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Deconstructing space and gender ? Options for « gender planning »

Sandra Huning

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1Urban spatial planning aims to develop and design potential urban futures and to provide the legal and political means for the implementation of appropriate measures. Thus it is a profession which purposefully constructs spaces and inscribes collective norms, institutions and imaginations into material environments. Ideally, these constructions are legitimate outcomes of democratic processes. At the same time, they cannot but reflect also implicit ideologies, e. g. with reference to gender relations. These implicit ideologies are hard to tackle during the planning process because they are rarely ever reflected systematically.

2The gender mainstreaming principle (GM), adopted by the European Union and its member states in the late 1990s, aims to make gender issues an integral part of policy processes in any institutional setting. GM « calls for the systematic incorporation of gender issues throughout all governmental institutions and policies » and has been called a « potentially revolutionary concept » (Pollack, Hafner-Burton, 2000, p. 434). Its implementation differs from member state to member state and even from city to city. As top-down approach, GM also concerns urban and regional planning and development. « Gender planning » — as it has been called in the German context — focuses on the gendered nature of planning and on the ways gender stereotypes, roles and orders are inscribed into space. Organizational, political, attitude-and knowledge-related issues influence whether and how GM is adopted in the profession (Greed, 2005).

3In Germany, gender planning builds upon efforts of women-oriented planning which came up during the 1970s. These approaches were partial in that they strived for equal opportunities and positive action by rebuilding spatial structures so that the diversity of female lifestyles and female autonomy would be strengthened. Gender planning today raises attention to both male and female lifestyles and to the diversity among them. Both women- and gender-oriented planning approaches have been producing guidelines and summarizing best practice models to show how the quality of planning is improved when gender issues are taken into consideration. These guidelines are supposed to be applied to any planning process even by planners who are not familiar with gender research (see e. g. for Berlin Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung 2011a, 2011b  ; for Vienna Stadtgartenamt der Stadt Wien, without year  ; for an overview of German cases see Zibell, Schröder, 2007). An idea of gender criteria as formulated in the Berlin gender planning handbook is given in figure 1.


Figure 1: Source : Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung Berlin (2011) : Gender Mainstreaming in Urban Development. A Handbook, Berlin, p. 10

4In some ways, it seems that through GM a fundamental feminist concern has finally entered the political mainstream. However, this success has turned out to be ambivalent. Gender planning is confronted with criticism from both practitioners and theorists. On the one hand, practitioners argue that (a) there is no need for gender planning because empirical differences between male and female living conditions and lifestyles are on decline and likely to disappear in the near future  ; (b) the characteristics of women-centred planning are already implemented in mainstream architecture and planning so that they are regularly taken into account anyway  ; and (c) gender as category of social inequality has lost its relevance in relation to other categories of social inequality and its priority can no longer be justified.

5On the other hand, feminist researchers criticize that (a) the two-sex binary is taken for granted when GM is supposed to systematically integrate « the respective situations, priorities and needs of women and men in all policies and with a view to promoting equality between women and men » (EC Commission 1996, p. 2)  ; (b) it is impossible to address women and men as collective subjectivities with shared interests and experience  ; intersectional approaches are needed instead  ; and (c) gender planning loses its critical stance towards patriarchy when it does not question gender as key principle of social ordering and hegemony (see e. g. Becker, Neusel, 1997, p. 226 ; Maihofer, 2006, p. 73).

6This paper argues that much of this criticism is related to ambivalent or even contradictory conceptions of both space and gender. In the following section, this argument is elaborated in detail. Consequently, the remainder of the paper examines whether these ambiguities can be reconciled in any way. The third section relates the debate to conceptions of planning as deconstruction and to interpretative planning approaches, which evolved during the 1990s. In the fourth section, the paper identifies three potential gender planning conceptions : 1. target-group oriented planning (e. g. planning according to target group’s specific needs, resources and lifestyles), 2. « performative » planning which addresses urban residents as « multiplicities », and 3. planning which aims to avoid discriminatory practice. From a feminist perspective, all these strategies have their pitfalls, and there seems to be no single best way to proceed, especially since planners’ scope of action is directly and indirectly determined by power relations in society. Feminist expertise and mobilization will therefore remain necessary to inform planning practice and disturb underlying collective gender norms and imaginations, but also to develop planning models which are able to integrate more complex and deconstructionist perspectives.

