10 advices for a pleasant journey

October 1, 2013

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  1. Walk only on surfaces that makes you want to dance.
  2. Design houses that feel like sneakers.
  3. If you want someone to play, don’t put them in a playground.
  4. One-purpose-toys are boring.
  5. Make place for the unplanned.
  6. Don’t tell me what to do.
  7. Remember, its not fair if one person is to decide everything, even if s/he is an architect.
  8. Mind game: When you enter a room, take a look around, consider who’s in power here, how’s this manifested and how could this power structure be undermined by shifting position of some objects/subjects in the room… If it seems like a good idea, go on do it.
  9. Don’t go outside, or inside, without minimum 1 power tool – may it be feminism, a power suit, a friend, a thought.
  10. Read a novel.

A feminist manifesto must aim beyond the categories of male and female, right and wrong design, towards an environment where we are able to grow as bigger, more free individuals. With this in mind I consider Leslie Kanes Weisman’s, ‘Women’s Environmental Rights: A Manifesto’ (1981) a necessary contributions – in the way she points out the sexually unequal outcomes of the historical investments in our common environment, and what acutely has (was) to be done about them – but I believe that the way forward means focusing not so much on what has been done, as on how. This is also what Katherine Shonfield does in ”Premature Gratification and Other Pleasures” (2001) where she argues against an often seen design-driven over-view city planning strategy (Shonfield P 14).

Tools for change doesn’t need to be violent, nor confrontational. Its the different character of the weapons that matters. The struggle must itself be of a kind we wish for our future society. Actually, the tools are already the goal, or at least a part of it.

Knives can not stitch sweaters.

An important concept in my thinking has been Utopia. The French philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre has described Utopia as “the possible impossible” (Introduction, Lefebvre 1996, p 21). Opposite to the general use of the term, this Utopia isn’t any place outside of the possible, instead its an alternative possibility. Inspired be Lefebvre, my Utopia too starts in daily life, on the ground. To be worth striving towards, Utopia has to begin here, has to be based in the real. This too parallels the discussion of Shonfield when she highlights Muf’s strategy of a constant move from the particular to the general and back, playfully expressed in the d/s = D formula (detail/strategy = DETAIL) (Shonfield p 14).

Instead of a fixed, all-embracing, idealistic idea being forced upon a misfit reality – a utopianism necessarily leading towards totalitarianism – feminism has to imagine a Utopia that is a bridge between tiny everydays and far away dreams.

An other concept that clings to me is Empathy. To see with someone else’s eyes. To touch with someone else’s fingertips. That, someone said, is actually what reading novels is about. And I believe the power of reading is found just here, in the capacity of transporting one mind into the mind of an other.

So, what would it mean to read a house like a novel? To listen? To listen to a house like to a polyphonic story, an orchestra of overlapping voices, revealing a constantly more complex genealogy.

To wash the dishes with someone else’s hands.

Until today, men hasn’t only washed less dishes than women, they’ve also read less novels. What you practice makes you skilled; that goes for 3D-modelling as well as empathy. If our city planners would have read more novels, what city would they have built? If they’d read the symbols, understood the letter, listened to all the voices?

/Gerd Holgersson

Lefebvre, H. 1996. Writings on Cities. Eleonore Kofman, Elizabeth Lebas (eds.) Oxford : Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Introduction by Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas.

Shonfield, K. 2001. ”Premature Gratification and Other Pleasures” in This is What we do: a muf manual, London: Elipsis London

Weisman, L. K. 2000. ‘Women’s Environmental Rights: A Manifesto’ in Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, Iain Borden (eds.), Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, London: Routledge.

2 Responses to “10 advices for a pleasant journey”

  1. Jordan Lane Says:

    I believe in ignorance before empathy – thoroughly conscious ignorance. Schrodinger said “in an honest search for knowledge you quite often have to abide by ignorance for an indefinite period”. If we (human/non human, organic/inorganic) can first recognise our ignorance, secondly use our knowledge to make higher quality ignorance, then we can move onto empathy.


  2. Having dealt this week with the text of Kanes Weisman, it was kind of hard to bear her quite aggressive tone, which is probably understandable from the perspective of a woman of her time, thirty years ago, but probably a bit to harsh for the contemporary, still rather young reader.

    Even worse, her as well, badly stereotypical and simplistic ideas on skyscrapers. Men erecting giant penises.. whatever.

    Your concept of empathy seems to me like a very hopeful resolution to this. Entering a new level of sympathy and collectiveness between sexes and a possible key to both, a better society and a better architecture.

    / Christoph


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