10 January 2024
12pm EST/6pm CET
DocTalks x qswg
Session 3

Respodent: Chandra M. Laborde, UC Berkeley

Queer Ecological Architecture

Monash University (M.A.D.A) Australia

Fairy Pavilion, by Luca Lana

Owning to the pertinent challenges faced by climate change, the term ‘queer ecology’ has seen widespread usage across many fields of study and influenced creative practises. However, the field of queer ecology has yet to engage with architectural conversations or vice versa. To ally the interdisciplinary field of ‘queer ecology’ with place-making practices, this thesis asks how studying particular LGBTQI places can be a reference point for alternate occupation and practice types that dissolve human/nature dichotomies.

My research utilises embedded and participatory research of three queer places, Derrek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage, a discreet yet long-running nude beach and queer commune Faerieland, to discuss long-standing practices of queer individuals and communities that are formed in response to not only social and political factors but crucially also environmental concerns. Each site supports an empirical and theoretical position on the relation of the queer body and the occupation and material practices, and each site is documented to inform a range of drawing and exhibition material.

It is suggested that this focused research on these sites and the associated project work extends and enriches ‘queer ecology’ into a paradigm for a mode of spatial and architectural working posited here as queer ecological architecture.


Dissenting Domesticities at Casa Samambaia:
Lota Macedo and Elizabeth Bishop

Universidade de São Paulo & Arquitetura Bicha

The Brazilian architect Lota Macedo and the American poet Elizabeth Bishop at the Samambaia house (Petrópolis-RJ, Brazil), where they lived together for a decade. On the couch, Bishop, and back to the camera, Lota. Photo by Rollie McKenna, 1954.

The project originates from the need to illuminate dissident domesticities while challenging normative interpretations within architectural historiography. Its objective is to investigate the Casa Samambaia (Petrópolis, RJ, Brazil), the residence where self-taught architect and urbanist Lota de Macedo Soares and American poet Elizabeth Bishop lived. This setting served as the backdrop for the affectionate relationship that blossomed between them. Noteworthy for being Brazil's pioneering metal construction dating back to the 1950s, the Casa Samambaia's combination of architectural tectonics and spatial organization earned its architect, Brazilian Sérgio Bernardes, an award at the II São Paulo Biennial, with a jury including luminaries such as Alvar Aalto and Walter Gropius. However, the primary focus lies in comprehending how both the house and the inhabitants' customs defy bourgeois heteronormativity. The residence becomes a space of subjectivity and affirmation for the two women who diverged from conventional paths during the 1950s. The research process involved analyzing primary sources, particularly letters penned by Elizabeth Bishop to her friends. These letters offer insight into the relationship shared between the two women, delving into their daily lives and the intricate connections formed within and through the Casa Samambaia. Additionally, the architectural project itself is scrutinized as a biographical testament of Lota, acknowledging her substantial contribution to both its conception and construction. The tectonics of the house, as well as its spatial organization, are studied in harmony with the evolved domestic habits and their symbolic connotations. This alignment underscores their affirmation of dissidence against bourgeois heteronormativity. This research endeavors to deepen our comprehension of the nexus between gender, sexuality, and architecture, emphasizing the vital role of investigating often-overlooked narratives within traditional historiography.


Graphite Gay Bars:
The Eliciting Potential of Drawing


Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

The Grosvenor House Hotel (1971-1984) drawn from memory.
Courtesy of Alex, R Bates, Graham Beards, Caroline Hutton, Rían Kearney, and Ross.

Photo elicitation, the use of visual imagery to elicit comment, is a tool steadily employed in the field of oral historical research. With many photographs of historical LGBTQ+ venues lacking or buried in private archives, whose histories are rendered unelicited? Can drawings replace photographs? How might putting pencil to paper document not-yet-recorded spatial experiences?

Working one-to-one with those who created and used Birmingham, UK's historical LGBTQ+ venues, this research employs participatory drawing to co-produce an archive of now-demolished venues including bars, clubs, and community centres from 1966 to 1987, a period bracketed by liberation efforts and the ongoing AIDS epidemic.

In this paper, I argue that participatory drawing creates diagrams through which spatial characteristics are used to expand on personal and collective experience: a bar entryway and descriptions of struggles for women to gain entry; a 1970s club with adjoining hotel rooms where closeted trans women could get dressed on-site, forgoing the need to navigate public space. Reworking a formal tool of architectural communication, these informal drawings help to trace a multi-layered history of LGBTQ+ venues and how they are used and remembered in shared but conflicting ways.

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