 Gender and space

7For estimating what gender planning may or may not be able to achieve, the way gender and space are conceptualized plays an important role. In urban gender studies, many researchers work with social constructionist approaches which are based on the assumption that neither gender nor space is a « natural » entity, but that they are both socially produced. The sociologist Martina Löw (2006, p. 120) defines spaces as « relational arrangements of living beings and social goods », which implies « the simultaneous practice of placing (groups of) humans and things and, on the other hand, the need to link together objects perceived/seen to form spaces ». In this sense, spaces are « processual, relationally ordered systems » (Löw 2006, p. 120), or — as geographer Doreen Massey puts it — spaces are « always under construction » (Massey, 2005, p. 9). Löw argues that a « genderization of spaces is effected through the organization of perceptions », which « leads, in the sense of a somatization of social order, to a choice of place and a placing practice that reproduces structural principles of society (including gender) » (Löw, 2006, p. 129).

8That gender is socially constructed is an insight already formulated by Simone de Beauvoir in the 1960s. U.S. sociologists Candace West and Don Zimmerman argue that gender is an « emergent feature of social situations » (West, Zimmerman, 1991, p. 14) which is at the same time result of and reason for social arrangements and institutions. They explain differences between two sexes — men and women, boys and girls — not in biological terms, but as a consequence of « doing gender » (West, Zimmerman, 1991, p. 24). Gender is achieved through performances and interpretations related to normative judgments of masculinity and femininity (Bauhardt, 2004, p. 175). West and Zimmerman argue that « physical features of social settings » contribute substantially to the performance of apparently essential gender differences (1991, p. 24).

9There is a broad body of research concerned with the co-construction of space and gender. One issue is the use and appropriation of public spaces, which is clearly gendered. The performative dimension of the appropriation of space has been observed for example with regard to Turkish young men in open spaces in Vienna. Their behaviour was found to be related to manifold culturally specific codes (Thien et al., 2007). Claudia Andersen (2010) interprets violence among young male first- and second-generation immigrants in public spaces of a city in Northern Germany as struggle for respect and recognition by established social groups. The insecurity of women in public spaces, especially at night, was found to be related to their socialization (Rivière, 2012) and to their traditional position as « outsiders » in public space (Ruhne, 2003, 2010). Settlement and residential patterns are another case in point. Suburbanization has been a phenomenon intrinsically linked with the modern gender order of a male breadwinner and a housewife and mother, who is responsible for care work, sometimes with a part-time job. Modern cities were thus characterized by a strict spatial separation of functions, e.g. between typical inner city business districts where jobs were located and peripheral housing areas which lacked infrastructure such as public transportation, retail and services as well as care facilities. Even the layout of the house itself (small kitchen, large living room) reflected a functional hierarchy of (gendered) spheres.

10Young nuclear families’ choice of housing and residential patterns adapted to slowly changing gender relations so that the suburban environment is no longer their first choice. Inner cities have become attractive especially for middle-class, high-qualified two-earner nuclear families (Frank, 2008, 2012), who have been blamed to drive gentrification in formerly neglected inner-city neighbourhoods (Bondi, 1991, 1999). Marguerite van den Berg shows how the city of Rotterdam actively engages in promoting middle-class « YUP » (young urban parent) lifestyles in order to attract middle-class nuclear families back into the city, to strive for social mix/ing and to de-legitimize poor families and their children as residents (Van den Berg, 2012).

11It follows from theses studies that spaces can be effective media of both reproduction and renunciation of hegemonic (gender) orders. Queer theory shows that the two-sex gender order is strongly intertwined with the regime of heterosexuality ; both depend upon each other and are reflected in spatial structures (Frisch, 2002 ; Hark, 2004, p. 106). Gendered imaginations and power relations are inscribed into space as structures and reproduced through spatial interaction, but gender is only one among several interdependent categories of social differentiation and inequality such as race, class, sexuality, religion, etc. The appropriation of space is a means to position oneself within highly complex role and identity constructions. Different spaces offer more or less great latitudes for reinterpretation, obstinacy and resistance of all kinds of identity categories which can be connected or played out against each other (Binswanger et al., 2009, p. 11).

12For gender planning, these conceptions of space and gender pose quite a few challenges. Can these insights in any way lead to a more gender-sensitive planning practice ? The challenges are discussed with reference to deconstructionist planning models in more details in the following section.

