Women have played a significant role in creating incredible public spaces, but they are often not given proper credit. What they are trying to do is not only in the busy city centres or parks where architecture and planners think about spaces working for all people such as women and disability. Nevertheless, there has been a lot of achievement and women have come a long way but they still have to deal with the challenges of using public spaces like feeling unsafe and not being allowed to certain areas. It is not about being just about fair to women only but also about making cities improve for all. In this article, we will discuss how architecture can create more equitable and accessible public spaces for women and everyone else.

Historical context:

Throughout history, women have in a way regarding going out and about in public. Many societies, immensely culturally bound and gender-biased, prevented even women from roaming around the markets, squares, and other congregating spots. As a consequence of this fact, public spaces and urban designs were heavily affected.

Historically, cities were planned and built with a focus on catering to the needs and preferences of men, reflecting the male-dominated nature of society. All these roads, squares, and buildings were constructed without considering the needs and wants of women, making it harder for them to feel comfortable and safe in public spaces.

In addition, in public spaces, people still adhere to gender role stereotypes. Men’s business and political affairs were well-recognized and, thus were given much attention and space, while women’s affairs of household became a secondary issue.

The tradition of keeping women out of public spaces has been going on for centuries and is the reason why buildings and towns have this particular layout. It has played a part in keeping gender inequality issues alive both in terms of access to resources and in the way our living environment is shaped. Knowing and overcoming our past is the key to inclusive and fair spaces in future public spaces.

Women in public spaces-Sheet1
Women in public spaces_©Architecture live
Women in public spaces-Sheet2
female centric co-working spaces_©Tory Williams –  The Wing

Challenges faced by Women:

One of the main problems for women when in public places is security. Women are often subjected to fear of harassment, assault, or any other form of violence when they are in urban areas. Poorly lit streets, isolated areas, and the absence of surveillance may breed fear and hinder women from moving around freely. It is of the utmost importance that these safety concerns are tackled to have public spaces that are welcoming and empowering for women.

Women in public spaces-Sheet3
women in poorly lit streets_©The Establishment

Accessibility is another crucial problem for women in the public realm. Women, especially those with caregiving roles, may experience difficulty in getting to public transportation, parks, and other facilities. The absence of childcare facilities, poor public transportation routes, and inaccessible infrastructure may prevent women from fully taking part in public life. Developing public places that are friendly and comfortable for women is important in achieving gender equality and social inclusion.

Women in public spaces-Sheet4
Who really owns public space_©The Newyorker- Giulia Sageamola

The inclusivity of public spaces is crucial to make women feel included and represented. The design and planning of public spaces mostly ignore women’s views and experiences, resulting in inadequate spaces. When diverse voices and experiences are incorporated into the design process, architects and urban planners can create public spaces that are more inclusive and that reflect the community’s needs better.

To tackle the challenges we face in creating equitable and vibrant cities, we need to take a comprehensive approach that recognizes the complex interactions among social, cultural, and environmental factors. Urban planners and architects can contribute to this by ensuring the safety, accessibility, and inclusivity of women in public spaces. This will help create cities that are fair and thriving for everyone.

Case Study:

The High Line, New York City

The High Line, located in Manhattan, is one of the most compelling illustrations of how city planning can make a space more welcoming. This is particularly true for women. In 2009, an old railroad was transformed into a beautiful public park, complete with green spaces, walking paths, and areas to relax.

They remembered all about the ladies when they were doing the design for the High Line. They added things like good lighting, security cameras, and regular patrols to ensure it remained safe for everybody. Women were the special interest. And they guaranteed the kids with ramps and elevators, which make it possible to come with a stroller or a wheelchair.

The park features many cool things such as picnic tables, restrooms, and water fountains that everyone can enjoy – even families and women. The spot has been a success story with the visitors and has contributed to the beautification of the neighborhood as well. Not just there, some other cities have been inspired to recreate High Line in their way, proving that designing public spaces for everyone is an excellent decision.

Women in public spaces-Sheet5
the High line_©CNTraveler- Iwan baan

Design Considerations:

Public spaces require adequate lighting for safety and to attract women. Properly illuminated areas increase people’s safety and make everything more noticeable. The placement and amount of lighting should be carefully considered to ensure even illumination throughout the entire space, including walkways, seating areas, and entrances.

The availability of different types of seating can make public spaces more comfortable for both men and women. Instead of the regular benches, you may add chairs that can be moved, lounges, and chairs with back support to suit the needs of everyone. You might also like to put some seats there where people can rest or talk among themselves.

