Architecture is a simple yet complex form of art that blends in differences but leaves questionable loopholes. Designing focuses on users belonging to a different race, caste, ethnicity and gender. Such users belonging to numerous sections of society have different expectations to satisfy their needs. Architecture, gender and sex are complicated and far-reaching. Some argue that sex is the biological framework of men and women, while gender is the social construction and understanding of masculinity and femininity. Despite or because of different outlooks, gender is not superficial, biologically unfixed or culturally shaped. It differs for other individuals and should not be perceived as a predefined entity.

Architecture and Gender

What is gender-sensitive design - Sheet1

The challenge for architecture is to break down the gendered convention of both material space and the actions that take place within it. In this sense, every part of the design process, from procurement to post-use evaluation, requires review and questioning. It should include an analysis of requirements in an extensive case. Architects need to be gender sensitive. Knowing what and who it is to be designed is a virtue. The gender-sensitive design aims to combat spatial inequalities by recognising that urban environments are not gender-neutral and highlighting different patterns of discrimination that are often hidden in gender-neutral perspectives. 

Gender neutrality can lead to numerous forms of design and decision-making in general, refusing to see and recognise how different genders occupy space with various needs. Gender-sensitive planning guarantees that gender concerns and factors found via gender analysis are incorporated into the planning, design, and implementation phases. This involves the process of generating acceptable gender equality outcomes and strategies and activities. Gender-sensitive planning aids in demonstrating changes in gender relations (i.e., relationships between men and women) in a particular culture through time using gender-sensitive indicators that influence the design.

Can gender-sensitive design ensure safety?

What is gender-sensitive design - Sheet2
Hammocks, quick attraction elements, Vienna_©Zdenka Lammelova

The sense of safety differs with age and gender; architects are supposed to attain this through their design. Regarding this issue, a study was conducted in Einsiedler Park, Vienna, Milota Sidorova. According to the survey, fear was one of the outcomes of the workshop with the girls. They mentioned fear of possible danger. The initial steps included widening the main pedestrian paths through the park and bettering lighting conditions. The fear of not being able to leave a closed space full of strangers keeps girls from entering playgrounds. Coordination Office for Special Needs of Women prevented such issues by working on design solutions. This parameter applies to projects from small kiosks to urban levels.

Can gender-sensitive design be made universal?

Men and women use space differently at home, work, and in public. Aside from differences in roles in India, some cultures strongly believe in how men and women use space. Women and men also have different habits and preferences. They are a complex mix of cultures, traditions and personalities apart from how they make their living and divide up the work at home. It is quite a sensitive topic to discuss and design since it differs from region and people. The needs and beliefs might vary for different users since this could result in incompleteness in design. Thus it entirely depends on architects and planners to bring the concept of gender sensitivity while designing.

Can gender-sensitive design result in making gender-neutral spaces?

Gender-neutral toilet in Israel_©Eliran T

“Creating an equitable city implies that every citizen has their needs met”, states architect Wanda Dalla Costa at a time when metropolises were noticing a change. Architects and the general public are beginning to recognise the gendered design of public spaces. Gender is indicated in public zones that facilitate visibility and interaction between people. Architects and planners face daunting challenges in designing just environments and just spaces. Toilets face resistance and heated debate when it comes to gender integration. Choosing between using men’s and women’s restrooms can be problematic and even harmful for transgender people. Nearly 70% of transgender people, especially trans women, experienced verbal harassment in gender-segregated restrooms, and 10% reported physical abuse. Activists have proposed the idea of ​​gender-neutral toilets to prevent such atrocities, and prototypes have been initiated in countries such as the United States, Canada, China, India, Nepal, Thailand, Brazil and Japan. 

The exploration of gender and space is interdisciplinary. Today, those interested in gender in architecture are starting to draw inspiration from feminist works in other fields. Specifically geography, anthropology, cultural studies, film theory and art history, psychoanalysis, identity politics and philosophy. Such areas deal with space, spatial representations, and spatial metaphors. This is not the space traditionally defined by architecture, i.e. the length of a building designed by an architect, but the area discovered, used, occupied and transformed through everyday activity. Space as material culture is not an innate and inert thing measured geometrically but an integral and changing part of everyday life, closely related to social and personal rituals and activities. This kind of work in anthropology and geography implicitly critiques the status of architecture and the architect’s role, examining all aspects of the built environment as architecture rather than as individual parts and the occupants of the building.



  1. Gender. [Illustration]
  2. Zdenka Lammelova. Hammocks, quick attraction elements, Vienna. [Photography]
  3. Eliran T. Gender-neutral toilet in Israel. [Photography]

Online sources

  1. Mahimkar, Sudnya & V.A., Gokhale. (2013). Incorporating Gender Sensitivity in Architectural Design Education in India. 10.13140/2.1.1033.2486. 
  2. Olga Segovia, “The woman dweller: use, behaviour and meanings in public space: a study of two poor barrios in Santiago, Chile”, and Munira Daifalla, “Women and house design in Khartoum”, papers presented at the International Seminar on Gender, Urbanization and Environment, Nairobi, 1994.

Vanishya Vasanth is an architectural graduate and an enthusiastic writer. She writes to remember, gaining knowlege with every word. You will find her sketching and doodling her thoughts dreaming of a self-sufficient and sustainable world ahead.