Architecture & Built Environment

Perhaps, we have been drawing the wrong lines

 feminist pedagogy within architecture

To understand the possibility of a feminist pedagogy within architecture, we need to return to the literal and metaphorical drawing board, says the author.


Czaee Malpani, Associate Professor, Jindal School of Art & Architecture, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India. 


Perhaps, we have been drawing the wrong lines… altogether, in understanding the discursive practices that inform architectural pedagogy. In the three decades following the publication of Beatriz Colomina’s Sexuality and Space, architect-educators are not as prone to question the gendering of spaces, through the introduction of (unfortunately) elective seminars on the same. 

Yet locating questions of sex, gender and subsequently identity, within the discipline remains largely ignored. We ran, before we could walk. In finding (our own) identities, we have misidentified the problem: that of representation. 

In particular, architectural representation in the form of orthographic drawings, which underpin most, if not all forms of architectural production, producing architects first and foremost, given that they essentially make drawings, not buildings as Robin Evans argues. 

Furthermore, these works are necessarily predicated on both distancing and aperspectivity, in their putative objectivity. Yet, work that looks at the ontology of drawings is few and far in between. Extending this, I posit that to understand the possibility of a feminist pedagogy within architecture, we need to return to the literal and metaphorical drawing board. 

If as Judith Butler argues, both gender and sex are constantly performed through acting upon matter, it is architects acting on and through the (matter of) drawings, that gendering takes place. Furthermore, what do these supposedly objective acts/objects implicitly teach us? Acts of complete control, afforded only through the making of orthographic representations. 

As I will argue in the paper that follows, it is thus, that the biological-sex of the architect is rendered irrelevant, in lieu of their gendered subjectivity, which predicated on control, is pervasively and dominantly masculine. We drew, before we could talk. What happens if we destabilize the myth about the omnipresence and omnipotence of architectural representation, and consequently of the masculine architectural genius? 

Through a series of experiments at Jindal School of Art & Architecture (JSAA), we immersively focus on the representations within which we are always already embedded. What if we investigate not designate, collect in lieu of create, analyze instead of design, and visually narrate, as opposed to dictate? 

Could we, then, raise questions about the act and object/ives of architectural representations, through larger representational practices, wherein the world was understood as always already complex, and not conveniently reductive? 

Could we raise the question of intersectionalities, as opposed to simplistic linearities immanent to architectural representations? Through this, could we allow for a feminist architectural pedagogy from within, instead of without? These are some of the avenues, which the proposed paper, hopes to open up for discussion.

Published in: Kush Patel and Soumini Raja (Eds.), Gender and academic leadership in architecture in India (pp.107-118). Avani Institute of Design, Thamarassery, Calicut.

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