Julia Pascutto, in collaboration with Michael Ralph, Gould Evans & The University of Kansas, Dr. Tia Madkins, University of Texas at Austin.
With global social crises on the rise over the past decade, architects and designers are seeking to address various issues facing society through design. Upon receiving stakeholder feedback while designing a school, Julia Pascutto with award winning design and architecture firm Gould Evans, took it upon themselves to investigate an unnerving observation further. This feedback would ultimately set the wheels in motion for a research stream that has been relatively uncharted to date – investigating gender inclusion in learning environments. Sapna Cheryan and her work on gendered messaging in space decoration – amongst others, provided the foundation that the project sought to extend into the more permanent elements of space construction and design.
The Gender Inclusive Design Study (GIDS) was formed through a Gould Evans initiative and is now a FLDWRK research project under Pascutto at Lemay. Through FLDWRKS’s New Apertures research theme, the group questions the built environment’s deep roots in culture and identity. The ultimate goal of this pursuit is to increase awareness across all space typologies and apply an informed understanding in the design practice.
Out of the team’s research stream, The Instrument took shape. Its purpose is to quantify and explore to what extent people with varying gender identities feel a sense of belonging in learning environments. The Instrument allows the team to collect comparable data over a large geographic and age range. It consists of a measuring scale that is activated through prompt questions in reaction to a variety of visuals. While research is currently ongoing, The Instrument’s initial studies measured, observed, and identified correlations with intriguing relationships between spaces and a sense of belonging.
Research in practice
The objectives for GIDS is to affect tangible change in the world by making gender and inclusion foundational considerations when creating a space. Julia and team however have been met with an interesting point in time as the global pandemic has resulted in funding cuts for higher education. Nevertheless, post-secondary education institutions aspire to bolster applicant and admission rates of women in STEM – a challenge that could potentially be addressed by GIDS’s research. The Instrument’s findings could also be applicable to the workplace for employers seeking to uncover contributory factors behind sectors with a male dominant workforce. The application of the research is not limited to the education environment but it is a starting point for framing the broader conversation.
Designing a better tomorrow
The Gender Inclusive Design Study is a necessary step in the pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable built environment. The findings can be influential in identifying unjust and marginalizing gendered patterns and cultivating a more comprehensive sense of belonging. How can we continue to design our way into a better tomorrow?
The Gender Inclusive Design Study (GIDS) aligns with the broader research streams of FLDWRK– Lemay’s new research arm. It is a research and design collective that investigates the current systemic transitions of society and culture, responds to the scarcity of resources, challenges our economic and political systems, explores the digital realm, and investigates the metamorphosis of our urban landscapes. FLDWRK reaches beyond the traditional practice of design to holistically respond to emerging challenges. Other research streams FLDWRK is currently pursuing includes designing sensory spaces for adults with autism and looking at how Canadian practice models are prioritizing ethics and design as a form of activism.
Julia is a licensed architect who has over ten years of experience in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, and San Francisco with a focus on thoughtful design of education, community, residential, and healing spaces. She is driven by informing and improving the public experience with placemaking through an understanding of context, and with the integrity of creating inclusive, resilient, and responsible design. Growing up in Hong Kong, through to her graduate studies at Cornell University, she is inspired by the value of diversity and growth through experience. She has been preoccupied with creating spaces for gathering, interacting, and benefiting the community. Julia is a leader that is fully integrated into the project design and delivery methods, concentrating on team collaboration and efficiency. She has been co-leading the Gender Inclusive Design Study (GIDS) inspired by her drive for equitable design.