What Would Cities Look Like if They Were Designed by Women?

Cities are built by men, and so too often urban design does not reflect the needs, perspectives, and realities of women.

“Cities are supposed to be built for all of us, but they aren’t built by all of us,” says Stephanie Hegarty in a BBC video report. She talks to members of Col·lectiu Punt 6, a feminist collective of urban designers in Barcelona, about how cities can better serve women and the innovative projects happening in the city.

For example, women use public restrooms more often and for longer periods of time than men, and they often need to bring in strollers. And men can stand while women need stalls, meaning that women’s restroom spaces should be larger. Hegarty also looks at how public spaces, like playgrounds, are segregated and ways design can better integrate these places.

Punt 6 and Janet Sanz, Barcelona’s Deputy Mayor for Urbanism, also advocate for more accessible transportation spaces and less car-centric urban design. Barcelona has developed a series of innovative superblocks, areas where nine smaller blocks are combined to create a larger network of streets that support biking, pedestrians, and public spaces and where car use is limited. Women in Barcelona have also expressed an overwhelming desire for more benches, and the city has installed hundreds of them in neighborhoods, along with trees and more greenspace.

Barcelona is also known as a party town where women do not always feel comfortable and safe. “Now the city is saying no to sleaze with these anti-machismo stands,” notes Hegarty. Women can go to the stands to get more information about resources and a new app that the city has put out to report incidents of sexual harassment or violence.

“Seeing what a city built by women would look like is still just a fantasy. But these women are giving a glimpse of what that future could be,” concludes Hegarty.