CIDA Award for Excellence 1st Place Winner: Sarah Strauss, Pratt Institute, MUSIC MEDIA FEMINISM: Graduate Interior Design Studio Elective
Each year teaching at Pratt, I find myself surrounded by women. My classes are often populated entirely by women. But feminism is not a word that we often discuss in design reviews or in our theory classes. We talk about materials, circulation, atmosphere, but not what it means to be a creative woman in the contemporary world and what is influencing our decisions and ideas. In the last year, we have seen an incredible cultural shift away from the status quo of male dominated spaces and social norms. Women in America and around the world have come together to claim equal space and respect in the workplace to shift the accepted behavior around power. A new wave of feminism is at hand, and we have a responsibility as designers to contemplate how our profession may be restructured and our agendas for design reconsidered. As educators, we have an opportunity to challenge and postulate new ways of approaching space and formal design to address this new awareness–what does female identified space look like? How does it differ from any other space? This course, Music, Media, Feminism,asks the students to analyze and articulate ideas of what feminist means in our current time.We begin by researching second and third wave feminist authors to understand the historical context of feminism; how and why women have not been equal members of society and in what ways we are still burdened by this inequality. We become aware of the persistent imagery by the media (TV, magazines, news) of women as sexual objects, not as powerful, intelligent leaders as all of my students truly are. Next,we approach the redesign of a tactile object, the drum set. All drum sets currently on the market and in stores are designed for the adult male body–awkward for smaller bodies, favoring right handedness, and fundamentally ignoring breasts. How would we redesign the standard to be more flexible, more versatile, and more accessible to all kinds of bodies, regardless of age, ability or gender? Designing a new drum set also forces the students to play drums, to unapologetically fill space with their own noise. Finally, the students design a mixed use performance space housing a music venue, an office for a feminist media organization, Tom Tom Magazine, and a retail shop selling drums and equipment. Students were asked to formulate their own theory of feminism and apply it to their designs as they invent a new kind of feminist space. Each student brought their own observations into interior design and specifically made places for women.We need to continue the conversation of feminism. We need to bring young women into this discussion and let them change, adapt, and work toward resolving our inequalities. Now more than ever, our world needs the voices of women to come to the forefront.