"Flexibility and a gender perspective are key to transforming housing into a more open and democratic space"

05/03/2019 - 08:21

Housing. The latest issue of Qüestions d’Habitatge (Housing Issues) was presented, reflecting on the relationship between housing and gender

Rethinking buildings by taking gender issues into account and planning housing based on a flexibility that responds to the current diversity in family models are some of the challenges faced by cities such as Barcelona, which ​​have made gender perspective a priority, including in regard to urbanism and housing.

For the Councillor for Housing and Renovation, Josep Maria Montaner, there is a clear relationship between flexibility and gender equality in housing, the two concepts that are the focus of the latest issue of Qüestions d’Habitatge. The publication, edited by the City of Barcelona ​​through the Municipal Institute of Housing and Renovation of Barcelona, ​​was presented this Monday, March 4, at an event hosted at the Francesca Bonnemaison Space.

Together with Montaner, the presentation of the new Qüestions d’Habitatge saw the participation of the Councillor for Feminism and LGTB, Laura Pérez, as well as Blanca Valdivia, an urban sociologist and member of Col·lectiu Punt 6; Ethel Baraona, architect and editor, and co-founder of dpr-barcelona; and Ivet Gasol, architect and co-founder of Cierto Estudio.

The presentation was also attended by the authors of the publication: David H. Falagán, doctor of architecture; Max Gigling, housing policy researcher, and Lucia Millet, architect at Cierta Estudio; and with the architects and technicians of IMHAB, Cecília Colomer and Marta Marcet. Anna Ramos, director of the Mies van der Rohe Foundation, moderated the discussion.

Montaner highlighted the important role that women have played in promoting the changes that have occurred in housing. “Behind the evolution of modern architecture there are many women technicians”, acknowledged the councillor, who pointed out that housing is “the place where the struggle against patriarchy has taken place”.

But above all, he stated that it has been thanks to flexibility and a gender perspective that “housing has become a more open and democratic space”. In this sense, Montaner also stressed the importance of methods such as cohousing to help defend gender equality.

For her part, the Councillor for Feminism and LGTB, Laura Perez, explained that the Barcelona City Council has promoted a Gender Justice Plan that, among other aspects, takes housing into account: “For the first time, gender equality and the right to housing have been put together in the same strategy to reduce gender inequalities”.

In this sense, Pérez added that when talking about housing from a gender perspective, “the care economy is a recurring theme”, since it involves proposing new forms of housing organisation. In the same way, other issues such as gender violence must also be taken into account, she added.

According to the councillor, “we still lack a lot of creativity in addressing this issue and current legislation does not help much, but from cities that work, like Barcelona, ​​we can raise our voices and try to motivate others”.

 

Thinking about housing from a gender perspective

Urban sociologist Blanca Valdivia explained that when thinking about housing from a gender perspective, four elements intervene: economic aspects, the type of household, violence and the perception of security, and the configuration of space.

Valdivia presented data that explains the feminisation of poverty: the fact that 80% of household tasks are done by women; that in single-parent families led by women there is 43% more risk of energy poverty; and that the difference in pensions between women and men is 38%.

This situation means that women have more problems in accessing housing, or access more precarious housing, and that they are more prone to suffer evictions and cases of energy poverty. On the other hand, the traditional nuclear family model today represents 30% compared to 70% of other household models.

For these reasons “we must address flexibility and adapt housing to these new households,” said Valdivia, noting the need to create collective care spaces and community spaces, and create greater visibility between the spaces. “We must break the dichotomy between public and private and, at the same time, create flexible, safe, accessible spaces,” she added.

 

Give value to domestic work 

Architect and editor Ethel Baraona made reference to the fact that domestic work today is not considered work: “this is the big problem that has been dragging on for years; it is not given value but it is closely linked to the economy, so we must find a way to value it”.

A solution will be found, according to Baraona, by rethinking the housing model. “We must choose intersectionality and flexibility in order to change this model that does not value domestic work.”

“The great challenge of housing, which is already beginning to happen, is to create spaces where encounters take place between different people, generations, people of different nationalities, etc,” she added.

 

The Housing Community of Illa Glòries

Ivet Gasol, co-founder of Cierto Estudio, presented the project of The Housing Community, which is an integrated study carried out by six women architects that won the project competition of Illa Glòries.

The awarded proposal develops a unitary block with two buildings and a public passage that crosses them. “It adds importance to the interior community patios that give access to the homes, as they create meeting spaces for people who live in these flats,” Gasol explained.

The architect also explained that the kitchen is considered a central space around which the rest of the rooms are arranged. He added that the inspiration behind the design is “a space where community life is very active, where people know each other and where they contribute to creating a sense of security”.

 

Analysing homes according to the activity that is carried out

From row 0, doctor in architecture David H. Falagán made reference to the article published the latest Qüestions d’Habitatge, in which he proposes a different design methodology for housing, based on what is known as “user centric design” or design based on the central use that takes place.

Falagán commented that it is necessary to analyse homes based on the activities carried out in them, and thus add visibility to aspects that, from an architectural and also an economic point of view, are not taken into account, and that are related with the care economy.

The doctor of architecture also questioned how these aspects, which are often left in the background on architects’ tables and in their projects, can be made visible.

 

Making policies based on data 

Housing researcher Max Gigling highlighted the aim of the Barcelona City Council to make policies based on concrete data and not only on the impressions they may have.

His article in the latest Qüestions d’Habitatge focuses precisely on the economic aspects related to housing access. Through his study, he has verified that the income gap between men and women is reflected in differences in housing access. This difference is especially noticeable among the elderly and single-parent families headed by women.

Cecilia Colomer and Marta Marcet, IMHAB architects and technicians, also participated from row 0. Marcet expressed the difficulties of capturing new housing needs in “regulations that have been very outdated.”

For her part, Colomer pointed out how it is sometimes difficult to find points of contact between urbanism and architecture: “It is difficult to know where the management of public space ends and that of private space begins”.

Finally, she raised the question of what weight should be given to social factors related to gender issues in relation to other social aspects that should also be taken into account when talking about housing.

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