Women Make Cities: Five Talks by Women Who Are Shaping the Urban Environment

Within the fields of architecture and urban planning, women are making their case for creating built environments that serve all genders. To close the gap of gender inequality and make spaces more inclusive and safe for women, the unique perspective provided by these speakers is essential to augmenting our idea of design. To move towards more inclusive cities, women must be at the forefront of change.

This list of reSITE talks showcases the female voices who are powerfully impacting their respective cities. From facilitating inclusivity amid migrant crises to developing innovative designs for micro apartment living, women positively shape urban environments across the globe. We’ve selected five talks that reflect how women are shaping the cities of the future.

Facilitating Inclusion with Ursula Struppe

With a growing population of almost 2 million inhabitants, Vienna, Austria is home to a diverse population of different ages, genders, backgrounds, and lifestyles. An influx of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants in recent years has created a greater need for discourse about cross-cultural living using both online and in person platforms. Ursula Struppe, head of the Municipal Department for “Integration and Diversity” (MA 17) in Vienna, discusses the process of fostering social cohesion and belonging in the Austrian capital. Struppe’s goal is to change the way the Viennese are thinking about migrants, who are often considered outsiders by many locals, in order to create an inclusive environment. By fostering conversations between adverse groups, she mentions the bicycle vs car lobby, Struppe outlines how Vienna can design a city where the needs of inhabitants are met on an equitable basis.

How Small Can A Livable Apartment Be with Mimi Hoang

Speaking on how micro-units can have a macro impact in cities struggling with affordable housing solutions, Mimi Hoang shares how she is rethinking the concept of apartment living. Hoang, co-founding principal of the New York-based nARCHITECTS, draws on her experience developing the Carmel Place micro-living apartments in New York City. She explores the concept of the dispersed home, taking key components of private apartments and placing them in common spaces where certain amenities can be shared. She discusses space, scale, and dimension as variables that can be played with to maximize the use of space. It is these small changes that have a large impact on urban environments that are plagued by crowding and density.

The Art of Landscape Architecture with Kathryn Gustafson

Kathryn Gustafson, co-founder of the landscape architecture firm Gustafson Porter + Bowman, combines complex sensory elements like light, sound, heat, wind, and water to channel artistic expression into her landscape design. “Nothing is fixed,” she says. “Everything is going to evolve over time.” By showing her design process, which involves sculpting clay models, she emphasizes not only the aesthetic qualities of her projects but also how they respect their natural environments. Gustafson wants you to feel at home in public spaces. If we can experience comfort in the greenspaces that adorn our cities, the quality of life of the individuals inhabiting the space greatly increases.

How to Design Architecture for People with Caroline Bos

"It's less about creating a perfect object and more about creating an environment for people," says Caroline Bos, co-founder of Amsterdam-based architectural design practice UNStudio. "It's less about creating a perfect object and more about creating an environment for people,” she says. Bos discusses the effects that architecture and design have on the everyday human experience, describing her project at Arnhem Centraal railway station in the Netherlands where evacuation routes and perceived safety were at the forefront of many decisions. She advocates the importance of examining the challenges and opportunities we face in architecture and urban planning to design future cities that are functional, sustainable, and above all, safe, for those interacting with the designs.

Sound is Always There with Elizabeth Diller

Elizabeth Diller, founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, emphasizes the importance of sound in architecture and evaluates the evolving role of the architect in an increasingly multidisciplinary world. Looking towards the future presents unique challenges, “time is really, really difficult for the architect” says Diller. The conventions of architecture are to make buildings that last—to make them enduring.” Here, she challenges how to design buildings that transcend time and can adapt to the different activities and art forms that will emerge as time goes on. As an architect specializing in sound design, her role in creating performance and community spaces that marry seamless and modern design with perfect acoustics reifies her commitment to the fourth dimension of architecture. Often overlooked, Diller presents possibilities for innovative design that arise from soundscaping.

reSITE works to create a platform that features a diverse range of ideas and voices, welcoming women from all around the world to speak at our conferences, on our Design in the City Podcast, and other reSITE events. Women's voices in the field of architecture and design provide unparalleled experience that informs how we can think inclusively. With safety, equity, inclusion, and feminism as that driver of urban planning, women have the power to shape cities in unprecedented ways. Listen to these talks and find even more inspiring content from the women making our cities on reSITE’s YouTube channel.

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