Wow what a year we have had. I want to hold my hat off and say thank you to all our students and the staff team for their determination, strength and resilience. Well done!
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. We take an explicitly feminist approach, in particular intersectional feminism to explore the inequalities in society and what that may mean for the built environment. Intersectionality acknowledges 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. Studio for us 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. To bring us together as an atelier we hold Feminisms Conversations which act as a supportive and discursive platform to explore non-binary approaches to practice, education and our profession. Ranging from preconceptions on the feminist agendas to feminist technologies and from privilege to equity the discussions challenge our current knowledges and allow to think about what may have to unlearn and relearn.
For the year-long thesis project our MArch 2 students use feminist tools as a way of constructing project briefs that always respond to the personal and the political. Each individual project explores inclusive understandings 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 tenet of feminism with the objective to alter the existing system for the inclusion of women, or equality of women and inclusion of others. The personal subjects are vast in their range.
In MArch 1 students were challenged to design Intersectional Housing on a site next door to the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester City Centre (PS1). We then asked the students to consider the immediate space to north of the Pankhurst Centre part of the site to create an Archive to Feminisms (PS2). It has been important for the students to explore feminist technologies this year – none-traditional technocentric solutions by discussing technologies which are collaborative, are gender equitable or driven by need rather than just technological advances. Additionally, this results in a new or alternative Building Regulation, the XX approved document.
Finally, using feminist pedagogy we require our students to create project road maps. Through this we ensure that these various key reflective processes are constantly discussed throughout the year. 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 re-evaluating.
PRAXXIS asks our students frequently what kind of Feminist Architect do you want to be? We ask our students how they want to practice, not where and not for who… And what form of practice that might be.
Please check our work out on Instagram and Twitter on @praxxis_f