18 May 2022 -
This week’s Hidden Histories: Gender in Design seminar looks at design amidst the Cold War. Our Ambassador Alexandra Banister interviewed Bettina Siegele, Assistant Professor and PhD Researcher in the Department of Architectural Theory at the University of Innsbruck, about her research into feminist approaches to architectural history ahead of her paper on the architect Karola Bloch.
To attend the seminar on Thursday 19th May, please register for free via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/gender-in-design-hidden-histories-of-design-amidst-the-cold-war-tickets-305676706257?aff=ebdsoporgprofile
To find out more, follow Bettina on social media:
Alexandra Banister: What is your background and how did you develop an interest in design history?
Bettina Siegele: I studied both art history and architecture, and I have always enjoyed dealing with history and theory. Design history only naturally blends in with that.
AB: What does your research focus on?
BS: I am currently writing my dissertation dealing with the question of how architecture and urbanism reflect feminist claims concerning care work. My focus is on architecture in the GDR, which is suitable as a case study because, on the one hand, at least on paper, equality was anchored in the so-called Familiengesetzbuch (Family Code). Following the theory of Lenin, this provided for women to be fully integrated into wage-earning labour - and we know how important this step is for the emancipation of women thanks to Silvia Federici - with the state attempting to relieve them from the burden of care work.
AB: Your talk is part of a wider seminar series on Hidden Histories: Gender in Design, how does this apply to your work?
BS: After the end of the Second World War, the newly founded socialist state of the GDR was very keen to keep women in the workforce and actively encouraged women to take up male-dominated professions. This is why there was a relatively high number of female architects in the GDR at that time, way more than for example in Western Germany. Often, however, most of us hardly know any names of these female architects, as the profession of architecture was somewhat different in the GDR. This is partly because authorship in architecture was a different one there. "The Architect" as a stand-alone genius did not exist in this sense. Architecture was usually created in a more collective approach. And looking into low-key buildings rather than the typical "masterpieces" is exactly what has interested me for a while.
AB: Please tell us about an interesting piece of design you have discovered as part of your research.
BS: The East German architect Karola Bloch, who is a central figure of my entire research, was proposing a counter design to Schütte-Lihotzky's famous Frankfurter kitchen since she has been convinced that for men to start helping in the household, the kitchen must be big enough for at least two people, as they would not start doing it alone.