each other and become an integration of the world. You see the ancient Chinese people deliberately make the gap between

Fuxi and Nvwa

Think Beyond



men and women obscure. The founder of Taoism, the famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu also wrote in his theory that everything on earth comes from the mediation of Ying and Yang, and what’s more, women can breed both boys and girls, which is the base of the development of human society. That will help us a lot to understand and change the relationship between male and female nowadays. In that case, maybe we can change “one of the primary goals of Feminist Practices” on page 6 a little bit: to think outside and beyond the concept of gender in order to broaden and expand architecture’s role and engagement within our everyday world for every people.

Comments The non-visual perception of space by Matilda Schuman Drawing is a common design tool, which all of architecture students must learn and get used to. I am eager to see that in the future, there are many other design tools (maybe smelling, singing, touching and sensing etc)applied in architecture education! four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky by Jordan Lane I love the story of 425 flying elephants and also the yellow butterflies and I am really impressed by the power tool you use. “Universality is in the details.” That’s true. Bad Tension by Johanne Killi The illustration here is from Marina Abramović!I love it! I think the performance art of Marina Abramović is to show the changing relations among people. It is also a test of her lover. You will never know if your lover will loose his/her hands or when the string gets broken. You will be nervous all the process. It's an adventure without standardized patterns. Porridge and people by Elsa Jannborg "Rather eat porridge together than a pork cutlet alone."People are always struggling between the individual life and common life, isn't it? The fact is, no one wants to be isolated, but solitude could make a person really grow up. Through the solitude we could see ourselves clearer. That's the matter of life, to ensure our existence.[imal][imal] by Jordan Lane "what you can’t have, what you can’t touch, smell, caress, you should at least try to see." What if I am blind and can't see anything? Just exist. Being an existence of human[imal] is enough. I still remember how much I was moved by your article when you finished reading it. Too beautiful. Our body Our Architecture by Ninel Niazi I was thinking that how much design work/ drawings has been shaped by the rectangular computer screen or the A4 format paper? It is like that even people’s creative actions are somehow ‘forced’ by the standards.

replies to Comments Katla Maríudóttir said : You say that “We will learn from this research that women’s body moving is an uncertain process full of trivial changes and we will never find a straight line for women’s daily route.” I would like to think that has a lot to do with the society that these particular women are a part of ? Somehow I would like to think that even though the men’s lists were shorter and more concise that their moving bodies also can be subjected to trivial changes. Do you think we can assume from this research that women’s behavior is in general: “unreadable, unstructured, unpredictable”? Reply: I like your question!! Of course there are many many kinds of women’s behavior, but none of them could be defined. I would say they are unreadable, unstructured, unpredictable, because I can’t find and use other specific words to describe them. Maybe we should say men are unreadable either, but women live their lives in a more unreadable way!

elsajannborg said: one thing that I’ve been thinking of a lot is how viewer/reader often searching for a meaning in everything. Like art couldn’t be art without a meaning. /elsa Reply: yes! that’s what we know as the Duchamp’s porcelain urinal, a work of nihilism, a resistance to have meaning in art.

bibliography Elizabeth Diller,‘Bad Press’in Francesca Hughes, ed. The Architect Reconstructing her Practice, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996, pp. 74-95. Fuxi and Nvwa: 2013.12.01 Jane Rendell, Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism, London: I.B. Tauris, 2010. Gilles Deleuze,‘Literature and Life’in Gilles Deleuze: Essays Critical and Clinical, Daniel W. Smith trans., London: Verso, 1998 Leslie Kanes Weisman, ‘Women’s Environmental Rights: A Manifesto’ in Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, Iain Borden, eds,Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, London: Routledge, 2000 Lori Brown,‘Introduction’ Lori Brown, ed.,Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture, London: Ashgate, 2011. New English Calligraphy: 2013.12.10 Peg Rawes,‘Introduction’;‘Touching and Sensing’in Peg Rawes, Irigaray for Architects,London: Routledge, 2007. The history of Farnsworth House 2013.09.30 The picture of Farnsworth House 2013.09.30 Zoe Sofia,‘Container Technologies’in Hypatia Vol.15, No. 2, Spring 2000, pp. 181-200.

In the realm of perception