The following is an excerpt. Traumnovelle’s full article and accompanying images can be found in the current print edition of The Site Magazine, on newsstands now.
In a not-so-distant time and place, (2) an influential politician returns home after a day’s work in the city. (3) The day has been exhausting yet productive. After several months of research and fine-tuned negotiation, her team is closer than ever to sealing an important deal. She is confident that tonight’s reception at her country villa will settle the contract. Her household has been well-briefed and will make her proud and delight her guests, she is certain of it.
As she drives out of the city, she begins to relax as she thinks of her men eagerly awaiting her return. The house will be spotless and adequately staged, a lavish dinner will be ready, and they will have washed and dressed with care. She looks forward to showing off her newest companion to her visitors this evening. A little too young maybe, he is a ravishing, pouty beauty.
Suburbia gradually thins, houses spread out and retire from view, and gardens become lusher. She is thankful for the peace and quiet of her own large oasis, away from the bustling city. The garden surrounding her villa is divided into neat, functional spaces for her men to get some fresh air and exercise: an athletic field and swimming pool, a tanning patio connected with their bathing room, a well-tended herb and vegetable patch near the kitchen and a yard with sheds equipped with tools for them to pursue their manly crafts. They even have narrow individual gardens adjoining their bedrooms for their own amusement and privacy. (4) Truly, the city is no place for men! So much noise, so many distractions; the poor things would probably lose control, or get lost. Even for a woman, the city is a tiring place.
Inspired by the video for 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop,” this architectural fiction explores gender relations in domestic space through the archetype of the suburban home, the Victorian house, the roman domus and the Italian villa. By creating relations, hierarchies and systems of exclusion and inclusion, space is a vector of expression of a social order. Space is also the result of social relations: it is therefore adaptable and ever-changing.
Utopia (or dystopia) articulates the past, the present and the future, here and there. By blurring these frontiers, utopia/dystopia contributes to the resistance and helps define aims and resolutions.
The feminist city is a prevalent spatial archetype in feminist utopian fiction. Early feminists such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman adopted the standpoint that capitalist work was both the backbone of society and of women’s oppression. Through her utopian fiction Herland, Perkins Gilman explores how women could be liberated through financial autonomous and disassociation from unpaid household tasks. She offered new social and spatial structures linked to work that reflect an improved social status for women, redefining women’s relationship to work and therefore redefining the city.
Utopia can also overlay an existing environment, adapting spatial structures from another era for new values. Examples include Starhawk’s Fifth Sacred Thing, which imagines a post-apocalyptic San Francisco’s urban fabric transformed by new politics and spirituality into lush gardens for food and leisure, and Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, where a network of pastoral villages reclaim the post-industrial landscape.
These footnotes are excerpted from Léone Drapeaud’s essay “Founding the Feminist Utopia,” which will appear in its entirety on thesitemagazine.com in July.
Traumnovelle is a militant faction founded by three Belgian architects, Léone Drapeaud, Manuel León Fanjul, and Johnny Leya. Traumnovelle uses architecture and fiction as analytical, critical, and subversive tools. Alternately cynical, enthusiastic, and defiant, it advocates for critical thinking in architecture. Traumnovelle is the curator for the Belgian pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.