Planning and deconstruction : Challenges for gender planning

13While researchers consider both space and gender as socially constructed, emergent and interdependent as described above, practitioners — even when they share these conceptions in principle — are restricted to deal with the material dimension of space and most likely to succeed in justifying their gender planning activities by referring to empirically observable differences between two sexes —  men and women. Accordingly, gender planning is confronted with a dilemma. Examining the different spatial needs of men and women and developing guidelines to address them appropriately can be a useful strategy to decrease socio-spatial functional hierarchies. But it holds the danger of confirming and reproducing the two-sex binary and related gender roles and stereotypes (Schwerma, Marschall, 2004, p. 34 sq.). Because of this ambivalence, the German feminist economist and planner Ruth Becker argued in the late 1990s : « If women are not women, but constructed in a social (and cultural) process as women, then every kind of planning which refers explicitly to “women” or to single groups of “women” contributes to the constant reconstruction of the two-sex binary and stabilizes the hierarchies of (constructed) genders based on this binary structure » (Becker, 1998, p. 156 ; translation SH). She claimed : « A feminist planning theory must analyse how spatial structures and spatial planning contribute to the social re- and new construction of the two-sex binary in order to derive planning concepts which disturb these construction processes and contribute to a deconstruction » (Becker, 1998, p. 157 ; translation SH).

14Ever since the 1990s, feminist urban scholars in Germany have called for deconstructionist planning theories (see e. g. Becker, 1997, 1998 ; Nahnsen, 1996 ; Rodenstein, 1998). At the same time, the interpretative tradition in planning was established in « mainstream » planning theory (Davoudi, 2012). Instead of searching for new and better models to reflect and standardize different planning situations, the interpretative tradition (to which belong collaborative and performative planning approaches, see below) aims not to suppress, but to acknowledge complexity and to search for potentials. But this path is difficult to follow (Friedmann, 1993, p. 482). In an interpretative planning perspective, deconstructionist planning theories would ask : how is the (heterosexual) two-sex binary spatially reconstructed as natural order by « institutionalized genderisms » (see above) in spatial planning in general and gender planning in particular ? Obviously, gender as interdependent category — related to other categories of social inequality such as class, race, age, etc. (Walgenbach, 2007) — is much more difficult to implement into planning (and to explain to other planners) than a clear two-sex order.

15One example for planning as deconstruction — however, without explicit reference to gender issues — was the project « Dietzenbach 2030 — definitely unfinished » in the small German city of Dietzenbach (Rodenstein, 2004). On an inner-city brownfield, the temporary campaign « 100 square metres Dietzenbach » called residents to appropriate this amount of space, everyone according to his/her needs. The project managed to mobilize resident groups who are usually underrepresented in participatory planning processes (such as first- and second-generation immigrants from the South of Europe), and brought to the fore a high demand for private gardens. Although the project failed to be fully implemented in the end, it gave some inspiration to local planning and offered new perspectives for urban development (Rodenstein, 2004). Deconstructionist approaches such as the one pursued in Dietzenbach may be able to bridge the gap between different conceptions of space and gender. My colleagues and I have called this type of planning « performative planning » (Altrock et al., 2006, also see below). In addition, target-group oriented planning and the prevention of discriminatory spatial (planning) practice may be ways to implement more complex conceptions of gender and space into practice. However, all three approaches have their pitfalls, as I will show in the following section.

Gender planning : Three options

16A review of planning practice and planning literature as well as discussions with colleagues and students led to the identification of three different options to understand gender planning. They are presented in this chapter with reference to their conceptualizations of space and gender.

Gender planning as (participatory) target-group oriented planning

17During the 1990s, the « collaborative turn » in planning received much attention (see e. g. Healey, 1996, 2006). Planning, understood as « place-making », was supposed to be turned into a common project of both experts and users (residents, shopkeepers, etc.) with high importance of participatory procedures. However, thoughstrong efforts have been made to implement participatory practice andto invent more inclusive methods, the question who is addressed in participatory processes and who is excluded continues to be virulent (Healey, 1996, Turnhout et al., 2010). As a consequence, planners started to come up with projects targeting specific social groups who were found to be neglected in « regular » planning practice — distinguished e. g. by gender, ethnic and/or cultural background or the education level. While this may lead to a better knowledge of these groups’ needs and to diverse planning experience, it has been warned that « [t]he danger in affirming difference is that the implementation of group-conscious policies will reinstate stigma and exclusion » (Young, 2005, p. 86).

