This conversation with Stéphanie Dadour evolves around her doctoral dissertation that studies architectural theory and practice in the end of 20th-century North America. We explore a particular chapter of this dissertation to continue a series started with Olivia Ahn and Karen Tongson, about the gendered spatial paradigm constituted by the American suburbia. Citing the works of Mary McLeod, Beatriz Colomina, Joel Sanders and other feminist/queer thinkers and architects, we address architectural elements proper to this paradigm, such as the lawn, the curtain, or the window as instances of gendered apparatuses. We conclude the conversation by examining anthropometric studies, as well as problematize a discourse that would only consist in arguing for more inclusiveness in these studies, rather than rethinking their normative violence altogether.
Stéphanie Dadour is Maitre-assistant associé at École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Malaquais. She holds a Doctorate in Architecture; her thesis dissertation entitled From Decentering concepts to pragmatism: the question of identity in domestic space (North-America, 1988-2008) deals with various themes such as the divide between theory and practice, the representations of identity politics and architecture as a domain of cultural representation. She has been teaching in many universities in between Montreal, Paris and Beirut. She has been awarded fellowships from the FQRSC and the Centre Pompidou, as much as covering a Visiting Scholar position at Columbia University in New York.
– Stéphanie Dadour, “Le genre, la sexualité, la race et la Maison,” in La question de l’identité dans l’espace domestique (Doctoral dissertation 2013).
– Joel Sanders, “Curtain Wars,” in Harvard Design Magazine 16 (S.S. 2002).
– Colomina Beatriz, “Split Wall : Domestic Voyeurism,” in Sexuality and Space, Princeton Architectural Press, 1992.
– Lance Hosey, “Hidden Lines: Gender, Race, and the Body in ‘Graphic Standards’,” in Journal of Architectural Education 55 (Nov. 2001).
– Presentation of Stéphanie’s research in relation to this conversation:
“In the USA, in the beginning of the 1980s, domestic architecture was neglected from the architectural field altogether. It disappears from many university courses, several journals, as well as debates, and architects generally lost interest. Designing private homes was not valorized and public housing projects were limited under Ronald Reagan’s mandate.
On the other hand, at the end of the 1980’s the house (re)appears in certain architects’ writings (especially scholars, but not only) as well as through the publication of paper architecture, especially via architectural institutions, universities, museums and magazines. Inherited from the student movements and identity politics of the 1960s, from the academic Studies curricula and from the proliferation of the French Theory, those architects appropriate decentering concepts through the notions of gender, sexuality and race. Questions of hegemony and the cult of subjectivity manifest themselves through the critique of the white-heterosexual-middle-class-man, ideal representation of the American Dream. In doing so, they seek to overturn the canons of the architectural field, that is, questioning what legitimizes and attributes authority and truth to architecture.
My researches reveal the conquest of power and legitimacy of individuals and objects in the ideologies behind domestic architecture. If this subject is obvious in the anglo-saxon literature, the fact of writing in French participates in the translation and transfer of ideas and concepts embedded in the North-American society. On another level, my work also disclose the gaps between theory and practice in the architectural field.”
ASSOCIATED CONVERSATIONS ON ARCHIPELAGO:
– “Gender Performativity in the History of Suburban Architecture,” with Olivia Ahn (April 2014)
– “Queer Suburban Imaginaries,” with Karen Tongson (May 2014)