Jos Boys works at The Bartlett at University College London, UK. Originally trained in architecture, she was co-founder of Matrix feminist architecture and research collective in the 1980s and one of the authors of Making Space: Women and the Man-made Environment (Pluto 1984). Since that time she has worked as a journalist, researcher, consultant, educator and photographer; and has published several books. Most recently she co-founded The DisOrdinary Architecture Project, bringing disabled artists into architectural education and practice to critically and creatively re-think access and inclusion.
Jos explores how everyday social, spatial and material practices come to frame what is ‘normal’ and ‘ordinary’. She works with others on design interventions that question our assumptions about who gets valued and who doesn’t (in society, in the design of built space and in architecture as a discipline) She is author of Doing Disability Differently: an alternative handbook on architecture, dis/ability, and designing for everyday life (Routledge 2014) and editor of Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader (Routledge 2017).
Keynote lecture abstract
Welcoming Unruly Bodies: Starting from difference to re-think social, spatial and material practices
Dr Jos Boys, The Bartlett UCL and The DisOrdinary Architecture Project
Underpinning our many and various efforts to challenge how we think about gender and equity in architecture are foundational questions about what kinds of bodies are seen to matter in the world. How is it that certain kinds of bodies are assumed normal and unproblematic – whether as building producers or occupiers of built space – whilst others are unconsidered, unnoticed, or noticed only as a ‘problem’? How does bodily difference come to be made concrete in specific and inequitable ways through patterns of marginalisation, denigration and discrimination in architectural processes, and then in access to, and occupation of, built space? How can we unravel the social, spatial and material practices that act to turn ordinary difference into differentiation and inequality?
In this talk I will explore both how spaces come to be gendered in complex, shifting and deeply intersectional ways; and how we can critique architecture’s often limited framings of the body by instead starting from difference, from valuing the rich bio and neuro-diversity of ‘unruly’ bodies. I will begin by reviewing the work of Matrix, a feminist architectural collective active in 1980s London – of which I was part. This grew out of some women trying to make sense of what was problematic about how architecture talks to and about itself; most particularly who and what gets erased through both discourses and design practices; how such erasures come to disappear; the effects that this has had on the way that architecture is inculcated, practiced, and interrogated; and various alternative forms of research and practice that can challenge the resulting (re)production of gender and other inequalities.
I will then look at more recent engagements with dis/ability, through the work of The DisOrdinary Architecture Project, led by disabled artists to co-develop new models of practice for architecture, informed by disability scholarship, arts and activism. This aims to start from difference, from the perspectives of non-compliant and unruly body-minds, to better understand how practices and spaces act to enable some and disable others. We are interested in both recognising the specificities of how inequalities play out differently between and across identities; and in going beyond identity politics, to find shared affinities (as well as complex tensions) in how architectural processes and spaces works differentially between and across multiple non-normative bodyminds. I want to suggest that concepts such as queering or cripping space can open up radical ways forward for actively creating new non-normative and even joyfully ‘unruly’ futures – both for architecture as a profession, and for the design of built space. Rather than centering on working towards access and inclusion of previously ‘left out’ groups (women, people of colour, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, etc., etc.,) into the architectural ‘club’ this perspective insists that the club itself has to change, by making transformative social, spatial and material justice a core part of its responsibilities.
Welcoming unruly bodies: re-thinking social, spatial and material practices
Keynote presentation by Dr Jos Boys
How is bodily difference made concrete in specific and inequitable ways in architectural processes? How can we unravel the social, spatial and material practices that turn ordinary difference into differentiation and inequality? To address such questions, Jos will review the work of Matrix, a feminist architectural collective active in 1980s London, then look at recent engagements with dis/ability, through the work of The DisOrdinary Architecture Project. Jos argues that rather than add ever more people to the architectural ‘club’, the club itself has to change, by making transformative social, spatial and material justice a core part of its responsibilities.