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Relevant for: Interior Design, Historic Preservation, Landscape Architecture, Product Design, Public Space and Urban Design

Course: Architecture , Townplanning
Group of courses: Engineering


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Course objectives:

The introduction of Gender Studies into Architectural Education is intended to demonstrate how cultural constructions of gender shape the professional identity of the architect, architectural discourse and theory as well as the design and realization of buildings and cities. The introduction of this discipline will insure that the goals and the intentions of Women's and Gender Studies, in particular, how these disciplines perceive space, architecture (especially housing and public buildings) and urbanism, are not only introduced to students but will become an integral part of this course of studies. Because the realization of architecture requires the collaboration of a number of experts, students must also acquire "soft skills" to enable them to deal with all those involved in the planning process in a fair and open-minded manner. Due to the increasing globalization of the architectural profession, it is imperative that students acquire knowledge concerning the manner in which space is conceived and used in other cultures, especially in relation to factors such as gender, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

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Teaching content/subject-specific gender studies content:

The teaching of this subject should focus on seven thematic areas:

  1. Knowledge of the different experiences of women and men in the profession of architecture in both present day and historical contexts; special emphasis should be placed upon the gender-specific roles that have developed in this profession throughout history, with special emphasis placed upon the 20th century. Although the proportion of men and women who study architecture is relatively equal, the number of female architects who are self-employed, tenured professors or otherwise work in positions of authority is relatively small. The social and cultural mechanisms, which have enabled this discrepancy, should be more closely examined; strategies to overcome this situation should be explored; in addition, strategies to transcend gender-specific division of architectural work and those which break down the exclusionary mechanisms that exist within architectural practice should be introduced.
  2. To develop an understanding of the (explicit and implicit) influence that cultural constructions of gender have had upon the production of theory and mainstream architectural discourse ("key texts") in both current and historical contexts; knowledge that a stance towards "gender" and "gender relations" (for example, the production of binary-opposites in pairs such as strong/weak, order/chaos, light/dark, healthy/sick, vernacular/high art, rational/irrational, handmade/machine made, tradition/modern, which reproduce the "masculine/feminine" binary opposite) has been integral to the language of architectural theory and urban discourse; to develop a critical stance towards these discursive constructions; the integration of writing from different historical periods and current texts, written by women, on subjects such as architecture, interior design, architectural theory and history, product design and urbanism in all of the modules of an architecture curriculum.
  3. Knowledge of the (explicit and implicit) influence that cultural constructions of gender have had upon the planning, the realization and the perception of buildings and cities; an understanding that architecture (including building design, interior design and product design) and urbanism (including strategies for urban design and expansion, urban renewal and urban shrinkage) can be seen as a reproduction of gender relations; to convey the back ground, goals and strategies for social integration that are integral to the concept of Gender-Mainstreaming and, most importantly, to apply this knowledge to the design of public buildings, large scale urban projects, as well as building projects in the area of historic preservation, building in context, urban design and urban regeneration.
  4. To impart the importance of the back ground and goals of research in the area of Gender Studies; to inform students of the methods that can be used to integrate research in the area of Gender Studies into the practice of architecture, with special emphasis given to the biographies of female architects; the relationship between gender, space, material and form, particularly in different periods and cultures; knowledge of research undertaken on gender, space and urbanism from related disciplines, such as sociology, art history, philosophy, political science, economics, etc.
  5. To impart the importance of acquiring "soft skills" (communication, negotiation methods, conflict management) in the area of project management; Knowledge of the importance of a constructive and impartial means of working with all those who collaborate on the process of building including clients, public authorities, specialists, handworkers, engineers during the planning and realization of a building.
  6. Knowledge of the ways in which different groups perceive bodies in space (for example, morals, sense of shame, etc.) and how these attitudes influence the planning and utilization of buildings and cities in differing cultures; the development of a sensibility for the manner in which attitudes towards gender have impacted the design of buildings and cities in non-European cultural circles.
  7. Knowledge, that the development, production and the application of technology (structural systems, building materials and construction methods; computer software and hardware; media products and applications) is not value-free or value-neutral; in addition, to acquire an understanding of the manner in which cultural constructions of gender in specific social, historical and cultural contexts has impacted the development of building materials and products as well as new technologies (development of the computer, CAD, new media, laser technology, etc.).

