What would happen if there were more female perspectives in planning the spaces around us? That was the question we came to discuss at “A gender-friendly approach to urban planning and design” event organized by UN Women USA Los Angeles Chapter and facilitated by James Rojas of Place It. The method uses found objects to allow participants to build their own models and envision spaces.
It was wonderful to have the opportunity to look at the issue of gender and place. We were invited to use our own intuition and feelings, think about “the sensory experience of place,” and that our experiences have value.
One prompt was to build a place that we thought of as very male or masculine. My group built freeways, skyscrapers, and monuments, and talked about the ideas of inflexibility, sole-purpose, and individual uses of space. Then, we were prompted to build something we thought of as a female or feminine space. Our group turned the space into a center where people could walk around, filled with green space and trees, paths and smaller roads where people could go different directions, housing near businesses. This brought up ideas of community, inclusivity and accessibility for all people.
This exercise shifted the questions we ask, and how we ask them. Instead of a meeting held by government agencies with a list of project benefits or problems, this showed that a ground-up approach is possible and produces a different design. This workshop was full of life, conversation, and connection. We are all planners, we can change the planning process, and we can change our city.