Gender in Architecture

I am in the centre of the world and whatever exists, always exists in relation to me. It is behind, beside me, below me. I do not only exist in space but also I define the space, rule it and organise it. Anthropocentrism is the most basic human experience. Reality without me does not have any value, does not exist and dies with me.

Anthropomorphism goes a step further. It is the human activity of organising the world and creating it as the image of self. For the animalistic cultures nature and the cosmos were the macrosmos – a mirrored image of human microcosmos: earth represents body, sky – head, sun – eyes, forest – hair, rain – tears, cave – womb etc. Equally a village, cottage and its particular elements had human features or functions. Those classifications and values did not come from precise measurements and calculations or the theories of beauty and composition but it had its roots in a deep belief ruled by ‘mythical thinking’ that the human body is a subdued part of the entire world. Present Western Culture, influenced by Modernism, The Renaissance and indirectly Antiquity are linked via similar anthropocentric values, social reforms and analytical treatment of human body – all ruled by a different type of ‘mythical thinking’ – the myth of logic and mind. The human being is treated as the highest form in this world: ‘Man is the measure of all things’ (Protagoras). Intuition, subordination to nature, gods and aspects of the feminine are signs of weakness and considered irrational.

Building activity, which started from the basic need of shelter and developed into a profession named Architecture, is not only anthropocentrically oriented but becomes as well an anthropomorphical creation. The built environment’s function relates to human needs while its form was often a representation of human body. When looking for links between architecture and sensuality I can see a human in two roles: as the substance/matter (body, nature, rules & proportions) and as the creator (art, mind, science). The body image of the Renaissance is the result of the observation of nature, not in a mystical and transcendent sense, but in a conscientious analysis of its rules. So the body becomes an ideal, harmonious product of nature ready to be copied and researched via the built environment & art.

The artist or the creator is a humanist, fascinated by a human individualist, researcher and scientist. In the XV century Architectural Theories of Filarete, Leon Battista Alberti, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and later in Modernism of Le Corbusier, the human body represents a harmonious ideal (god’s image) for the built environment. The Human being is the creator and user, it is classifying and judging. When taking measurements from his own body, he defines and gains control over the world.

Cultural Anthropology, in discovering the relationship between architecture and sensuality, recognises that it has a gender. The ultimate beauty, proportions and functions represented by a human body and subsumed into accepted design thinking in architecture have however largely excluded the feminine. In the centre of the world stands a male type of human, who represents the entire double gendered human kind. The female body was not only a tabu, but also an anti-ideal of the masculine. Throughout history architecture & art more often than not, mirrors male experiences and answers to male needs. This realisation allows us to see the ways of creating space and form as a manifestation of power. So Architecture became not only anthropocentric, or anthropomorphic but also androgenic. Androgenism explains not only who has the power but also shows how that power is proliferated in a culture and the collective consciousness. The male and his experience is treated as the norm while the female is left outside the boundaries of that norm. Its time for change!

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