Gendered Infrastructure

September 20, 2018

01 Gendered _ Layout

“…a shift in the relations between body, power, and space is evident in a new mode of urbanism: so-called “resilient urbanism”.”  Ross Exo Adams

 

The subway network and the subway station in Bagarmossen

If there is one infrastructure that I use a lot and have a kind of love-hate relationship to, it is the subway system in Stockholm. How could I even live without it? It is just a five-minute walk from my home and I can go to almost all other stations within an hour and travel almost all day around. It is affordable, especially compared to the costs and trouble with owning a car in this city. At the same time, it is stressful, noisy, often cramped with people, sometimes delays or other problems, and at night it can feel a bit unsafe. It has its downsides, but most of all it is a great type of infrastructure.

Even though I enter or pass my local subway station almost every day, I realised that I haven’t paid much attention to how it looks and the architecture of it. When I now looked at it on satellite photos, it was the first time I realised it is shaped like a star. More precisely it is two rectangles that are twisted, creating a kind of eight-pointed star. But it is not the whole star that forms the entrance hall, it is cut in half by another larger rectangle. It is placed right by the main square of Bagarmossen, and its’ small entrance hall has glass partitions and glass doors facing the square. After the gates, you are almost immediately by the escalators and the elevator taking you down under.

I can’t remember feeling unsafe at this station, which is strange considering how often I use it and that I do feel unsafe using public transportation sometimes. The station has a service desk which have working staff during the day. I realised I’m not sure if there is always staff working there or if it is unmanned during some hours of the day. Maybe that is a fact that makes me feel safe there, without me even having reflected on it. It might also have something to do with the fact that it is a station where you have good overview. There are short distances, lots of glass and no dark tunnels to pass. There are no sharp angles to turn and no walls between the platforms. You can see and hear most things around you and there are always people there.

In his text Becoming-Infrastructural, Exo Adams talks about the view of the body in relation to urbanism and suggest that a new era of resilient urbanism will influence how we see our bodies. If resilient urbanism is a sort of way to expect and live with crisis, and see that built environment is not separable from nature, then maybe that will also change the way we travel and how we value and develop an infrastructural system like the subway.

Helena Eriksson

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