Architect Merril Sinéus fights for the reintegration of socially vulnerable inhabitants into urban space. Through diverse programmes, Sinéus puts forward a kind of ‘architecture of rehabilitation’, often linked to the habitat in its broadest sense. Acting on pre-existing structures, on the domestic, quotidian level and in direct interaction with future users, her projects demand flexibility from the architect. With this in mind, we knew she would be the perfect candidate for a residency with L’Espace Féminin in June 2015. Here is her statement on the conclusions that she drew:
“First comes the community, second comes the planner”...
OPINION: Genre, violences et espaces publics : La vulnérabilité des femmes en question, Marylene Lieber
Gender, violence and public spaces can mix in horrific circumstances. In recent times, security has become a priority in public spaces. However, the dangers that women specifically face are rarely addressed, and often women are deemed responsible for their own safety in a culture of victim blaming. This book examines the difficult politics of gendered violence and the forms of discrimination that are taken for granted in the context of formal equality between men and women. There is yet much to learn about violence against women in public spaces.
Beatriz Colomina is Professor of Architecture and Founding Director of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University.
We first stumbled across her work as the editor of Sexuality and Space, which was rightly awarded the International Book Award by the American Institute of Architects. This compilation of essays provided such an exciting, unorthodox way to consider gender, sexuality, the socialisation of space, place and architecture.
Expect more on Colomina in time...
In June 2015 we asked the question: Is there such a thing as “feminine space”? The social space in Berlin’s Wedding district is dominated by locations typically perceived as “masculine” – kebab shops, barber salons and gambling halls. In what kind of spaces do women here spend their time and how do these differ from those “male” spaces? To investigate these ideas, Stefanie Gerke and Gilly Karjevsky guided a tour around the neighbourhood in conjunction with the Make City Festival.
Recognition in world of architecture finds its most tangible form in the professional prize. We need only look to the prestigious Pritzker Prize to see that women in architecture do not receive the attention they deserve, even when they work alongside a man on shared projects.
Looking past the utopian façade of the modern city, this book interrogates the reality of urban life and its concurrent inequalities. The starting point is the question of how to realise the dream of the egalitarian city, changing lives by changing the place we inhabit. From here ensues an interrogation of the so-called ‘feminist dimensions of urban experiments’. An investigation into historical projects and modern experimentations demonstrates how places and gender interact. Analysing utopian and implemented egalitarian urban projects that seek to change gender relations, this book also reflects on the relative positions of men and women within our socially constructed cities.
Starting in November, with inspiration from Fee Kyriakopoulos from KIM Architektur & Urbanistik, we put on a series of art workshops. The aim was to bring the local art scene into contact with children living in the Soldiner Straße area, such that there would be some mutual comprehension. Each week a different artist was invited to come to the project space in Wedding, where they would share their skills with the children. We produced a small flyer in German, Turkish and Arabic, which was strategically distributed around Wedding to reach families with young children.
L’Espace Féminin has facilitated many great encounters that are hugely valuable in and of themselves. Throughout the year, we have been fortunate to meet a plethora of interesting people in a variety of settings. People have certainly been the principal driving force for projects – we have seen the network grow and consequently our work and the questions we ask have become more nuanced and sophisticated. This is something that we believe we can be proud of. Furthermore, the broad scope of our projects has enabled us to work with different people with their own respective, commendable approaches. The expansion of the L’Espace Féminin network should continue indefinitely, as people continue to meet and discuss the issues we have raised, tackle urban problems in their Kiez and hopefully see their work recognised on an international platform.
Incentives to promote sustainability in the urban environment seem so unequivocally good for the city. Nonetheless, it remains necessary to interrogate all measures that directly affect the lives of people. Yves Raibaud highlights the unspoken problems of certain green initiatives for women and vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. Eco-friendly development must not come at the price of participation in the city. Sustainability should be an inclusive concept.
L'Espace Féminin is a project riddled with confusion. How should we even begin to think about gender, architecture, space and that minefield of "feminine space" without resorting to tired essentialisms? Does it still make sense to intersect these subjects or are they completely unrelated? We believe that, while women remain under-represented in spatial fields, while architecture remains a rigid discipline in which recognition is based on neo-liberal concepts of success and while public space is unequally accessible between genders, this is still a relevant subject for discussion.
So many things remain up in the air. At this early stage in the project, we posed some seemingly basic, some disconcertingly puzzling questions to ourselves and those with whom we were working - all with the aim of challenging the most basic assumptions about gender and space.
