"BUILDING SEX: Men, Women, and the Construction of Sexuality" by Aaron Betsky

"BUILDING SEX: Men, Women, and the Construction of Sexuality"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An enchanting journey into the history of architecture and the physical construction of space. Betsky (coordinator of special projects for the Southern California Institute of Architecture) sets out to trace the role of architecture in creating and maintaining social inequality. He believes architecture began with nomadic peoples: First came the campground centered on a fire, and then the tent. In Betsky's nomadic ideal, people ""lived outside fixed boundaries and laws. Theirs is a mutable world woven together by the textures of language, art, and common agreement."" Though primarily focusing on the relations between men and women, he does entertain notions of race and class and their intersections. Betsky's analysis makes sense of the confusing and uncomfortable buildings that dominate our lives. While men have historically created the public spaces we inhabit, women have struggled to create sense out of the domestic spaces in which they were enclosed, ""to make livable the world men made."" Betsky notes that the divisions between the sexes continue: Though some women have succeeded in the field of architecture, more have been promoted in the ranks of interior design, a traditionally female occupation that still centers on the insides of homes and buildings. Using literature, scholarship, and art, Betsky illustrates potential alternatives to traditional modes of living. Again and again, the emerging theme is architecture's role in alienating humanity from nature, superimposing a false structure of order that has served the domination of men over women. Not surprisingly, Betsky does not provide an easy solution to deconstructing our gendered buildings. He envisions nonhierarchical structures with fewer boundaries, with flow and curves, designed to build communities of real people who interact as they weave their worlds and their futures with the fabrics of both nature and culture. Although at times excruciatingly abstract, Betsky is constantly thought-provoking and delightfully challenging.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow