Practicing Difference

Title: Practicing Difference. Analyzing how Female Practices have Conceived Socially Oriented Spaces with Feminist Agenda’s that Value Difference

Author: Rachael Cowan

Year: 2019

Abstract: In 1792 the early English feminist philosopher, Mary Wollstonecraft, called for dissent from hegemonic, patriarchal ‘false systems of education’ dominated by male scholars with the objective of educating the male gender in their own history; while simultaneously subordinating the historical standing of the female identity and that of non-white races (Wollstonecraft, 1792). This prototypal rejection of gendered hierarchies which act as apparatus for the containment of female autonomy, was discredited for an extensive period of time by Wollstonecraft’s contemporaries; it took 106 years for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA, 2018) to even begin to align their views with her progressive liberalism, after the admittance of Ethel Charles  to the institution in 1898 as the sole female member of the RIBA.

1898 is a catalytic point for the advancement of women in the field of architecture and the urban practices; an arduous effort began to expose the value the female narrative and experience can have on the production of space and spatial practises.

From the turn of the twentieth century to the contemporary period the visibility of female instigators of  spatial progress have been minimally documented. It is incredibly difficult to assert a female voice within a profession where the most privileged social group, the white, heterosexual, middle-class male, has been allowed to dominate practice. Shifting the architectural agenda towards a more open approach to collaborating with notions of difference, is a path that can illuminate many instances of alternative practice; within a variety of contexts, and moments in time.