In 2019 Schored Projects and Monash University co-convened a day long symposium. The Women, Design and Housing symposium had three parts. It variously addressed Women and Housing, Women and Homelessness, and the particular housing needs of Australian Indigenous women. Taken together, participants in the Symposium it asked bigger questions: what can good design offer – not necessarily at additional expense, or time – that would improve the lives of women? What can be made possible by better housing design for women, which suited their particular and pressing needs? What can good design offer to women escaping family violence, or women experiencing homelessness, or Indigenous women? We explored the power and possibility that design brings to issues which can often seem more affected by policy, or planning, or politics.
The three terms addressed in the symposium’s title each required their own nuances. When we discussed women, we included all people who identify as women, of all colours and ethnicities, from all socio-economic groups. We aimed to recognise the complex intersection of class and race and gender identity at play and the very particular and powerful effects on the kind of housing, suitability and adequacy of that housing, that individuals can access. Our second term, design, was really at the heart of the event– including what architectural design, interior design, landscape design, and urban design, amongst others – can offer, and to whom. What can be made possible and available to women through design, what increases their health, self esteem, psychological safety, physical safety, productiveness, wellbeing, pride, and happiness through good design – especially to those who seldom have access to the services of a designer. The third term, housing described an essential human need, an infrastructure which holds up an equitable, inclusive society. It became clear that housing – its availability, its location, its quality and its suitability – has a profound effect on quality of life. All of those who are interested in the thriving and survival of women – we agreed– must address the question of housing.
The symposium introduced people who are producing, operating and managing housing for women, people who are designing and building housing for women, people who are planning and developing policy on housing for women, and women who are living in housing. It attempted a multi-faceted approach – to understanding spaces for women, by women – and hence the significance of gender in design thinking. It also sought to explore design-led positive disruptions to current housing provision models.
Project Team Samantha Donnelly Sophie Dyring Nicola Kalms Naomi Stead Isabella Webb