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“We don’t have leaders! We’re doing it ourselves!”: Squatting, Feminism and Built Environment Activism in 1970s London

Author: Christine Wall

  • “We don’t have leaders! We’re doing it ourselves!”: Squatting, Feminism and Built Environment Activism in 1970s London

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    “We don’t have leaders! We’re doing it ourselves!”: Squatting, Feminism and Built Environment Activism in 1970s London

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Abstract

The Feminist Design Collective, which later became the feminist architecture practice and discussion group Matrix, was founded by a group of women architects in London in 1978. It aimed to develop a feminist approach to all aspects of architectural production and also to wider built environment issues. A significant number of founder members were living in squats or short-life housing in response to a housing crisis, which emerged in the late 1960s, and as political statement against housing inequality. By the mid- 1970s London housed over 30,000 squatters, the majority in nineteenth century terraces owned by local authorities and earmarked either for demolition or rehabilitation, and which became vacant during prolonged planning and funding negotiations. In the 1980s squatting became regulated by a number of progressive Inner London Authorities as a way of mediating housing shortage and small grants were made available to organised groups of squatters for repairs. These large numbers of squatters were connected in what Vasudevan (2017) has termed ‘a radical urban social movement’. This paper uses oral history testimony to reveal a link between squatting, which allowed women to directly engage with and shape the physical fabric of their housing, and the emergence of feminist architectural theories and practice in late twentieth century Britain.

How to Cite:

Wall, C., (2017) ““We don’t have leaders! We’re doing it ourselves!”: Squatting, Feminism and Built Environment Activism in 1970s London”, field 7(1), 129–142. doi: https://doi.org/10.62471/field.80

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Published on
01 Nov 2017
Peer Reviewed