Designing inclusive cities

A couple of weeks ago Hassnae Bouazza gave an inspiring lecture at Delft University of Technology as part of the Design as Politics lecture series. In her lecture she connected social issues of emancipation, Islam and feminism to architecture and urban planning, from the inside out. Recordings of the lectures can be found here, but you can now also read the full text of the lecture at frontaalnaakt.

Mariko Okada in Woman of the Lake (Yoshishige Yoshida, 1966). Source: Lipstick Trouble

Designing inclusive cities by Hassnae Bouazza
Shahira Fahmy was a young and influential Egyptian architect before choosing acting as a career. She now stars alongside Isabelle Hupert in Claire’s Camera, directed by Hong Sang Soo. She says in this video clip that she doesn’t know how architecture lead her to acting.

Let me take a guess: in designing, you try to make a better world. More beautiful, more comfortable, you also try tell a story. Each design, building, concept has its own story to convey. You make people’s lives easier, you give them freedom, a place to repose, you emancipate them. In acting you also tell stories, stories that people can relate to, you lift the lid on taboos, visualise delicate subjects, you celebrate stories – and you create beauty.

When I was thinking about this lecture I had a zillion thoughts and ideas and the challenge was to structure them. I had a long talk with Design as Politics’ Professor Wouter Vanstiphout in preparing this talk and what at first seemed like a dare, namely link emancipation and feminism to design, very quickly became very obvious. But of course design and feminism are not only linked but intertwined. If you think about it, everything connected to progress has inevitably to do with emancipation and feminism, be it vacuum cleaners, big supermarkets, take away meals, that make people’s lives easier and give women in more traditional societies room for a career – to buildings that take into account the needs of the modern female. Let me give you an example.

Public toilets
Last week a judge ruled in a very interesting case a young lady had filed: it was 2015, after hours, she had to pee, couldn’t find a toilet, and decided to pee in a corner on the street. A police man saw her, but of course he did, police men never miss an opportunity to squeeze money out of people, fined her and she decided to fight the fine, reasoning that she didn’t have a choice, because of the lack of public toilets for women. There are plenty of urinals, but no decent places for women to go and relieve themselves. The judge acknowledged there are few public toilets for women, but that’s ‘because men tend to urinate in public more often’, he ruled that she should have used a urinal.

So the logic is this: men break the law by urinating in public and the state rewards them by providing urinals. I’m sure you know what those urinals look like: stinky, dirty. I always imagine the stench when I walk past one and keep my distance.

Urinals were designed for the comfort of men. An acknowledgment of the idea that a man has to do what a man has to do. So what about women? Why is it perfectly normal to find urinals in city centers, but do city councils just assume women don’t need toilets? Which of you smart minds will be able to think of a solution that is so much more appealing than the few public toilets we have now and which I for one avoid at all cost. So, who will help out the modern day woman and design an attractive, clean solution for her.

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