News Latin America Ana Falu: “In a world made for white men it is necessary...

Ana Falu: “In a world made for white men it is necessary to feminize architecture”

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Ana Falu (San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina, 1947) is a pioneer in feminist architecture and urban planning at an international level. The architect has dedicated her career to the search for the inclusion and full integration of women and girls in the life of cities, who “usually live on the margins in Latin American cities, designed for white, young and heterosexual men, where the car is the protagonist”, says the also feminist activist, a reference in the field of urban planning and housing policies from a gender perspective.

“We must prioritize looking at those who inhabit the margins. Fantastic and iconic architecture is necessary, but it is urgent to make an architecture of everyday life, which improves the quality of life from day to day. An urban planning that thinks about the neighborhood; in providing it with services, in bringing all the things that are necessary to make life easier, in order to give women time. Because time is the most scarce commodity in women’s lives,” says Ana Falu, in an interview with EL PAIS. The researcher and professor at the National University of Cordoba has just received the Ibero-American Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ibero-American Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism — an award that recognizes professionals committed to the development of architectural projects and their contribution to the search for habitats alternatives for a more optimistic, sustainable and fair urban future —. She is the second woman to receive this recognition, after the Brazilian landscape artist Rosa Grena Kliass, who played a fundamental role in the recognition and expansion of architecture in Brazil.

“Urban complexes are planned for families, although in Latin America between 30 and 40% of households are headed by only one woman,” argues Falu, who was the regional director of UN Women. In addition, she remembers that poverty is predominantly female. Those who live in precarious conditions are the majority in the labor market and many are heads of households. They have more than twice as many children as the rich and live on the fringes of fragmented, segregated and complex cities. “Let’s think of cities like Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo or Mexico, where transfers take between two and four hours a day for the poorest who live on the periphery. And in terrible conditions, in a transport that is not safe, that exposes them to sexual harassment”, she says at the inaugural conference of Mextropoli, a cycle of talks with the most relevant voices of contemporary architecture under the slogan ‘Living on the margin’ . While she speaks at the Metropolitan Theater in Mexico City, images of outstanding female architects and images of her professional career pass by. The key is to decentralize, she summarizes. “And take into account daily life in those neighborhoods, the quality of services, of the street, of the sidewalks. As well as privilege people over vehicles. Women are the ones who use public space the most, almost always with others: children, people with disabilities, the elderly… That public space has to be thought of from a feminist point of view”, she claims.

Ask. What exactly is feminist urbanism?

Response. Sure, what does this weird thing mean? Feminist urbanism is thinking about people. Putting people at the center of architectural thinking, of thinking about the city. Putting people at the center means looking at social diversity. Do not omit anyone. Above all, do not omit women. We women who are different from men, who do not want to be equal to men, we want to be different, but we want to have equal rights. We want to move in the city. Not to be afraid and to be able to use the public space, the street… that the worker who leaves a hospital at night can calmly cross the square to shorten distances and take public transport to return home after the long day of work. So, we have to think about the city from that place of the difference of subjects that inhabit it and of the differences in needs that we women have who are still crossed by the sexual division of labor.

P. Women are crossed by several other things in Latin American cities, in addition to the sexual division of labor. You have pointed this out many times.

R. Yes. We women are still, for the whole of humanity, responsible for social reproduction. Those responsible for care. We are the ones who, in the social empathy that we have developed since time immemorial —otherwise, this humanity would not be—, we carry the children under the snow, the rain or the heat. We breastfeed them and make them grow, from that empathy that we have built. There is an empathetic imprint of women that has allowed humanity to reproduce. Despite male belligerence, wars and deaths. We have continued to have children, taking care of humanity. But we don’t just want that, we want this to be shared. We do not want to be locked up in houses to be the caretakers and reproducers of humanity. No. We want equal rights and opportunities, we want to work as journalists, as architects, as teachers.

Ana Falu (left) during a debate at the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in Durban, South Africa, this November. UCLG

P. What else does feminist architecture deal with? What about public transportation in cities designed for automobile traffic?

