In theory and practice, in the modern era, the idea of spatial separation between home and work was related to the traditional sexual division of men and women, and of their role in life. Going back to the earliest feminist thinking in architecture, in western industrialized communities, we are elaborating in this article on women’s changing role in the 20th century and its impact on the space we experience today.
It all started as women entered the work environment.
Dolores Hayden in her paper “What Would a Non-Sexist City Be Like? Speculations on Housing, Urban Design, and Human Work”, published in the ’80s, tackled the dying notion of “A woman’s place is in the home“. This implicit principle of architectural design and urban planning dominated the United States for the last century. With women entering the paid labor force, this concept had no choice but to adapt.
For Hayden, and for all women out there, it was crucial to develop a “new paradigm of the home, the neighborhood, and the city; to begin to describe the physical, social, and economic design of a human settlement that would support, rather than restrict, the activities of employed women and their families”. In fact, it was about time to reorganize both home and work experiences.
The time of change had come.
Women, by nature, as stated by Karen A. Franck in her essay on “A Feminist Approach to Architecture” in 1989, are very much into connectedness between different activities and the spaces that support them. Taking many forms, this concept can have many design interpretations resulting in connecting the people using these places: overlapping and interdependent spaces, reducing distances between activities and public and private domains, closer spatial and visual connections, multiple-use and transformation of areas, flexibility and complexity, etc.
Later on, in the ’70s in Germany, public housing with supporting services started surfacing, integrating different kinds of people into new types of households and housing complexes. The single-parent home was developed, designed to facilitate shared baby-sitting, with a day-care center open to the neighborhood residents and integrated children’s play areas. Rehabilitation of existing housing was becoming more desirable, with single units converted to multiple units, private garages, and utility rooms converted to community spaces.
While most employed women were not interested in living in communal families, they just required community services to support their private households. The idea was to keep private dwelling units and private gardens and add to them these new collective spaces.
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