The Landscape Guide

12.1 The Tragedy of Feminine Planning and Design

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The tragedy of feminine design is that it receives so little official support. Most of the world's design schools, having been organized by men, encourage a masculine approach, even when they are run by women. Yet many designers who are male in the biological sense have a feminine approach to design. And many female designers have a masculine approach. In this context, "masculine' describes a design approach that emphasizes abstract thought concentrated upon a single grand objective: the way of the hunter. "Feminine' describes a contrary approach, emphasizing detailed decisions contributing to a wider set of objectives: the way of the nester. Regardless of their biological sex, and totally regardless of their sexual orientation, designers may be placed into three groups.

  • Hunter designers: this group has a single-minded approach, aiming to do one thing and to do it very well.
  • Nester designers: this group has a broad-minded approach, aiming to take sequential decisions that contribute to a broad set of long-term objectives.
  • Nester--hunter designers: this group, in which I include myself, has a balanced approach but is not so expert in either of the above approaches.

As design roles need not be associated with gender or biology, the terminology of "hunter' and "nester' may be preferred to "masculine' and "feminine'. In the Stone Age (Figure 12.1), most hunters may have been male. Whatever the names, it is important that designers should know, at the earliest possible stage in their careers, which group they are in. And it is very important for those who write books, organize schools and commission design projects, to be aware of the value of alternative approaches. Quite often, the best design teams will comprise hunters and nesters. In architectural practices this has often been achieved by a partnership between someone who is good at abstract design and someone who is good at detail design and contract management.

12.1 The man acts; the woman waits.