Page from the scrapbook “Werk_Arbeid Dossier: Feministiese woninganalyse” [Work_Labour Dossier: Feminist House Analysis] by Lidewij Tummers, 1986. Source: Archive Vrouwen Bouwen Wonen / Bureau Tussen-Ruimte.Donation by Lidewij Tummers, Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut
“Totaalplan voor de helft van het burgerziekenhuisterrein” [Overall Plan for Half of the Terrain of the Citizen Hospital] by Burgerziekenhuis Voor Vrouwen, 1989(?), design: Madi Kolpa/Corien Bos. Drawings: Henriette van Eys/Luzia Hartsuyker, printing: Vrouwendrukkerij Virginia. Source: Luzia Hartsuyker-Curjel Archive, Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut
In the mid-1960s, women increasingly questioned their place in society, as enforced by law, schools and education, the immediate social environment, and also, for example, 'enlightened' organisations such as the Stichting Goed Wonen [Good Housing Foundation]. While Goed Wonen believed that better housing would contribute to a better society, its stereotypical views on the nuclear family, mirrored by Dutch society, continued to reduce the role of women to housewives. It focused only on making their tasks at home more efficient so they could dedicate more time to parenting and tasteful decoration. At most, women were granted a subordinate role in (interior) architecture.
This changed in the 1970s, when a growing number of female practitioners in the fields of architecture, urban planning and building engineering sought to collectivise in (academic) institutions and their professions. They took important cues from adjacent academic fields such as social sciences, philosophy, and psychology. Taking position on the gendered reality of the built environment went hand in hand with dismantling the constructed binaries and hierarchies of the private and public spheres, housing and working activities, unpaid and paid labour, or claims on leisure time.
In architecture especially, the absurdity of this patriarchal and social separation becomes clear: while women have been pushed into the realm of housekeeping and other domestic tasks for centuries, they were still not considered experts in housing questions, nor were they welcomed in the field of architecture.
It took the initiatives of ambitious women, such as Anna Vos, Heidi de Mare, Susanne Komossa and Lidewij Tummers and the help of male allies to build platforms for critical feminist discourse, such as the research groups in Vrouwenstudies [Women's Studies] at TU Delft and TU Eindhoven, or the independent foundation Stichting Vrouwen Bouwen Wonen [Women Building Housing] - which continued to cross-pollinate throughout their existence. These women-run platforms enabled sustained conversations, symposia and lectures to focus on ways in which one can contribute to a safer, more equitable architectural practice and built environment. Many of the investigated notions in the built environment found their way into institutional and governmental policy due to the women's constant effort.
Also outside of the academy, women learned from and advocated for each other in dedicated settings, such as support groups for technical skills, craft workshop collectives [Vrouwenklussenkollektieven] and designer round tables. Women's centres were founded and managed and shelters against domestic violence set up [Blijf-van-mijn-Lijfhuizen]. These initiatives could often draw from feminist experiences in other countries. A transnational tight-knit community could evolve, showing the empowering effect, for a marginalised group, of multiplying knowledge and expertise among each other.
Zaha Hadid, Beth Gali, Laura Thermes, together with organisers Susanne Komossa (lecturer in Architecture) and Anna Vos (lecturer in Women’s Studies) at a plan meeting for the design course “Proloog tot Zichtbaarheid” [Prologue to Visibility], 1987, photo: unknown. Source: Archive Anna Vos, Collection TU Delft
The archival material used for this section includes:
Note by Lotte Stam-Beese (FDS_IMG123)
STABph56 Huishouding; 'Was bietet die Kollektivhaushaltung im gegensatz zur Einzelhaushaltung?
Newspaper Article over Luzia Hartsuyker-Curjel (FDS_IMG127)
HARTd114 /HART.110455833; Krantenartikelen geschreven over de Hartsuykers, 1967-1990
Poster by Vrouwendrukkerij Las Muchachas (FDS_IMG098)
Archief Vrouwendrukkerij Las Muchachas 1983-1992, IAV-Atria