Gender-sensitive town planning

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  • "The end result of creating safer spaces is that towns and cities will be inclusive and respectful of everyone living in them".
    "The end result of creating safer spaces is that towns and cities will be inclusive and respectful of everyone living in them". Source: Xarxanet.

We move around towns and cities either on foot, on a bike, using public transport or our cars, and in many other ways, and yet we do so without even considering how these spaces were created from a town-planning or constructive point of view.

Cèlia Mallafré


Architect and PhD in classical archaeology. 

Vertical photo: 
Cèlia Mallafré
Square photo: 
Cèlia Mallafré
Horizontal photo: 
Cèlia Mallafré

Town planning and architecture have an impact on our perception and on the quality of the space we use and move around every day. This perception changes depending on our gender, and it is within this context that we refer to feminist town planning, as defined by the Punt 6 collective, as “a set of theories and practices that propose a change in priorities in today’s society, placing our everyday lives at the heart of urban-related decisions, to transform the inequalities reproduced by the capitalist, patriarchal and colonial system.”

Today we are at a time where it has become necessary to question the way in which town planning and architecture have been reproduced and to adopt a critical view that can improve the working methods and design of our surroundings.

The feminine subconsciousness considers the routes women follow while moving around from one place to another, which may change depending on the time of day, or whether they are moving alone or with somebody. The usual though that crosses our mind when we say to ourselves: “no, I won’t go down that street” or “I don’t like that corner”, “If I have to go back home alone, I’ll carry my phone with me” or “let me know once you are home safely”, can we change these and similar thoughts? The answer is clearly yes. We can improve and design the town planning of our towns and cities in a different way.

Since we can improve, what actions should be put in place and who should do this? In most cases, and for centuries, the way town planning has been done by men. As a result, women, who are 50% of the world’s population, has been left out of the development of these spaces, even when women constitute half of the people who use them.

Looking at care, it is obvious that it falls upon mostly women to take care of their families and households, and cities can be improved to ensure that transport routes are adapted and cover larger time frames, that there are resting areas with benches and shady areas, that pavements are continuous and well maintained, providing a diverse range of services in neighbourhoods and areas of the city and building parks for children to play in. 

Turning to perceived safety, some of the actions to improve this perception in cities would include adequate signaling of areas and routes, adequate lighting, installing surveillance systems, ensuring that any plants and trees are kept at a height that allows for good visibility of the area and an adequate maintenance of spaces.

The end result of creating safer spaces is that towns and cities will be inclusive and respectful of everyone living in them. Although male chauvinistic attitudes constitute an endemic social problem that is difficult to overcome, from the fields of town planning and architecture we can contribute to reshape spaces or build new spaces with a gender-sensitive perspective and taking feminist town planning into account. Women have a lot to say in this regard and thanks to the efforts and perseverance of all women who preceded us, this is a goal that can be achieved.

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