R. Rethink the spaces; the city, its facilities, its services. The means of transport must be designed in terms of groups. Not single. Not the car that goes… If you stop in any of our cities, you will see a sea of ​​cars and whoever drives it, mostly, is a man. Mostly men and most one person. Women go on public transport because women, that majority of poor women in our Latin America, when there is a bicycle or a motorcycle or whatever in the house, men use it, not women. So, think of the city from there. Think about people’s lives. Put people at the center of urban planning. Think about your needs, your demands.

P. During the pandemic, the proximity of people was questioned, a fact that caused a faster spread of the virus. What do you think of that argument?

R. We are talking about compacting the city, which has nothing to do with what the pandemic questions. It is not density that has caused more deaths: it is overcrowding, it is poverty. You have to distinguish. We have to think in terms of proximity, because for a woman who has children or who has old people in her care, because women don’t need to be mothers to take care, we always take care of someone: the aunt, the uncle, the neighbor, dad, really. We are caring women, we continue to be. The pandemic has exposed it. So, how do we make the city, the neighborhood, friendlier? You have to work on the neighborhood, the proximity of the place of care, supply, the public transport stop, the square equipped for girls and boys, old and young. illuminated. The collective work. The active neighborhood. When you have an active neighborhood, vitality in the public space and a rapper comes and people get together, there is security. Now, when the space is overgrown, dark, nobody goes because they are afraid. It is the vicious circle of greater fear, greater confinement, greater degradation of public space.

P. What happened to private spaces during the pandemic? Especially that of the women of Latin America.

R. Housing, that refuge, did not exist for the majority of the inhabitants of our Latin America, who during the pandemic were places of overcrowding, with scarcity or lack of water. If there was a group affected by the bad housing policy of the States in our region, it was women, because they were taken to the borders or beyond the borders. Distances that robbed them of time, that good that is so scarce in women’s lives, that restricted their ability to work, to generate income, to study, and that reduced them to the biological essentialism of patriarchy: to the tasks of reproduction and of care. The urban extractivism that pushes the majority of poverty out and that it is those women who have more than twice as many children as the richest who are in charge as the only ones responsible for their descendants. The ones that don’t make it to the credits. Those who suffer violence. Those that lacked connectivity during the pandemic. So we have come a long way, but there is a great social debt with women. you have to repeatThink of the home as a place of care, shelter, work. There where the woman scarcely has a corner of her own. Give value to actions that seem minor, but are important for that quality of daily life.

P. Gentrification is another big problem, displacing people to the periphery. More and more and more. To get to Mexico City, for example, some people have to travel two hours or more to get to their daily activities.

R. Santa Fe is a big problem in Mexico City. I think there was a State policy of planting houses on the outskirts of the city. Extend the city and build individual houses. They did not think collectively. They thought of planted houses, which affected the lives of women. Look at the school, I don’t know here, but in Argentina, it’s four hours. What can a woman do in four hours while the boy or girl is in school? If she has two hours to travel to places of work, to places of study, to places of recreation. What can they do? They remain locked up, locked up in the distance. Then what do we do? Shall we put a bomb in those neighborhoods? Or we rethink those neighborhoods, we densify them, we create new centralities, we carry work poles, we generate services, we revitalize them. I think we have to think together, all of us. And, perhaps, some are going to have to be imploded. Or give them another meaning. Make them holiday colonies. Because I say, for what reason this perversion of urbanism, of the housing policy that takes people to the distances when there is so much urban emptiness? Do you know why? For the extractivism that raises the value of urban land. Urban land is central to any inclusion policy. There is so much urban emptiness where collective, cooperative buildings could be made, that do not have ownership of the building, that is a transfer of use, that is of the State. And there are many examples of this in northern Europe, in times of good welfare.

P. How can architecture and urbanism contribute to women and people who live on the margins?

R. Architecture cannot solve everything, nor can urban planning, but they can contribute to include the voices of women in their diversity; of LGBT+ groups; of migrants, of ethnic groups; of the different ages. The voices of the subjects omitted; the dimension of everyday life. Proximity as a central urban attribute. Value the services, the equipment. The collective over the individual. The microphysics from space. What promotes collective life, the security that is achieved with vital, illuminated, equipped spaces that require a little maintenance over the hostile city of spikes so that those who live on the street cannot sit down. Daily life must be valued; common goods, those goods that are so scarce and less and less common. Let’s rethink architecture and urban planning in terms of social inclusion and gender inclusion.

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Source: EL PAIS

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