Undermining the usual order of architectural culture through queer feminist theory

Brady Burroughs' doctoral thesis is a queer feminist project, written as a pulp fiction. A fictive renovation of an iconic architectural work, the project contains various forms of writing, from contract documents to short stories to manifestos.
The aim? To undermine traditional relationships of power and privilege and encourage a more ethical and empowering culture of architecture.

What is the topic of your Doctoral Thesis?

Formulated as a queer feminist project, written as a pulp fiction, Architectural Flirtations: A Love Storey aims toward a more vulnerable, ethical and empowering culture of architecture, through questioning and undermining relationships of power and privilege. In other words, the project takes seriously, in an uncertain, improper and playful way, what is usually deemed unserious within the architectural discipline, in order to undermine the usual order of things.​ Through the fictive renovation of an iconic architectural work, the project addresses four main research areas: 1)  architectural design and discourse​; 2) critical/feminist theory; 3) critical architectural pedagogies; and 4) design practice research through experimental writing practices.

Why did you choose this topic?

I chose this topic for several reasons. First, out of a perceived lack of feminist theory, particularly queer feminist theory, within critical architectural theory. Second, after 12+ years of teaching experience, I wanted to address long-standing disciplinary pedagogical practices and habits, in order to propose an alternative. And, of course, there is always the desire to thwart what black feminist bell hooks calls “a system of imperialist, white supremacist, heterosexist, capitalist, patriarchy,” and its values.

What are the most important results?

Humor can be an effective form of criticality, without being directly oppositional. With an ethics of love, it is possible to find some common ground between a more traditional architectural practice and a queer feminist position. And although necessary, it is a constant struggle to do work that is both feminist and flirtatious, political and playful, that works toward resistance and openness, enabling empowerment and uncertainty.

Did you come across something unexpected during your thesis research?

I never cease to be amazed at how slow and resistant the architectural discipline and culture is in changes toward more equitable conditions and practices (all white male lecture series, theoretical anthologies, professional awards, discussion panels, etc); however, I was still surprised to find research as to just how deep and entangled the homosocial male ties were, within architectural professional and academic circles.

Who will benefit from your results?

A considerable effort was made in the design of the publication of my work. With over 150 full graphic pages, a more familiar literary language, and various forms of writing, from contract documents to short stories to manifestos, it is my hope that this compilation is both accessible and of interest to architecture students, practitioners and academics alike.

What will you do next?​

Good question. At the moment, I am back teaching in the design studio. But I am currently seeking funding for the next book project, in order to continue a fantastic collaboration together with the graphic designer that began with this project.​

Brady Burroughs presented Architectural Flirtations: A Love Storey in November 2016 at the School of Architecture.

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