The Grand Domestic Revolution… Goes On

Dr. Gabrielle Schaad
Theory and History of Architecture, Art and Design

Feminist proposals for housing from the late 19th century? When women architects did not officially exist, committed women social reformers in the USA developed new models for housing and the communalization of housework. Their utopias are still underestimated in urban planning history and theory but were taken up in aspects of the garden city model by Ebenezer Howard. Although role models have changed in recent decades, examining the intertwining of housing and housework still lags behind this societal development. Do the historical proposals hold potential for the current situation?

Architectural theorist Dolores Hayden presented the urban planning proposals of “material feminists” such as Melusina Fay Peirce (1836-1923) or Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) in The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities (MIT Press, 1981). In the early days of industrial capitalism in the US, working women started to face a double workload through the naturalization of their domestic responsibility. To counter this paradoxical domestication Peirce and her contemporaries took early socialist plans such as those of Robert Owen (171-1858) and Charles Fourier (1772-1837) a step further. The proposed models aimed at communalizing housework through adapted forms of cohabitation, cooperative housekeeping, and social infrastructures. Equal rights in everyday life were to start with planning interventions in the (sub-)urban fabric beyond the individual home. Since then, there have been attempts in Europe to think about housework and care work or care economy in urban planning on various scales. In particular, however, the promises of technological progress and electric appliances must be critically re-examined. These temporally, culturally, and geographically differently situated contexts, allow us to trace different economic models, role models, or a lack of intersectional perspectives. The seminar worked out the historical proposals as contributions to architectural theory. It spun the thread further into the 21st century to contemporary examples of current residential construction in or around Munich. In a workshop with Prof. Dr. Mona Mahall and Prof. Dr. Asli Serbest, the students tested subtractive and speculative design methods.