The fourth month in the Parlour Reading Room investigates equity and the city, exploring the connections between public space and power.

We welcome Hoa Yang and Simona Castricum to reflect on the ‘readings’, the opportunities to disrupt the ways that built environment reinforces power structures and how built environment professionals can contribute to creating more inclusive, accessible and intersectional public environments. Watch the recording below via our Vimeo on Demand channel.

This open, honest and generous conversation touches on the history of trans feminism, the often belittling nature of the “bathroom” topic, the argument for community-led projects and design justice, and the need to think optimistically of more inclusive cities, spaces and futures. Simona and Hoa Yang also speak about the importance of stepping outside architecture, finding strength and community in other places, and getting in touch with popular culture.

The session also includes live book reviewing from Simona, with a range of excellent resources added to our list, plus our usual additions for the ‘Feminist Survival Kit’.

“We can get caught up in talking to each other and patting ourselves on the back and we forget that the projects we design are for ‘normal people’. They don’t necessarily use the space in the way you design. We need to be a bit more cognisant of ‘normal people’.”—Hoa Yang

Recommended materials

We are reading essays by Timmah Ball, Simona Castricum, and Pippa Catterall and Ammar Azzouz. We are watching Ellie Cosgrove, along with Cecilia Golding and Nick Finegan. Find the links and references below, as well as an extended list of supplementary materials if you would like to delve deeper.

So, engage with what you can, guide your book stack discussion with our facilitation prompts below.

  • Ellie Cosgrove, The Feminist City (2019). [TEDxUCLWomen video].
    Approximate watching time: 17 mins
  • Cecilia Golding and Nick Finegan, The Swimming Club, Aeon (2018).
    Approximate watching time: 9 mins

Supplementary materials

  • Caroline Criado-Perez, Invisible Women, episode 363, 99% Invisible (2019). (Also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts)
    Approximate listening time: 28 minutes
  • Leslie Kern, Feminist City: Claiming space in a man-made world (Bloomsbury, London, 2020).
  • Matrix, Making Space: Women and the man made environment (Verso: London).

Book stack discussion prompts

Book Stack facilitator to go first and pass around the group. Move through the questions as required, allowing other questions to arise naturally and allowing everyone the opportunity to share their thoughts.

  • What does a safe space mean to you? What are the defining characteristics of a safe space? Does this change with the time of day or particular function of the space?
  • What different safe spaces may be inclusive for one group, and isolating for another? Think about who has made these design decisions and the power structures influencing them.
  • How do you feel designers can better understand and account for the diverse experiences of the built environment?
  • Simona Castricum discusses the bathroom as a non-inclusive typology for trans and non-binary people. What other architectural typologies exist within the binary of gender?
  • How do normative structures of the binary shape your practice of architecture at work/uni? How do these influence the way in which you design/think of public space?
  • As we heard in Ellie Cosgrove’s Feminist City talk, when problem-solving for inclusive access, these issues are met with resistance as “too expensive” or “too complicated”. Have you experienced this at work/uni? In what ways do you think designers and built environment professionals can continue to advocate for more inclusive spaces when met with this pushback?

Our Reading Room conversationalists

Simona Castricum

Simona Castricum is a multidisciplinary creative working at the intersection of music and architecture on the Wurundjeri land of Kulin Nation. Her work explores speculative futures through the queer and trans underground in world-building and civic life. Simona is a musician, DJ and producer, and runs the independent record label Trans-Brunswick Express. Simona is an educator in Architecture at the Melbourne School of Design at the University of Melbourne, and an associate of Parlour: women, equity, architecture. Simona is a community radio broadcaster at 3RRR Melbourne.

Hoa Yang

Hoa Yang is a Senior Lighting Designer at Arup, and PhD candidate at the Department of Art, Design and Architecture, Monash University. Hoa specialises in daylight and experiential nighttime lighting design in her role at Arup and has extensive experience in local and international arts and culture, public infrastructure, and urban realm projects. Hoa’s practice brings together 24-hour lighting design with human-centric strategies to transform nighttime experiences for marginalised groups within the built environment. Her current research focuses on the role of technical lighting parameters for positive night-time experiences for intersectional people in public spaces.