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Feminine domains?

09 October 18:30 - 20:00
Organized by: Royal Academy of Arts
Venue: , Royal Society of Chemistry
Burlington House

Join us to take a closer look at architecture’s role in shaping the gendered nature of home as we discuss how preconceived ideas on gender affect the design of the domestic realm.


The vision of domestic space as the “feminine” private counterpoint to the “masculine” public domain has dominated societal thinking since the 19th century. A result of the separation between home and work, it led to the complete segregation of domestic from all professional life. This consequently led to women becoming synonymous with the house, making it an extension of their bodies and an expression of their personalities.


It is not surprising that the home also transformed into a battleground for women’s liberation; its redesign and management directly connected to the quality of women’s lives. While the calls for efficiency aimed at increased convenience in domestic labour ended up only reinstating previously established gender roles, they still made a considerable improvement on the lives of most women and should not be discounted as a feminist pursuit.


Gendered understandings of public and private are still prevalent within the home and our preconceptions of domesticity. Our panel will look at both the “masculine” and “feminine” aspects of home and how these can be brought together through contemporary design. Does the continuing unequal distribution of domestic labour still mean that our homes are gendered as “feminine”? Is a lack of distinction between home and work in contemporary society leading to similar undefined divisions between public and private? And how can we move beyond a gendered understanding of architecture and home?


In this event, our panel will approach the specific gendered domesticities surrounding the home. From the unspoken rules surrounding the bathroom, to the efficiency of domestic labour in the kitchen or the hidden eroticism of the bedroom, they will look at the implications of labelling a particular space as “masculine” or “feminine” and the role design plays in this.



Irene Cieraad – Cultural Anthropologist and Senior Research Leader of Architectural Design / Interiors at TU Delft, Editor of At Home: An Anthropology of Domestic Space

Johanna Linsley – Co-founder and Producer of I’m With You, a London-based live art team that focusses on queer domesticities 

Barbara Penner – Senior Lecturer in Architectural History at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL; author of Bathroom

Helen Ikla (chair) – Architecture Programme, Royal Academy of Arts