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International Women’s Day: Who Owns the City?
The urban experience is, for many womxn, mediated by a complicated nexus of factors. Increased demands on time and resources due to caregiving or heightened consciousness of safety shape routes around the city, whilst the spaces in which we live, socialise and work are informed by wider economic and social structures that are often marred by inequity.
These divisions are reflected in the very materiality of the city, from byways that prioritise drivers, public spaces that exclude mothers, or toilets that presume a limited number of body types. The result is an exclusive division between who can access the public and private spheres that fall along lines of gender, race, and mobility.
As residents, activists and designers, womxn have done much to campaign for more equitable cities. Whilst such work is rightly lauded as inspirational, the gendered perception of womxn as custodians for their homes, families and communities is a dated notion associated with unpaid emotional labour. The spirit of collaborative engagement with which young activists of today engage with the politics of the urban environment necessarily celebrates a more intersectional approach that accounts for a multiplicity of urban existences.
Over the course of an evening, Elsie Owusu, Manijeh Verghese and Verity Jane Keefe will discuss how the gendering of urban design continues to create inequalities of access, as well the tangible contributions of womxn to the cultural landscape of the city through.
Verity-Jane Keefe is a visual artist working in the public realm. She has a longterm relationship with Barking and Dagenham, working with the borough since 2006 as well as across London and internationally. She is lead artist on the design team for a Good Growth Fund commission in Thamesmead. She is also finishing Living Together, a commission on the Becontree Centenary in partnership with Create London. She is Associate Lecturer in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins and a Unit Leader at the Architectural Association.
Elsie is an architect and urban designer who has worked for the UK Supreme Court and London’s Green Park Station. Current projects include a studio/residency complex for Yinka Shonibare CBE in Lagos and new eco-homes in Sussex. Elsie is a director of JustGhana Ltd, promoting education in architecture and creative industries in Ghana and the UK. She was honoured for services to architecture, as Founding Chair of the Society of Black Architects.
Manijeh is the Head of Public Engagement at the Architectural Association, where she is also Unit Master of Diploma 12. She was on the curatorial panel for the 2021 London Festival of Architecture, and is currently an External Examiner at Cambridge University. She is the co-curator of The Garden of Privatised Delights - the British Pavilion at the 17th International Venice Architecture Biennale as well as co-founder of Unscene Architecture.
Background Image: The Garden of Privatised Delights. 2020. Conceptual Collage for the British Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale commissioned by the British Council and curated by Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler of Unscene Architecture.