18If gender planning is understood as target group-oriented planning, it resembles women-oriented planning in that it distinguishes men and women and strives for their equal representation throughout the planning process. One-dimensional target group definitions along gender divisions obviously cannot even come close to reflecting the diversity and heterogeneity of their supposed members, so that target groups are differentiated, according to e. g. age, race, education, etc. (see e. g. Baumgart, Pahl-Weber, 1993). In practice, however, it is certainly difficult to fully represent the population average and to actually consider the interdependence of social inequality categories in bureaucratic planning procedures. The categories used for the target group definitions are often pragmatic (sometimes even essentialist), and their social construction is not always taken into account. However, helpful results can be obtained. There are several examples, which often consist of the explicit participation of women (with or without children ; of a certain age group ; with an ethnic minority background, etc.) or of ethnic majorities in projects on housing and public space.

19A project from Berlin is the Nauener Platz, developed by planung.freiraum in an elaborate participatory, gender-and diversity-sensitive process. The square had been underused and became a popular place for drug trafficking, before the redesigning process started in 2006. From the very beginning, neighbours were involved in the process (young/old, different ethnic backgrounds, different genders). The square is split up in two parts : the northern one addresses young and old adults, while the southern part consists of a playground for small children. Innovative tools for cross-generational play and communication as well as sound and light installations were built. Throughout the design, hierarchies between uses and user groups which tend to be reflected in other square layouts were avoided. Both the participatory process and the design paid special attention to resident groups who had been underrepresented in the former use of the square, such as senior citizens and families. The design provides areas for active appropriation and for relaxation, e. g. a beach promenade, a play beach and an area with « lawnwaves », and new ball areas. Flowerbeds are maintained by neighbours and a neighbourhood initiative. A square management supports the initiative to increase the identification of residents, shop-owners and institutions around the square. The sound installations were awarded the « European Soundscape Award 2012 ». However, how different user groups’ interests are taken into consideration only unfolds at second sight. Figures 2 and 3 show pictures of the project. The usability of the place has led to a high frequentation of the square, but there is no one particular feature which makes it « gender-proof » or would be attributed to one specific group. Rather it is the sum of large and small provisions and adjustments which makes the design special.


Figure 2, 3 : Nauener Platz Berlin, planned by planung.freiraum Berlin (both photos taken by the author)

20In cases without participation, when planning is based on empirically observed differences between user groups, target groups remain external ascriptions and do not necessarily correspond to the self-image or self-positioning of their supposed members ; they are labels of « others » and imply that « so-called general topics can still be treated as before » (Bauhardt, 1996, p. 40 ; translation SH). The definition of target groups with presumably « special » or « different » needs saves planners from the necessity to rethink planning practice in more general terms and to make plurality a constitutive moment of planning (see also Huning, 2004).

21Just as problematic can be the implementation of consultants’ councils to represent certain target groups because they imply collective interests which may not exist. Very often, the selection of legitimate representatives reflects unequal power relations within the labelled groups. The difference between the labelled groups and a societal « mainstream » is usually not defined any further. The key dilemma of these approaches is that, on the one hand, target groups are supposed to be named and represented and, on the other hand, their supposed members must not be reduced to the categories used for target group definitions. Political scientist Iris Marion Young acknowledges this dilemma, but argues that political strategies still become effective in favour of disadvantaged groups when these groups participated in their production : « If oppressed and disadvantaged groups can self-organize in public and have a specific voice to present their interpretation of the meaning of and the reasons for group-differentiated policies, then such policies are more likely to work for than against them » (Young, 2005, p. 96). Another argument in favour of target group perspectives is that abolishing internal difference and forming a collective subject makes a movement more effective and powerful than the insistence on heterogeneity which is frequently followed by fragmentation.

22In terms of the conceptions of space and gender discussed above, target group-oriented planning acknowledges the social construction of space in a certain manner, but there is a tendency to confirm the two-sex binary — in spite of all differentiations. This approach is compatible with traditional women-centred planning and makes it comparatively easier to reach any kind of support by planners who are not interested in feminist research.

Performative planning for « multiplicities »

  • 1 See for a description of the project in the framework of the International Building Exhibition Urba (...)
  • 2  The project of a public open air library run by volunteers was awarded several pri- zes, see : htt (...)

