Architecture for the Transgender Community
Architecture invokes a sense of belonging. A place where everyone is welcome, creating an inclusive terrain. Also, why is it that so many gender-bending feel that architecture, despite claiming to be gender-less is boarded toward heterosexual people? Discriminative actions may be due to differences in thoughts; still, architecture does play a part in enabling specific social actions. From going to swimming pools to washrooms to clubs, along with walking in the thoroughfares, ambisexual people still feel unsafe. So, what can architecture for the transgender community do to help similar cases, and how does one define queer space?
The Origins of Trans-Architecture | Transgender community
From From Vitruvius to Le Corbusier, architects have tried to contrive proportions from a perfect “man.” Indeed, in L’Architectura, the first book that defines the rules of architecture addresses the expansive use of proportions. From La Modular to the Vitruvian man, the prospects are impossible to achieve in reality. Then, where does the Trans, who struggle to identify themselves, find themselves at home in such a fixed mise-en-scène?
The author, Lucas Cassidy Crawford, argues that Trans- Architecture is not new, but a commodity that has been beginnings in features of the Orders of Architecture. According to Vitruvius, the doric order was rigorously grounded on masculine proportions, while the Iconic order was feminine. When the Corinthian Order comes into play, it combines both characteristics of doric and iconic. It also can break the earth of strict orders. The tale Vitruvius told for the third order is as follows. A sick girl from Corinth passed away at an early age, and so her maiden decided to take everything the girl loved and put it in a box. She covered the box with a roof tile so the air wouldn’t blow the contents away. Without realizing it, the nurse had placed the box over an acanthus root. The root grew as the days passed and event bent along the roof tile’s edge. (Crawford , 2010).
Due to the genderless contents of the box, the third order is described as a hybrid. Here the flowers that broke through the convention of the roof tile describe the transition. Through this aspect, we should realize that even in Vitruvius, the idea of transition and breaking out of the mold was visible, which trans people can relate to the most. It also transitions into laying the foundation for architecture for the transgender community.
Architecture as an Affective Archive
Marxist thinkers Theodor Adorno and Leslie Feinberg describe that safety does not come from the spaces, gatherings, or people, but first and foremost a feeling of home in one’s body. The relation of self to spaces is not a novel concept, but rather something that many architects have related to. However, Lucas Cassidy Crawford argues that the architecture does not represent a “home” but an effective archive. Like culture, architecture can enforce norms on the people that have evolved through time.
For example, at a wedding Venue, men are expected to wear a suit and tie and women are expected to wear dresses. The venue demands it which has been passed throughout the years. There are instances of breaking conventions, however many preconceived notions still exist. The idea of wearing certain workout outfits at the gym, wearing somber clothes at a funeral, swimwear dedicated to certain genders, etc. Thus, regardless of trying to create an alienated architecture for the transgender community by giving out a new typology, we must rethink the architectural archives, and allow to make room to create a flourishing environment.
Queer Spaces and their Influence | Transgender community
According to Christopher Reed of Imminent Domain: Queer Space in the Built Environment (1996), queer spaces are defined as:
“Space or strategy that intrinsically connects or ties in architecture with a person’s sexuality and gender identity.”
New interventions like genderless toilets, LGBTQ+ clubs, and housing projects are being introduced to strengthen the transgender identity. According to a US study, 59% of us have abstained from visiting public restrooms out of dread. This anxiety has also kept individuals from eating or drinking, which has led to a rise in kidney and urinary tract infections (James et al, 2015). Moreover, due to a combination of poverty, disownment, and landlord discrimination, 25% of trans individuals in the UK have experienced homelessness. (Chaka L. Bachmann et al, 2018)
Projects like trans exhibits in museums and trans expos are creating a safe space for these individuals as well as opening doors for heterosexuals to understand a transition’s journey. One such is the Museum of Transology which covers exhibits such as themed under the hospital, expression through dress, bathroom needs, hormonal transitions, and much more. They are open to learning about others’ stories and putting them on display.
Therefore, reflecting upon the previous note. The key is to not design for isolation, yet design for inclusion that embraces change. These spaces should reflect the idea of transition and be open for people to discover themselves. Platforms that support the freedom of speech and are open to pride really generate an architecture for the transgender community.
James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). Executive Summary of the Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
Chaka L. Bachmann, C. (2018) LGBT in Britain . rep. London, UK: Stonewall , pp. 6–23.
Crawford , L. (2010) “Breaking Ground on a Theory of Transgender Architecture,” Seattle Journal for Social Justice, 8(Spring ), pp. 515–539.
Joson, J. (2022) Queer Spaces: Why are they important in architecture and the public realm?, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/989218/queer-spaces-why-are-they-important-in-architecture-and-the-public-realm (Accessed: January 27, 2023).
Parker , J. (2010) Architecture is yet to come to terms with Trans Bodies, Failed Architecture. Available at: https://failedarchitecture.com/architecture-is-yet-to-come-to-terms-with-trans-bodies/ (Accessed: January 27, 2023).