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Gendering The Urban Environment. Dualisms And The Environments of Trafalgar Square And Leicester Square, London

Part 1 Dissertation 2002
Anna Mac Dougall
University of Liverpool | UK
The dissertation explores the nature of urban public spaces and the significance of gender in their planning, design, history, function and use. It illustrates how physical space (design, architecture etc.) relates to the gendering of spaces through occupation and activity. By investigating two squares in central London, the discussion focuses on the construction of dualisms, primarily the gendered nature of private/public boundaries.

After an initial examination of the relevant theories, the main body of the work then revolves around the case studies of Trafalgar and Leicester Squares, London. The sites are considered concurrently and the themes of gendered environments and dualisms are investigated through these spaces. This analysis is divided into three sections on the gendering of space i.e. the physical, through representation, and by occupation.

Gendered dualistic thinking about urban landscapes is exemplified as reflecting neither how these spaces are used nor by whom. Furthermore, that the dualisms highlighted are not as relevant, or as distinct, as they were at the time of design. The nature of present-day gendered landscapes is examined in comparison to that of the past and the dissolution of the primarily public/private divide is revealed through discussion of the development and current state of the selected public spaces.

In an age of political correctness and equality for all, studies undertaken to evaluate the validity of these dualistic ideologies regarding the built environment are postulated as vital. In assessing how and why architect created spaces are used, informed decisions can be made about the future development of cities. It is therefore concluded that more debate on these aspects of gender and urban development is crucial. Awareness of the issues involved, and the steps that can be taken to move on from segregating users and their actions according to perceived dualisms, would begin to open up cities to an increasingly diverse and vibrant population.

Anna Mac Dougall

Anna's dissertation 'Gendering the Urban Environment. Dualisms and the Environments of Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, London' was an exceptional piece of research and writing, allied closely to her studio work on the BArch course at the Liverpool School of Architecture. Examining recent developments in theories of space and their relations to power in society, Anna subjected these accounts to a trenchant heuristic critique through her very careful study of the social uses of Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square in central London. By demonstrating that the adequacy of theories of place and space is determined as much by empirical testing as by dint of logical critique, Anna was able to suggest revisions to these theoretical formulations that improved their efficacy in urban-sociological history and criticism.

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