Ruta Dumciute

Post-Gender Salon

The built environment is largely the creation of white, masculine subjectivity. It is neither value-free nor inclusively human. Feminism implies that we fully recognise this environmental inadequacy and proceed to think and act out of that recognition.

– L. K. Weisman

Society’s anxiety to label humans socially as well as institutionally has brought us to a set-in-concrete gender binary that requires humans to submit to certain cultural stereotypes. The fluid and performative aspects of gender are largely neglected in mainstream culture, while agents of humanity are in need of space.

The Post-Gender Salon is a platform for discussion, celebrating creativity and otherness. Set in the near future at the edges of society, determined to fuel a debate revolving around the gender binary, and eradicate the old ways via art, creativity and self-education, the Salon manifests itself as a resident-run co-operative.

Based in Westminster, an area heavily stained by straight white male supremacy and privilege, the Salon occupies the Economist building, designed by the Smithsons as a humane answer to its surroundings. The Salon contains residencies for artists whose work revolves round this issue, transition accommodation for LGBT people in need, and a space for the public to access resources.

The Salon embraces the visitor, combining spaces for self-education, whilst sharing skills, food and celebrating difference, empowering visitors through spacial and social experiences. It can be sensual and amoral as well as productive and focused. Multiple overlapping activities contained within the Salon do not establish clear definition between them, but instead invite one to wonder with liberation. It borrows three layers of visibility from queer heterotopias: transparency, translucency and opaqueness, which manifest themselves in the public’s access of the building. The Salon is a landscape, existing between public and private, distorting contextual messages of architectural materiality that sets a tone for a progressive, more open future.

Royal College of Art, 2015