Gender Neutral Tenement House
For this project, I was asked to propose an interior programme in an allocated block in Glasgow’s city centre. The typology of activity within the block had to draw its title from one of those proposed by Ivan Chtcheglov. My block had a tenement building from the nineteenth century, and the title I chose was “family boarding house in the garden”.
I started researching about the residential typologies in Great Britain from the eighteenth century. By analysing the ‘Tenement House’, as it was the most common type of dwelling in Glasgow due to the city’s industrialization in the nineteenth century, I found out that at that time there was a deep differentiation of spaces according to the gender of its users. This influenced on where certain spaces were located in the house and its interior design. Even though design has changed so much since then, architecture and design are based on social conception and this has shaped the way we see space nowadays.
The current social position in which this tenement building is located is a context in which gender is no longer a limitation and where society is increasingly growing towards a more acceptant and tolerant gender-neutral state. This raises the question of how can gender-neutrality be represented and applied into architecture and design? Maybe trying to reach for genderless architecture translates into designing spaces that are more inclusive by blurring boundaries of gender perception, in addition to versatility and permeability in space. These three principles apply in every scale in this project.
The current layout of the apartment exists of a constrained rectangular format where multiple fragmented rooms connect to each other only through doorways. The private area of the house is set on the back of the building, towards the back court, while the public life of the house tends to go towards the frontal facade. By reassembling the shape of the flat, inverting public-private areas (attention focused towards the garden) and eliminating hard interior divisions (spatial permeability), the proposed intervention aims to blur external boundaries as well as the internal ones within spaces. This gesture shows in the diagonal ending of the apartments, that when assembled together it becomes a reinterpretation of the traditional bay windows on the ‘external’ façades of the building. Moreover, on a façade level, the new protruding-built angles are counteracted by round openings which represents the built and the un-built on a dynamic balance.
As a human, I will always stand on a biased position regarding design. This is why, when designing the interior space of the tenement, I used Hannah Rozenberg’s “Building Without Bias” online dictionary. This tool calculates the underlying gender bias in English architectural terms measured in “Gender Units”, representing how much machines (or algorithms) currently see that word as male or female. Furthermore, the soft boundaries, permeability and versatility are also present in the tenement’s furniture since one piece serves two different spaces. This can be seen in the furniture between bedroom and bathroom that from one side is a TV cabinet and from the other is bathroom sink.
Finally, it is important to mention that proposing a gender-neutral design was very challenging because it might be a very controversial topic. With this design I am not claiming to have found a correct answer to gender-neutral design, but rather it is my way of interpreting it, using all the tools I have at hand.