In early 1920s Europe, in the aftermath of the Russian revolution a variety of new artistic ideas linking art and architecture evolved, fostered by artists such as Kasimir Malevitch, Wassily Kandinsky and El Lissitzky. among them, a young woman named Katarzyna Kobro developed her artistic understanding and shaped her own idea of the „Unistic Sculpture“, which lead to her concept of sculptures shaping space. She composed her sculptures with the pre-existing forms of Suprematism, such as the circle and the cross, which she often connected by a metal band. These hanging structures formed closed waves appearing in a constant dynamic movement, thus referring to other concurent artistic approaches to overcome gravity. Kobro coated most of these Unistic series in a white monochrome paint, thereby disguising her use of wood and metal. She further dematerialized her work through her stringent composition — offering a clear concentration on the structure. Kobro's sculptures addressed the emerging scientific, philosophical and artistic concepts about multidimensional space and space-time. They were composed to define the seeming inconceivability of the infinity of space, which in her opinion did not define objects but was their essence and affecting their forms.
Building on the success of the first dinner, we decided to go back to the Contemporary Food Lab with another group of practitioners to further the debate. Maintaining the format of the placemat-survey, in which guests were asked to write responses to questions printed on their placemats, we attempted to develop the discussion with insights from the whole year in mind.
An historical survey of case studies from the 1700s up to the twenty-first century, this book sheds light on the personal lives and interiors of different periods. The question being - what can these insights offer design and architectural historians? This anthology of texts details the range of methodological problems that emerge when such sources are used to deduce facts about the experience and performance of everyday life in history. It also reveals the ways in which practitioners also utilise such personal and collective histories to shape their work.
Read the whole review of this book HERE
By inviting women with various interesting approaches to their respective spatial practices, Les Conversations brought together architects, urbanists, artists and curators working internationally with fascinating projects. Hosted in the Niche Berlin project space, Hinter den Vögeln, the talks presented an opportunity to discuss one another's practice in a co-operative setting.
How to interpret the intersections of architecture, art, feminism and psychoanalysis?
Jane Rendell has been a repeat inspiration for all of us at L'Espace Féminin. Her work as a writer, art critic and architectural historian/theorist/designer, has exposed to us the interdisciplinary intersections between architecture, art, feminism and psychoanalysis. We continue to refer to her work on Critical Spatial Practice in our quest to define feminine space. Other authored works include: Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism, Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction and Moving Subjects: Gender, Mobility and Intimacy in an Age of Global Empire.
21. Februar – 31. Mai 2015, Marta Herford (Gehry-Galerien)
Marta Herford is a living example of how architects sometimes think of their buildings as sculptures. But what happens when this perspective is reversed, when artists engage with architecture?
...and an answer to the question: what will tomorrow look like?
An exhibition entitled 'How Soon is Now' at Galerie Judin invokes a group of 12 Berlin-based studios of architects, designers and engineers to revisit some themes of the legendary exhibition This Is Tomorrow held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1956.
From September to December 2015, we presented a solo-show by Flavien (*1971 Le Mans, France) in our exhibition space “Hinter den Vögeln”, the former flower shop on Wedding’s St. Elisabeth II graveyard. The show nucleus for a house was made up of two new artworks: nucleus 00 (air – elastic) (2015) as well as the elastic house (2015) as an offspring of the nucleus.
Sexuality & Space's interdisciplinary essays address gender in relation to architectural discourse and critical theory, focusing on the relationships between sexuality and space hidden within everyday practices.
A mobile and reproducible project on sexualities and space
Curated by: L'École du Magasin, XIe Session, Damien Airault, Valérie Chartrain, Stéphanie Garzanti, Estelle Nabeyrat, Benoit Villain.
with: Bernard Bazile, Ursula Bieman, Monica Bonvicini, Carol Bove, Tom Burr, Jeff Burton, Alain Della Negra, Michel Dorais, Christelle Familiari, Johny Jensen, K8 Hardy, Nadine Norman, Marion von Osten, Planning Familial de Grenoble, Mickaël Tramoy and Marnie Weber.
Les Formes Féminines
Galerie de la Friche la Belle de Mai
April May 2009.
Eva Berendes, Monica Bonvicini, Kristina Braein, Delphine Coindet, Julie Dawid, Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez, Jenny Holzer, Séverine Hubard, Claire-Jeanne Jezequel, Colombe Marcasiano, Falke Pisano, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Jessica Stockholder, Jennifer Tee, Lina Viste-Gronli, Julie Voyce
To parallel the history of sculpture with the history of women in the twentieth century brings one to an impasse where modernist 'objectivity' cannot reconcile itself with the performativity of real life. While sculpture boasts a 'high art' status, compounded in the modernist age by a self-reflexivity that eludes the trappings of genre. The term genre can be translated from French to mean either 'genre' in the sense of type, or gender. Historically, women artists have had trouble investing their work with a pure modernist theory, due to the perception of some intrinsic 'feminine character' in their work. Thus the fact of being a women catalyses the crisis of modern art - how does one tally the subjectivity of the artist with the alleged universality of aesthetics? Will this crisis lead to a renewed, heterogeneity of thinking? (Read more in French below)