23In contrast to target group approaches, performative planning approaches ask for (sometimes utopian) spaces of opportunity which are not adapted to the needs of two genders or any other social groups — derived from articulated or empirically observed group preferences — but search for options for new spatial patterns and new forms of community which are supposed to challenge power relations and offer new modes of appropriation (Altrock et al., 2006, Cupers, 2005). The « performative turn » in cultural studies conceptualizes performance as interpretation of social values, norms and expectations by individuals (e. g. through « doing gender »). It serves to define identities, but potentially also to change social relations. We understand performative planning practice as participatory planning through common action and the production of meaning (see e. g. Altrock, Huning forthcoming, Turnhout et al., 2010). Apart from the above-mentioned Dietzenbach project, examples are the drive-thru gallery in Aschersleben1, the bookmark Salbke2 or the Forst cloth (see Altrock, Huning forthcoming ; Altrock et al., 2006). These projects have in common that they take problematic spatial settings as a starting point for initiating discussions on the future of (inner) city development. What is new is that they do not follow the traditional means-end logic of modern planning, but open up opportunities for residents as well as artists and civil society actors to express their views and their visions for a redefinition of a space.

24The Forst cloth is a case in point (Altrock et al., 2006). The city of Forst in Lusatia used to be famous for its cloth manufacturing industries. After German reunification, it lost about 1/5 of its population, and textile industry has been on decline so that unemployment rates are about 25%. The town has been struggling with the loss of its identity as a thriving centre for textile manufacturing. In 2003, prefabrica- ted housing slabs from GDR times were deemed inappropriate in the heart of town and demolished — without, however, any perspective for soon redevelopment. A group of artists called Spacewalk and a planning consultancy called Gruppe Planwerk were hired to create some meaning for the demolition with the help of the local population. Spacewalk first changed the demolition itself into an art festival that told stories about the textile heritage of the town. Then, Spacewalk and Gruppe Planwerk initiated a participatory art project named Forst cloth to resemble the industrial legacy and at the same time to denote the intended product of the project : a huge piece of fabric to be exposed on the vacant lot. Forst citizens were called to contribute a 1 by 1 meter piece of cloth designed in any way they liked — hopefully reviving their memories of the town’s past. After eight months, about 3.000 pieces of cloth had been designed, involving more than 8.000 residents during the process. All pieces were then combined to form the huge Forster Tuch which was displayed downtown. The project worked as a catalyst for a number of activities that were started either to make the event possible or from the communicative process that was the result of the preparatory activities. The performative activity initiated communicative action ; other festivals were organized either inspired by or in support of the cloth ; and citizens were motivated to participate in workshops about the future design of the vacant lot — something that would have never happened if it had not been for the attention the site received as a consequence of the cloth.

25Performative planning in this sense is a kind of « storytelling » because « it is through language that planning debate is framed and focussed » (Gunder, Hillier, 2009, p. 8). Planning allows drafting stories about the future (Throgmorton, 2003), and these stories are not only about material conflicts, but also about relations — social, political, gender-related, cultural, etc. There are many stories to be told about a place ; which ones get established and which ones remain unheard reflects (gendered) power relations. It is therefore important to create as many opportunities as possible for a variety of storytellers —  of different genders — and stories (Sandercock, 2003).

26So far, however, gender inequality and social differentiation do not receive much attention in many of these approaches, which focus more on the performance itself than on participant actors. Participation plays a major role : « Conceiving of participation as a performative practice emphasizes that identities, knowledge, interests, and needs are not represented but shaped, articulated, and constructed in the participative process itself. Participatory practices involve context-specific interactions between participatory initiatives and the expectations they are imbued with on the one hand and views they articulate on the other » (Turnhout et al., 2010).

27Performative planning sets the framework for socio-spatial and cultural interventions of plural urban actors. In certain regards, it can be understood as « doing citizenship ». Since several layers of meaning overlap in urban space, urban subjects are conceived to emerge through their space-related action in the sense of a performance : « The idea of identity as a unity is a fiction, since subjectivities are always in the process of becoming […] Subjects are multiplicities ; everyone represents more than one fixed identity ; class, gender and race disrupt and recombine » (Cupers, 2005, p. 735). Public performance related to other urban actors in the context of urban planning makes subjective positions fluid and interdependent. « Identity formation takes place in spaces that are occupied by difference, and that are full of traces of past identities and memories, allowing us to read the city in terms of the presence of uncertain, uncontrolled identities in contested spaces that are in the process of transformation » (Cupers, 2005, p. 737). In this regard, urban planning can support the legitimacy of competing uses through symbolic and functional appropriations of space (actually similar to the case of the Nauener Platz in Berlin, see above).

