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Titolo call: Feminine theory of urban design
Testo call:

Call for papers
10th International Conference on Urban History organized by the European Association of Urban History (EAUH), 1st-4th September 2010, 
Deadline 31.12.2009

Specialist session S23.
Feminine theory of urban design, 18th-21st centuries: texts and 
proposals for the city
The metaphorical topos in which a female form, or even body, is 
ascribed to the image of the city - as in the Whore of Babylon or 
Jerusalem the Bride - has a long history. The topos is a response to 
an aspect of the city that exclusively involves the process of 
appropriating space. By contrast, it is more difficult to link the 
topos clearly with the production of space, which will be the central 
concern in this session. Examples illustrating a feminine city that is 
defined conceptually and productively are extremely rare - as in 
Christine de Pizan's Le livre de la cité des dames (1405), in which 
the founding of the city and the city itself are used as allegorical 
representations of a female history. This approach was hardly ever 
imitated in the centuries that followed. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 
feminist utopia Herland, published in 1915, is the only example we 
know of in which a city with female connotations is designed for a 
community of women.
With the development of women's studies during the 1970s, female 
planners and architects such as Ulla Terlinden and Myra Wahrhaftig 
initiated a critical feminist debate on city planning and regional 
development planning, focusing on the usage of space. Two main aspects 
were criticized: the limited extent to which women are able to 
appropriate space in the urban context, and the unequal distribution 
of public space. In Victorian England, Octavia Hill had already been 
concerned with fundamental issues of the availability of urban space, 
which she regarded as a social resource and demanded as such in her 
pamphlets. Concrete physical space, which is the focus of attention 
from the urban-planning point of view, was regarded and interpreted by 
Octavia Hill as at the same time representing social, abstract space. 
A theoretical consolidation of discourse concerning space in the field 
of gender studies was achieved in investigations by the art historian 
Irene Nierhaus (1999), which included architecture, and analyses 
conducted by the sociologist Susanne Frank (2003) of the preconditions 
for and effects of gender arrangements in the production of the city. 
Their approaches, which open up important insights concerning the ways 
in which the city is produced, provide evidence once again of the 
absence of women, both in reality and in historical writing, from the 
processes involved in the conception, planning, designing and 
implementation of urban reality.
The first contribution to exploring the historical presence of women 
in the field of active urban planning - i.e., in the production of 
space - was provided by the American historian of architecture and 
urban planning, Dolores Hayden (1981). Hayden identified female 
pioneers in the field of design and planning and documented their 
work. By contrast, more recent women theorists such as Alison 
Smithson, Denise Scott Brown and Elizabeth Pater-Zyberk obtained 
access to the public sphere through the established channels of the 
architectural and urban planning system. Efforts to identify women's 
share in conceiving and implementing urban-planning projects are still 
in their infancy, and one concern of this session will be to 
investigate the contribution made by women to the conceptual 
development of urban planning. Although historical social conditions 
excluded women from the operational aspects of city production - with 
a few scattered exceptions such as legislative measures introduced by 
Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria - women were still able to express 
themselves in the theoretical field, and did so. One major example is 
Countess Adelheid von Dohna-Ponińska, who in 1874, using the militant-
sounding male pseudonym Arminius, drafted a full-scale theory of urban 
planning, which she presented in the canonical form of a treatise. 
Although there were certainly other women who would have been capable 
of expressing opinions on urban-planning issues, they generally used 
genres quite different from the traditional medium of a theoretical 
treatise. This was because women were excluded from educational 
structures, courses of professional study and institutional posts - a 
fact that influenced the way in which the positions and theories they 
developed in urban planning were defined from the point of view of 
social usage, although it also made it possible for them to establish 
new paradigms. Female theory is thus often articulated negatively, as 
a critique of the existing city - for example, by the French socialist 
writer Flora Tristan in the mid-19th century in her accounts of 
travels in England, or by the English author Frances Trollope, who 
visited metropolises in Europe and America and commented on them with 
expertise. A century later, the American civil-rights campaigner and 
non-fiction writer Jane Jacobs similarly criticized the declining 
urban quality of the big cities.
Architectural assignments that have highly feminine associations - 
mainly involving the design of residential buildings and homes - are 
exceptions to the rule that female influence is excluded from the 
production of urban reality. Creative and innovative impulses can be 
identified here not only in the way in which the rooms and the 
infrastructure of the interior are arranged, but also significantly 
affect the urban standard used. An example of this is Melusine Fay 
Pierce's idea, influenced by Charles Fourier and Robert Owen, of 
'cooperative housekeeping' - i.e., kitchenless apartments with 
communal kitchens and communal washrooms - which was an important 
contribution to the development of new concepts in urban planning. It 
may also be suspected, and hopefully it can soon be confirmed, that 
these new and sometimes subversive ideas for ways of arranging 
residential space and organizing kitchens imply an experimental design 
for testing new visions in urban planning.
The specialist session proposed here is designed - on the basis of 
women's texts of various genres and provenances, dating from the 18th 
century to the present day - to document the contribution made by 
women to urban-planning discourse, i.e. their share in the production 
of urban space. The aim of this investigation is to trace a possible 
'other' theory of urban planning that explicitly draws on social 
commitment and reforming concerns as its sources, and which focuses on 
Suggested major topics:
-    Theories of space. Production and use of space: public and 
private space; concrete and abstract space, etc.
-    Theory formation: text genres as strategies, critique of the 
city, new paradigms, biographies and spheres of influence, etc.
-    Concepts of residence and urban planning: new models, apartment 
and kitchen as a micromodel of the city, detached houses and suburban 
districts in green areas as tools for segregation, etc.
-    Monograph presentations of female theorists
Contributions from all disciplines especially from the historical 
disciplines, sociology, anthropology and the political sciences are 
Session organizers
Dr. Katia Frey & Dr. Eliana Perotti, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Paper proposals can be submitted on the website:

Deadline: 31/12/2009
Italia/Estero: Estero
Paper/Libro/altro: Altro

Modificato il : 06/12/2009 11.09 Modificato da: Rachele Borghi
Creato il : 06/12/2009 11.09 Creato da: Rachele Borghi

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