PRAXXIS is an all-female-led feminist studio atelier and research collective at the MSA in BA3 and the MArch years 1 & 2 with roughly a 75/25 gender split of students (in favour of females). PRAXXIS takes an explicitly feminist approach, in particular intersectional feminism to explore the inequalities in society and what that may mean for the built environment. Intersectionality takes the position that the various layers of what we see as social and human characteristics—class, race, sexual identity, religion, age, disability, marriage status and gender identity do not exist separately from each other but are interwoven as a complex matrix. It is a platform where theoretical transdisciplinary practices are set up, a studio space of exchanges and dialogues where you can ask the questions that are not comfortable in other ateliers. And we are not afraid to use the F word! And by this we mean Feminist.
For the year-long thesis project our MArch 2 students have used feminist tools as a way of constructing project briefs that always respond to the personal and the political. We hold Feminisms Conversations which act as a supportive and discursive platform to explore a non-binary approach to practice, education and our profession. Ideally as a more inclusive understanding of how our identity affects our life and our work. By defining a project from a personal position (an experience or simply a passion) and placing it within a political context, project work often results in the re-definition of systems—a key tenant of feminism with the objective to alter the existing system for the inclusion of women, or equality of women and inclusion of others.
We have been working on the same street in Old Trafford throughout the academic year alongside our BA3 PRAXXIS atelier colleagues. In simple terms there are two intense atelier led design projects in MArch 1 PS1 a housing project and PS2 a Building Re-use project. We have seen two these projects as interlinked at various scales from the political through to the personal but always through a feminist lense. Our simple yet complex research question for the year to you is how a high street work for Old Trafford whilst including alternative housing models for many forms of modern families?
Finally, using feminist pedagogy we require our students to create project road maps. With this we ensure that these various key reflective processes are constantly discussed, self and peer reviewed. This is something we see as a crucial part of any successful feminist project. Each road map involves the navigation and communication of how and what the students have had to unlearn, learn, then had to re- learn, whilst constantly reflecting and finally evaluating. We ask our students frequently what kind of Architect do you want to be? We ask how our students want to practice, not where and not for who... And what form of practice that might be.
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