Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gender and concrete

Material World recently posted a note on the project Gender and the Built Environment. I looked at their case studies and especially enjoyed these two:

"Planning the non-sexist city" While I know of the debate around how/whether shapes within a city reproduce phallic symbolism, and that some planners and artists try to counter this by providing more "containing" spaces, I had not thought of the fact that cities are sexist in another respect too: women's journeys across a city landscape are often more challenging than men's. As long as more women hold primary day-to-day responsibility for their children than men (dropping chidren off at school, picking them up, buying school supplies, buying medicines, driving them to activities, etc), their journeys across the city are often constituted of a series of shorter stops that criss-cross the city grid. City lay-out and transport systems, on the other hand, are often designed on the assumption that journeys across the city will occur as straight lines: driving from the suburb to the center, and then back to the suburb. Women's journeys are made more challenging, therefore, by the relative lack of public transport options and amenities needed for their types of journeys. This sentence from the case study made me smile: "The true position of women in society can be gauged by the length of the line/queue for the women's toilets."

"Girli concrete" The shape of cities also reflect qualities that have come to be associated with "masculine" characteristics rather than "feminine" (though I won't go into the problem with these labels here!). Suffice to say that city surfaces are mostly hard, impenetrable, square - think of concrete, metal, glass, straight lines, etc. Two women at the University of Ulster (in Northern Ireland) are now working on what they call "girli concrete." They are mixing concrete with materials that evoke new associations - lace and cashmere cloth, for instance - and they are drawing out round and playful patterns. I have posted some of the beautiful results below - also check out their blog Girli Concrete.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

PhD in comic book format

Yesterday I came across Ju Hui Judy Han's 24-page comics - she has drawn up her PhD research in comics format! I actually read all of it, so much easier to read than hundreds of pages of dissertation... and very interesting. She is a cultural geographer and is studying Korean missionaries. Highly recommended!