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Integration of gender studies content into the curriculum:

Architecture is concerned with the complex organization of space. Because the study of this subject requires the knowledge of many disciplines from liberal arts oriented subjects such as architectural history and theory, to fine arts, building typology and design, and finally to applied technology and project management it is therefore imperative that an understanding and an increased awareness of gender issues is imparted to students in these diverse subjects.

  • For Architecture History and Theory:

    • The integration of the biographies of female architects, designers, clients and users along with their attitudes towards building, planning and design; the inclusion of historical and current texts, written by women, in bibliographies and as subjects for seminar reports.

  • For Project Management and Construction Supervision:

    • The critical analysis of the conditions which have lead to the establishment of gender-specific roles in the building process; the development of gender competence, in particular in areas including negotiation techniques and project management; knowledge of the importance and the back ground of Diversity Management.

  • For Building Typology and Architectural Design:

    • The manner in which cultural constructions of gender have impacted the planning, realization and the perception of buildings, most importantly, housing and public architecture should be presented in the lectures and seminars and also explored in the design studio and the final design projects.

  • Design of Structural Systems, Building Construction

    • A understanding of the manner in which gender and body metaphors have shaped the language of structural design and building construction (for example, - in German "Mutter", (Mother), "Mutter- und Kindbalken" (mother and child beams), "Mönch- und Nonnendeckung" (monk and nun roofing tiles); skeleton construction, headroom, hand rail); A knowledge of ecological building materials and structural systems, with emphasis given to sustainable products; in addition, to gain an understanding of building materials and structural systems used in non-European cultures.

  • CAD, new Media:

    • The manner in which cultural constructions of gender (in diverse historical and social contexts) have impacted the development of computer technology and new media (for example, war as the "giver of impulses" to new technologies).

  • Urban Design:

    • The manner in which cultural constructions of gender have impacted the planning, realization and perception of urban projects must be presented in the lectures and explored in depth in the design projects; a presentation and a critical analysis of the gender metaphors that appear in the language of urban design and urban history ("virgin territory"; "Big Apple"; metropolis = meter + polis = "mother city"); in addition, a knowledge of the back ground of Gender Mainstreaming in urban design should imparted in the lectures and explored in-depth in the design projects.

Additional educational offerings (for example, public lecture series) must contain an equal number of invited female and male speakers from the areas of professional practice and architectural theory.

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Degree Stage:

Gender competence, an engagement with gender research as well as the acquiring of knowledge concerning gender issues shall be presented and closely integrated in the Bachelor course in architecture, so that the knowledge gained from this subject can be used during the later studies and during internships in architectural offices.

In the Bachelor course, the intention of the gender module ("Gender and Architecture") at the beginning of the course of studies (between the first and third semesters) will be to present a comprehensive overview of gender-related themes that have just been described. In addition, these issues can be further explored in additional courses (building typology, research on the biographies of female architects).

It is also imperative that students continue to become engaged with gender issues during the Masters program. Experience has shown that students and most importantly female students often bring increased knowledge concerning gender issues that has been gained from their internships or from time spend in a foreign country prior to the second degree program. Therefore , they require academic courses that help them to interpret their gender related professional experiences, which they have acquired outside of the university, in a critical and analytical manner.

For this reason, a further gender module in the Master course should be offered. In this seminar, selected issues of gender research can be explored in detail, discussed and can provide the basis for further research or as subjects for seminar reports. The content of the gender module can also be developed in relation to the specific content of a Master program (for example Renovation of Historic Structures, Urban Design, Construction and Project Management). It is also possible to offer more in-depth courses in the area of gender theory. In this respect, bibliographies of gender-related themes in the subjects of architecture, design, civil engineering, art history, sociology and economics/business administration should be collected and made known.

In addition, students should be advised of the availability of scholarships offered in the area of gender studies and gender research.