‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’

The quote well differentiates between the gender personalities. The reactions and responses of both the genders, whether to routine things or spaces is different. It is hence true that even the notion of a ‘public space’ is different for both the genders. Architecture has a unique quality to make people feel valuable, dignified, honored, and seen. It is made by keeping YOU in mind. On any given day, public spaces tend to be the setting for a myriad of gendered social interactions. As a result of these frequent interactions, public spaces themselves become gendered. 

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Jane Jacob’s theory ©Minnepolis

For example, in a schoolyard, young girls may gather together under a tree and watch young boys play soccer in a field. As this continues over time, the space under the tree is perceived as a “girl’s space” and the soccer field will become understood as a “boy’s space”. 

Characteristics of gender sensitive architecture - Sheet2
Rani ki Vav ©Tourmyindia

This can be problematic because public space should belong to everyone at any time – girls should feel free to use the soccer field and boys should feel free to sit under the tree. Gender analysis is vital to the ability of the built environment to respond to the requirements of people who utilize built spaces. Understanding the role of gender in architecture can be helpful in the process of developing gender-sensitive planning strategies. People, Space, and Place are the essential aspects that shape an individual’s perception of safety. The elements of the built environment have a profound effect on the three notions of safety: comfort, belonging, and commitment.

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Community living ©Trishla Chadha            

Architecture carries a heavy cultural burden. This view of architecture ignores the fact that buildings are not merely geometrical or spatial phenomena, but exist in a socio-cultural context and respond to functional and experiential programs. Planning and designing public spaces for women and girls means creating spaces with design features that enhance women’s security and feelings of safety, and detract from features that cause feelings of insecurity. 

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Jane Jacob’s theory ©Minnepolis

Times have changed, and safety and security have become bigger issues of concern today. Though they apply to both the genders, going by the unfortunate cases that one reads in the newspaper almost daily, it goes without saying that the safety of women is a top priority in Indian cities today. Women might be outgoing and breaking the glass ceilings in all fields today, but the truth stands, that for women, everything outside their home is public domain.

GENDER SENSITIVE PLANNING

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CPTED ©Researchgate.net

Gender-sensitive planning is a new tradition to ensure that women by empowering themselves achieve equality with men in developing societies. Gender-sensitive planning focuses on the interrelationship between gender and development. Its importance relates to the fact that current development policy because of incorrect assumptions often if advertently discriminates against or misses women while even correctly formulated policy often fails to get translated into practice. Many feminist theories and current debates on women, gender, and development provide the conceptual rationale for key principles of gender planning.

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Defensible spaces ©Oscar Newman

The roles of gender differ from biological roles of the feminine and masculine, although they may overlap in nearly all societies and demarcate responsibilities between men and women in- 

  • social and economic activities 
  • access to resources 
  • decision-making authority.

From extensive research and teaching experience in gender-sensitive planning, Caroline Moser shows how such principles are translated into methodological procedures, tools, and techniques that are integrated into the planning process. She considers whether constraints in the implementation of gender-sensitive planning are technical or political and analyses both institutional structures and operational procedures to integrate gender, particularly into the project planning cycle. Moser highlights the entry points for such organizations to negotiate for women’s needs at various levels of household, civil society, the state, and global levels. 

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Eyes on the street ©Researchgate.net
  • Gender roles identification – based on gender roles outlined above; 
  • Gender needs assessment – based on practical gender needs versus strategic gender needs
  • Disaggregating control of resources and decision making at the household level – to address traditional assumptions of the household unit
  • Planning for balancing the triple role – to prevent unconsidered overlaps of gendered responsibilities
  • Intervention options and performance measures
  • Involving women and gender-aware organizations into a participatory planning process.
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Sketch1  ©Trishla Chadha

TAKING A NEW STEP- SIMPLE SOLUTIONS

  • Sufficient open space amenable to appropriation should be available within reachable distance to minimize displacements and competition for use. 
  • A wide variety of use and appropriation forms should be promoted. 
  • Multi-functional utilization, for example of a sports facility, should be ensured. 
  • Security is a necessary condition. This can be achieved through open structures, visual connections with the surroundings, and through supervision. 
  • Amenities should be available for different population groups. They should be clearly defined. 
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Sketch 2  ©Trishla Chadha
  • Atmospheric quality is of key interest, especially for women. 
  • Small-scale structures are needed, since a dominant, arena-type area favors gender-specific forms of appropriation. 
  • Moreover, certain protected areas or times are needed so that girls, especially in early puberty, can realize their potential without being disturbed, for example, play sports without being exposed to male eyes. 
  • The effective participation of the public should be self-evident, but gender-sensitive participation procedures need to be ensured. 
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Sketch 3  ©Trishla Chadha
  • More flexibly planned interim use projects also need to be organized with greater consideration for gender-sensitive aspects. 
  • Finally, more intensive research is needed into the consequences of changes in gender relations for outdoor behavior.
  • Buildings should be designed keeping in mind the human scale. The built form should be of a scale relatable to the user walking on the street.
  • Negative spaces should be avoided with maximum spaces being used for different spaces. Planning should be done to avoid sharp inaccessible corners away from the people’s view.
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Sketch 4  ©Trishla Chadha
  • Cluster development is preferable. A close-knit society ensures safety for all the residents. It ensures interaction and decreases the crime rate.
  • Street culture must be revived as the traditional concept of street ensured eyes on the street and constant activity on the walkways.
  • A strong public transport network must be ensured to connect various places. It ensures trouble-free movement of people from place to place but special consideration should be given to the women to avoid any traveling issues.
  • Basic road landscaping should be kept in mind keeping in view the gender sensitive-aspects. Pedestrian-friendly spaces should be ensured.
Author

Trishla Chadha is driven by a persistent desire to learn and to inform. Besides working as a Junior Architect, she is also associated with an International social organization with the aim of empowering women in our society. She is particularly intrigued by the sensitivity of architecture towards nature and people, as well as discovering new aspects that enrich the spatial experience.

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