28Not all involved in the process of « doing/performing » have the same resources and are able to express their opinion in the same way. Stressing the performative dimension of planning acknowledges the emergence of identity categories — among them gender — in the process itself, and the social construction of space is the object and purpose of the planning process. In a way, it comes quite close to the idea (l) of deconstructionist planning.

The prevention of discriminatory spatial (planning) practice

29A third option is the prevention of discriminatory planning practice by taking the social construction of typical categories for social differentiation such as gender, age, race and disability itself as starting point. In what ways are spatial needs and appropriation patterns attributed to certain social groups a result of power relations, legal and cultural institutions — and therefore changeable ? Through which mechanisms and processes does spatial planning contribute to their reproduction (also see Becker, 1998) ? In this perspective, deconstruction is redirected from individuals and social groups towards these mechanisms and processes (Rodenstein, 2004) in different settings and in acknowledgement of interdependent         categories and positionings. Instead of defining target groups, gender planning in this sense aims to define processes of exclusion and discrimination and to make them visible and measurable, such as sexism, heteronormativity, ra- cism, and disabling. Feminist and post-colonial critics have pointed to repressive planning norms and practices in other contexts (see e. g. Frank, 2008 ; Graham, Marvin, 2001 ; Kooy, Bakker, 2006). There is also research showing how a Western perception of the sustainability concept is in conflict with the way it is addressed in ethnic minority communities (Clarke, Agyeman, 2011). Gender planning in this sense is more a critique than a constructive contribution (in both senses).

30To pursue this approach, it is necessary to define sexist/racist/heteronormative/disabling mechanisms and processes. On a structural basis, visions such as the non-sexist city by Dolores Hayden (2005) identify discriminatory patterns on a more general, socio-spatial level and have produced more or less radical approaches to overcome them. For Hayden, the gendered division of labour, the public-private distinction and gender stereotypes are the mechanisms which need to be overcome in order to achieve a non-sexist city. Figure 4 shows her suggestion for redesigning an area of 13 private homes into a housing community with shared responsibilities and spaces. Deconstructing the mechanisms of discrimination in this way enables to make discriminatory practice visible and identifiable and not only prohibit it, but actually reform procedural guidelines to overcome structural inequalities through the planning process — and in addition to tackle their outcomes as well. In combination with performative planning, this option may be one which avoids target group definitions and nevertheless manages to define common goals in a constructive way.


Figure 4 : Example for restructuring a 13-house neighbourhood into a housing unit with community facilities (A : before, B : after). Source : Hayden D., 1981, p. 51.

31There seems to be no single best way to proceed, especially since planners’ scope of action is directly and indirectly determined by power relations in society. For a constructivist profession such as spatial planning, the deconstructionist approaches to spatial gender relations is difficult to implement. It may therefore be worthwhile to pursue all three paths, depending on the concrete planning situation and in spite of all contradictions. Feminist expertise and mobilization will remain necessary to inform planning practice and disturb underlying collective gender norms and imaginations, but also to develop planning models which are able to integrate more complex and deconstructionist perspectives.

32Understanding space and gender as social constructions raises attention to the role of spatial planning for stabilizing and changing gender relations. This role does not depend on the material dimension only, but also on social and cultural interpretations and orders. If social construction is the starting point, then gender planning means to ask how spatial needs and appropriation patterns which seem to be related to a social group are the result of unequal power relations, legal or cultural conditions. Through which mechanisms (such as the public-private divide and distribution of labour) does spatial planning contribute to the reproduction of these inequalities ? Existing guidelines can give valuable support and are still very useful for planners who do not know much about urban gender research. They do not, however, replace the context-sensitive questioning of local needs, socio-cultural interpretations and symbolic spatial orders if hierarchical gender orders are to be overcome.

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Sandra Huning (Dortmund University of Technology, Faculty of Spatial Planning)

A short version of this paper was published in Metropolitics ( on 23 January 2013

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1 See for a description of the project in the framework of the International Building Exhibition Urban Redevelopment Saxony-Anhalt 2010 and for images of the gallery

2  The project of a public open air library run by volunteers was awarded several pri- zes, see :, and

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Sandra Huning, « Deconstructing space and gender ? Options for « gender planning »  », Les cahiers du CEDREF [En ligne], 21 | 2014, mis en ligne le 20 octobre 2015, Consulté le 27 février 2017. URL :

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