This was a great, if in cohesive group of panelists. They’ve each done really interesting research on different architectural expressions of ‘women’s spaces’ in three different US institutions: contemporary Mosques, Gymnasiums at the turn of the century, and Settlement Houses in the early 1900′s.
Maryam Eskandari gave a very compelling presentation on the need to re-examine mosque typology and explore the gender hierarchy assumptions embedded in that typology. Essentially, her work has determined that mosques prioritize men’s space, making the front of the mosque inaccessible to women, and allocating the separate women’s prayer space as ½ to 1/5 the amount of space allocated to the men. She talked about radical activists in the US staging Rosa Parks-style interventions in this model. And, she advocated for the role of architects in changing the typology, making contemporary mosque design reflect the changing politics of the practice of Islam in the US where communities are more open to mixed gender prayer spaces.