Yifan Wang

Improving the Quality of Women’s Lives through Better Design of Public Toilets:

Based on a Study at University College London

In industrialised societies, the construction of public facilities in cities has often been dominated by functionalism and the perception of people as gender-neutral. However, this gender-neutral perspective, which ignores women's needs and feelings, has exacerbated the gendered indifference of public spaces and even created spaces of 'gender bias'. This is the issue that this dissertation notes in its research, which identifies how women are treated unfairly by the design of public toilets and how the design of university public facilities can be improved to Improve the Quality of Women's Lives through Better Design.

The changing lifestyles of people, driven by economic globalisation and cultural diversity, have placed new demands on the existing urban form and function. In this period, we need to abandon a single perspective and consider the needs of different genders in urban spaces from a diverse perspective. In this perspective, we need not only to recognise the occupation of urban space by different genders, but also to ensure that all people have equal access to public space. Many geographers and planning experts are currently working in this direction, respecting the psychological characteristics and lifestyles of women and proposing corresponding planning measures to bridge the gender divide in public space.

Feminist thought originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and has developed into one of the most important contemporary schools of social theory in the West. As the status of women in society has gradually increased, the issue of gender difference has become one of the main concerns. From the 1970s onwards, feminist ideas emerged in the study of urban space, which in turn gradually influenced the field of architecture. With the publication of books such as Sexuality & Space and Architecture and Feminism, the issue of women and space came to the fore.

The relationship between people and their environment is not simply a one-way one, but a complex two-way one. The ideal space should be designed to serve people, to meet their diverse behavioural patterns and psychological needs. In the context of postmodernism, the difference and individuality between different individuals is an important element of social value, so it is not enough to focus on people in spatial design, but also on their differences. In spatial design, gender differences are unconsciously ignored, and the different needs of the two sexes in social life are neglected, as well as the lack of care for female users. Women have certain special characteristics in the use of space, and ignoring these characteristics will cause inconvenience and lead to changes in the habits of users, which in turn will interact with social culture to form a 'sexist space'. Reflecting women's feelings and demands in spatial design in order to counter and improve the mechanical, cold, homogeneous, patriarchal and dehumanising social living spaces embedded in modern architectural design is also a positive extension of a new field of research in design. Feminist spatial research aims to improve the quality of life and social status of women, while proposing new ways of looking at the world and defining social, political and economic connections.
Universities should be gender neutral, safe, friendly and equitably distributed in order to provide an equal learning environment and a safe school space for different gender users. This is reflected in the design of campus spaces, which should not be gender-neutral, but should take into account the behaviour and spatial needs of different gender users, and integrate their different usage styles into the same environment to achieve true difference and equality. This study therefore analyses the gender differences in the use of public toilets on campus from the perspective of female users, and suggests improvements to the neglect of gender differences in the design of public facilities, not to criticise the sexist design of spaces for men only, nor to impose a purely feminine spatial environment in spaces. It is a practical reference for creating rich and vibrant spaces on university campuses. This paper selects the campus environment of Bloomsbury Campus of University College London as a case study and uses various research tools such as interviews, questionnaires and data statistics to conduct field research and analysis. It analyses the current situation and problems within the public facilities on campus, and finally proposes suggestions for improving the design to make it more sensitive to the usage habits and special needs of female users and to form a more inclusive campus environment.


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