Not sure if this is going to be a regular slot, but this exhibition at the Barbican
looks brilliant and very worth a visit if you’re going to be in London between now and the end of the year. Called How We Live Now
, it looks at who the built environment is made for (clue: it’s not women), starting off with a retrospective of Matrix, a 1980s feminist architecture cooperative who had the radical idea of speaking to women before designing for them.
A case in point, shown in another section of the exhibition, is the Essex Women’s Refuge. The complex, designed by a male architect, had got basic things wrong, from the shared kitchen, which was far too small, to the location of the children’s play areas, which were completely separate from the main communal areas, with no visual or aural connection for passive supervision. Matrix worked on the centre in 1992. Using what became a regular tactic, they presented the women with big cardboard models of different spaces, which they could rearrange to test out different configurations, along with using ribbon marked like a ruler to measure their existing spaces, which were added to the plans as a comparison.
Rather depressingly, however, this review of a 1988 Channel 4 film that is shown at the exhibition feels like it could have been written today about Invisible Women
A reviewer in the Daily Telegraph, who had been expecting something “amateurish, boring and full of loony leftist women” was instead enraptured by the film’s display of common sense about the ills of car-dominated planning. The makers “did not suggest any wilful discrimination”, the critic wrote, “but simply inability on the part of male architects to envisage what women actually do and need in their buildings”.
Yep, that’s literally all we’re saying.
Anyway, depression at how history repeats itself aside, it would be great to feature more of these – let me know if there’s a good gender data gap themed event / exhib coming up in your area!