Signs that are easy to read and contain information have a major role in guiding people through public spaces, especially for women who may be strangers to the site. Signs must also show important things including bathrooms, emergency exits, and cool spots. With symbols and images being used, people can comprehend them, even if they don’t know the language.

We need to provide accessibility for all public spaces so that no one is left out. This requires having ramps, elevators, and special paving for mobility-impaired people and wide pathways for both strollers and wheelchairs. Another facility that should be available is the accessible restrooms and seating for women with disabilities.

Private areas in public spaces can help women make them more comfortable and homey by their presence. This could be achieved by adding private seating areas, plantings for screening, or partitions that offer more privacy without compromising safety.

By thinking about these things when designing public spaces, architects and urban planners can eliminate the barriers and make them suitable for anyone to enjoy.

Women in public spaces-Sheet6
Gender Inclusive designs_©Issu

Future Trends:

Among the trends shaping architectural design and urban planning is the growing use of inclusive design principles. Through this approach, designers create spaces that are accessible, comfortable, and fit to use by people of all ages, genders, and abilities. Through the application of concepts like universal design and design for diversity, architects and planners can develop public areas that are more inclusive and welcoming for women.

The other trend is putting more green spaces and biophilic design elements in urban environments. Besides offering environmental benefits, green spaces also provide opportunities for relaxation, social interaction, and exercise, which are important factors for women’s health. Biophilic design, which focuses on connecting people with nature, has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and overall well-being.

Also, smart technology is being incorporated into the public spaces. Intelligent lighting, on the other hand, can improve safety and security by adjusting lighting intensity according to the time of the day and the activity level. Smart sensors can also be deployed to sense and control environmental parameters and make adjustments in the provision of amenities such as sitting and shading, thus, improving the comfort and usability of public spaces for women.

Communal participation in design and planning is a more prevalent practice, especially among women and vulnerable groups. Incorporating different voices and experiences, the field of architecture and planning ensures that public spaces portray the needs and expectations of the users, thus resulting in more inclusive and culturally responsive designs.

Flexibility and adaptability are important trends in the context of public space design. This approach enables the use of such spaces for diverse purposes such as communal gatherings and recreation activities thus making them more available and fun for women.

Along with women’s empowerment in public spaces, the issue of women in architecture and city planning is also ignored. Considering women’s experiences and needs should be the main point while building public spaces so that everyone feels part of the community, secure, and appreciated. Architects and planners need to tackle these gender-specific issues, such as lack of safety, accessibility problems, and exclusion of women, as part of their plans to create places that will promote gender equality and universal social inclusion.

Firstly, the spaces in the city should be created in a way that is gender-neutral and no discrimination against gender applies. That way, people can move freely in the city and enjoy the lively, sustainable cities. If, during the development process, we listen to different viewpoints and experiences, we can build public spaces that represent the diversity of the population they serve, so people can enjoy the quality of life of everyone.


  1. The establishment. (2017) The Shocking Connection Between Street Harassment And Street Lighting. Available at: https://theestablishment.co/the-shocking-connection-between-street-harassment-and-street-lighting-5db8497ef653/index.html (Accessed: 22 February 2024). 
  2. the, N.Y. (2020) Who Owns Public Space? Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/who-really-owns-public-space (Accessed: 22 February 2024). 
  3. CN, T. (no date) The High Line. Available at: https://www.cntraveler.com/activities/new-york/the-high-line-nyc (Accessed: 22 February 2024). 
  4. Landscape, the journal of the Landscape Institute, (LI) (2022) Designing for gender equality Celebrating 100 years of women in landscape architecture, 22 November, pp. 34–37. 
  5. Architecture, live (2023) In Pursuit of Idleness | Women in Public Spaces. Available at: https://architecture.live/in-pursuit-of-idleness-women-in-public-spaces/ (Accessed: 22 February 2024). 
  6. Vogue (2020b) The stylish female-centric co working spaces around the world that are nurturing a new generation of girl bosses. Available at: https://www.vogue.in/magazine-story/the-stylish-female-centric-co-working-spaces-around-the-world-that-are-nurturing-a-new-generation-of-girl-bosses/ (Accessed: 22 February 2024). 



An enthusiastic architecture student deeply in love with reading and writing, Harshavarthine is eager to explore her growing interest in architecture journalism. Her burning passion for architecture and writing promises to illuminate readers' knowledge in this digital era and aims to captivate their imagination with profound stories about architectural marvels.