Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Mainstreaming Gender in the City

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Mainstreaming Gender in the City

Article excerpt

Women and gender became prominent issues in city planning and architecture in the 1970s, propelled by activists and scholars whose ideas seeped in to practice, even as they were fuelled by practice in the feminist movements of the era. Prior to this, initial forays were made by pioneers in the US, including Catherine Bauer Wurster (Bauer, 1934; Wurster, 1963), Jane Addams (Knight, 2005) and Jaqueline Tyrwhitt (Shoshkes, 2013). In Europe, collaborative efforts uniting female patrons, architects, social reformers and designers contributed to the building of a great number of women's spaces in Berlin from the German unification in 1871 to the end of World War I (WWI) (Stratigakos, 2008). These collaborations included housing, restaurants, schools and exhibition halls. Women have long played important roles in urban development as patrons and social reformers (Durning and Wrigley, 2000).

However, conventional histories of planning and architecture do not always acknowledge these roles or, more importantly, their impact on the built environment. A case in point is the key role played by Henrietta Barnett in the building of Hampstead Garden Suburb (Hall, 1988). While the roles of Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin in the development and design of this important example of twentieth century urbanism are taught in planning courses around the world, the role played by Barnett in securing the actual development and buying the land goes mostly unnoticed. Yet, without it, Hampstead as a model garden suburb would not have been built. Conventional histories have also typically missed the pioneering housing complexes designed for professional women who did not have time to devote to overseeing that domestic chores were properly carried out by service personnel.

Women were also active in the aforementioned earlier times in countries not well represented in mainstream planning literature, such as Spain. There, the accomplishments of women such as Concepción Arenal, founder of Spanish feminism, who founded a company devoted to building cheap homes for workers, reformed the prison system and was the first woman to attend university in 1841 (Martínez et al., 2000), often go unnoticed. Of course, there are many other less-well known women pioneers, in Spain and in many other countries, who need to be rediscovered using local and national historical research and archives and embraced as key players in the field of planning and its history. This would serve to give a fairer and more balanced representation of the roles women played - both individually, as professionals, patrons or social reformers, and through collective action, in shaping urban environments - and how they addressed gender, or 'women's issues' as they would have been called at the time, during the nineteenth and early- to mid-twentieth centuries.

These activist-professionals primarily practiced, and some came to the academy on the strength of their accomplishments. Since the beginning of the 1970s, a more academic outlook prevailed in the US, with the work of pioneering academics such as Dolores Hayden, Susana Torre, Karen Franck, Mary McLeod, Joan Ockman, Daphne Spain, Diana Agrest, Sandra Rosenbloom and many others. Although significant research had also been produced in Europe since the 1980s, by Clara Greed, Marion Roberts, Chris Booth, Jos Boys, Dory Reeves, Teresa Boccia, Sasa Lada, Liisa Horelli, Inés Sánchez de Madariaga and others, the European approach was more practically oriented overall. Matrix, the Women Design Service in the UK (Matrix, 1984; Berglund and Wallace, 2013), or the Eurofem network in Scandinavia (Horelli et al., 2000) are good examples of this, as well as specific initiatives developed by public administration in many countries, such as in Oslo (Ministry of Environment, 1993), and by professional associations, such as the British Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) (Reeves, 1989). In Latin America, women architects and planners have approached the field from a mostly activist position, even if sometimes grounded in the academy. …

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