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Cultures, Communities and Design

A Material Return to Gendered Labor in Modern Architecture via Visibility
C. Erten & F. Uz
8:00 am - 10:00 am


This paper aims to investigate the appropriation of visibility notion in modern domestic architectural discourse through the lens of intersectional theory. It promotes better understanding for architects to see how some material choices can create circumstances that perpetuate existing inequities in society for different subjectivities through spatial design. It aims to render visible how modern architecture was used as a tool for domination, oppression, and discrimination over women owners and women domestic workers. Intersectional feminism offers a new lens to look at modernist architecture, bringing about some previously unaccounted subjectivities, unrepresented spaces, and gendered labor into the scene of history. This reading is historically underappreciated yet today it is critically important. It points out the ways which architecture can create violent dynamics and subordinations for its users. The scope of the research is limited with modern domestic architecture from the 1950’s until the 1990’s. The first part of the paper focuses on case studies from different countries from the modern era, focusing on visibilities, in relation with the history of transparent building materials like glass. It explores women’s perception and personal experiences living in glass houses as inhabitants and/or workers with different conditions of visibilities. The second part will be an oral history project, interviewing female subjects to understand histories and narratives of women users and women domestic workers and document their experiences. Also, adopting critical cartography method, collecting the uncollected data about women users and workers; mapping the mostly unrepresented spaces, this research contributes to expanding but also slowly transforming our understanding of architectural legacy and history. What capacity do architectural interventions have, in terms of redistribution of power in architecture more ethically, is the main question this paper will attempt to unpack. The paper will attempt to address, document, and represent invisible histories of women inhabitants and domestic workers and their reproductive labor with its relationship with material decisions in modern housing to develop more complete and fairer historical narrative for modern domestic architecture.


Canan Erten is currently a PhD candidate at Istanbul Technical University, Architectural Design Program where she has received her master’s degree in 2015. Between 2019-2020, she was a visiting researcher at the Columbia University GSAPP with Fulbright Student Researcher Scholarship. She has also been working as a research assistant at Istanbul Bilgi University, department of architecture where she has assisted first year design studios since Fall 2014. She is a feminist researcher focused on new collectivities and rethinking domestic space from a new perspective of gendered domestic labor and design justice issues.

Funda Uz is currently Assoc. Prof Dr. in the Department of Architecture, Istanbul Technical University where she received her BSc, MSc and PhD degrees. She worked as a guest researcher at the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture in academic year 2004-05. She completed her PhD thesis entitled “Reading the Urban Discourse of 80s Istanbul from Popular Print Media” in 2007. She runs an architectural project studio and teaches design, criticism and theory. Her papers and articles on modernity and memory, popular culture and discourse, building material culture and architecture education have been published in various books and journals.