For over a century, architecture has been divided into two main categories: masculine and feminine. Traditional definitions see masculine buildings as sharp cornered and vertical in comparison to feminine ones, which have been labelled as more curvaceous and rounded.
Before I delve into modern-day feminine architecture, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the stereotypes and connotations that these traditional definitions hold. Psychologist Erik Erikson’s infamous building block experiment in 1951 concluded that design choices differ based on gender. Whilst this has been disproved by more modern studies, Erikson’s experiment created a focal narrative that women were the nurturers who focused on interior design, in stark comparison to men who focused on construction.
Although these terms have problematic beginnings, it would be unrealistic to say that architects have banned them from their vocabulary. However, they are used now with a grain of salt and tend to represent much broader ideas than their rigid origins. Additionally, male architects now make incredible ‘feminine’ buildings, like Kotaro Ide’s Shell. Likewise, female architects create innovative ‘masculine’ work, like Francine Houben’s FiftyTwoDegrees.
Modern feminine architecture is a rising trend and largely focuses on energy and sensuality. As the late trend of minimalism fades away, people are beginning to demand a more personalised, warm sense of space. Feminine energy in architecture can be seen in plush, sensuous shapes, vintage, bold furnishing and warm colours. We see feminine input in biophilic design, through divine connections to nature that people are craving post-lockdown.
As the world becomes more chaotic with wars raging, climate change and social injustice, people are beginning to covet this warm, radiant feminine energy in their homes as a distraction from the outside world. Home is our safe place, where we want to feel the most ourselves, so it only makes sense that people want to design an interesting space, distinct from the outside world.
Curvaceous shapes and warm colours create safe energy, and present a different image from what we see in an office everyday. As humans become more conscious and connected to nature, the presence of biophilic design is essential to connecting to our natural state from inside. Whether this be plants, earthy colours or greater natural light and views of the outside, people are embracing mother nature much more.
But this rising trend doesn’t come without its costs. If a building is particularly feminine and defined by organic shapes, chances are there is more work required by the designer as well as the builder. As we know, more work = more labour cost, so don’t be expecting a small invoice. Additionally, allowing for more natural light, sourcing specific colours and finding bold furnishings can be an expensive, long-winded process. But the end result is something personalised, warm and beautifully eccentric.
What will feminine architecture look like in the future? Will it remain as popular as it is now?
As time goes on, the line between feminine and masculine is becoming more blurred, and the two are beginning to create a fine blend. Projects like Casa Kwantes in the Netherlands are a prime example of this. A fortress to the street and sensuous pace to the garden, Casa Kwantes is a look into the future, at a blended, more fulfilling approach to construction that can cater to everyone’s artistic desires.
But for now, it may be time to consider bringing some more feminine energy into our homes, and embrace the warmth, nature-centric approach and the complex curves that it brings.