Supporting women within the built environment : a design proposal for a civic centre for Durban.
Socially restrictive systems such as patriarchy, colonialism and apartheid produced stigma regarding the involvement of women within society. These systems have manifested power relations and gender dynamics into the built environment and related infrastructure. Due to embodying beliefs from these systems which marginalized females, the resultant spaces remain largely unsupportive of women’s needs and lifestyles. Women are thus often alienated within the urban fabric, affecting freedom of movement and social involvement. This dissertation seeks to determine conditions and criteria which would inform the built environment so as to be more supportive of women with regard to these social and spatial challenges. The researcher put forth a theoretical framework which guided the investigation using the concept of ‘supportiveness’ along with the theories of genius loci and organic architecture. Relevant literature and past and present environments supportive of women, were explored. The information gathered was then evaluated through precedents, case studies and primary research to determine parallels or deviances. The findings of this investigation validated that social and gender dynamics influence the way in which women perceive and utilise their environments. The ability for a space to foster an identity containing notions of freedom, informality, safety and democracy was proved to be imperative for supporting women. The study presents recommendations as to how built environments may be more supportive towards women, such as fostering a meaningful and nurturing identity as well as containing a safe and functional interface.