In May 1979, 120 women from each of the five Nordic countries convened in Kungälv, Sweden, for a conference hosted by Nordiske kvinners bygga och planforum (Nordic Women’s Building and Planning Forum). The Kungälv meeting was one of a series of conferences held from the late 1970s on that provided ... (Show more)
In May 1979, 120 women from each of the five Nordic countries convened in Kungälv, Sweden, for a conference hosted by Nordiske kvinners bygga och planforum (Nordic Women’s Building and Planning Forum). The Kungälv meeting was one of a series of conferences held from the late 1970s on that provided important forums for feminist planners and architects to share ideas and strategies during a time when women had entered the built environment professions in larger numbers than ever before. Several influential organizations and research groups with an explicit focus on both the built environment and women’s role in society formed as a result, such as the pan-Nordic Forskargruppen för det nya vardagslivet (Research Group for the New Everyday Life). Attention to these feminist platforms allows for asking: Where and how did the points of crossover between Nordic women’s movements and feminist spatial planning occur? And how does the use of oral history methods to reclaim and interrogate these connections change our understanding of the history of women’s activism?
While such substantial questions have been addressed within the scholarship on feminism in the Nordic region and as part of the historiography of postmodernism in architecture, this paper draws more specifically on oral history narratives from women who were active in developing feminist knowledge with relevance to architecture and urban planning during the 1970s and 1980s. Oral histories allow for tracing how women translated feminist principles into alternative visions of the built environment and made room for women’s perspectives in professional discourse. By participating in housing activism, formulating design proposals, conducting research, and publishing reports, feminist planners and architects explicitly tied ideas from the women’s movement about social reproduction, care, and the economy to the (re)production of the built environment. The focus on everyday urban life across the Nordic countries allowed them to identify and challenge prevailing norms embedded in housing design, city planning, and social society more broadly, as well as increasing possibilities for providing funding and visibility for feminist work. Even as they collaborated across national boundaries in the Nordic region, activists maintained a focus on their various local contexts, and we examine these networks and their effects through a selection of events, collectives, and initiatives. Oral history narratives are particularly suited for unpacking these complex stories of motivation, translation, and agency that rooted everyday life and social activism in the built environment. (Show less)