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Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Mark T. Hamin
Gretchen B. Rossman
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Urban, Community and Regional Planning | Urban Studies and Planning
The Women’s School of Planning and Architecture (WSPA) was an ambitious, explicitly feminist educational program created by seven women planners and architects who used the school to introduce ideas and practices of the 1970s women’s movement into design and planning education in the United States. Between 1974 and 1981, WSPA organized five intensive, short-term residential educational sessions and a conference, each in a different geographical location in the United States, after which the organization ceased formal programming and the organizers moved on to other activities. The founders and participants involved in WSPA collectively imagined and created a feminist space for environmental design teaching and learning through their evolving project, which was marked by interdisciplinarity, creativity, flexibility, egalitarian decision-making, and attention to diversity.
This study uses an interdisciplinary, intersectional feminist framework and feminist qualitative methodologies to investigate WSPA through analysis of archival materials, interviews of surviving members of the founding group, and experiences of the author in the same fields and professions. This research also locates WSPA within a historical review of women in the design professions in the U.S. and links WSPA to early twentieth-century single-sex educational programs for women in architecture and landscape architecture, including Lowthorpe, the Pennsylvania School, and the Cambridge School.
This dissertation proposes the notion of project space(s) as a framework for identifying and valuing efforts to incorporate marginalized and excluded groups of people and critical theories about difference and diversity into the planning and design professions, even when such programs and activities are modest in scale, decentralized, or ephemeral. Project space(s) enrich these fields by introducing new understandings of gender, race and ethnicity, social and economic class, sexuality and sexual orientation, and other sources of disenfranchised knowledge.
This study discusses methodological issues in identifying and studying project space(s) as well as conditions that contribute to their development, including connection to strong external movements for social change; visionary individuals within the fields linked to outside movements; access to resources such as funding and publicity; critique of educational processes and professional norms from within; preservation of collective memory; and creation of intentional discourse communities, even if temporary.
Cahn, Elizabeth, "Project Space(s) in the Design Professions: An Intersectional Feminist Study of the Women's School of Planning and Architecture (1974-1981)" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations. 160.