These Pink and Blue Homes Use Gender as a Metaphor For Urban Revitalization

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By Anna Squier / Published by Dwell
Exploring themes of traditional masculinity, femininity, and assigned gender roles, His and Her House comprise part of an exhibit on urban rejuvenation in Shenzhen, China.

The Shenzhen-Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture invited Shanghai–based architecture practice Wutopia Lab to renovate two buildings in Dameisha Village, an urban slum with traditional Chinese characteristics, as part of a conceptual exhibition. Creating the resulting His and Her House presented a unique challenge for the architects, who worked to blur the line between the city and the village by activating the area. They conducted careful research to understand the societal and gender norms of the area to build an architectural metaphor for the complementary forces at play in urban rejuvenation.

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His and Her House stand in startling contrast to the muted tones of the surrounding village.  They represent a spirit of innovation, architectural expressionism, and an advancement in urbanization.

His and Her House stand in startling contrast to the muted tones of the surrounding village. They represent a spirit of innovation, architectural expressionism, and an advancement in urbanization.

Site Plan

Site Plan

Ground Floor Plan

Ground Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

His House is painted blue as a symbol of survival, competition, and masculinity. The green-and-blue interior carries out this masculine motif throughout throughout all details, including the use of a triangle shape on door frames and knobs. Spatially, the building has three rooms and a public restroom which support unique art installations. The installations represent the history of the salt fields and showcase bacon and wine, using the processes of food preservation and fermentation to signal the need for survival.  

Bacon, a preserved creation, hangs from the ceiling of the first installation.  The green walls continue a masculine motif while the blue continues through the ceiling, floor, and windows.

Bacon, a preserved creation, hangs from the ceiling of the first installation. The green walls continue a masculine motif while the blue continues through the ceiling, floor, and windows.

The triangular, masculine motif is carried through to the arched passageways.

The triangular, masculine motif is carried through to the arched passageways.

In the main interior space of His House, a whole wall is decorated with empty beer bottles, revealing a theme of "Wine, Pool, Meat, Forest."

In the main interior space of His House, a whole wall is decorated with empty beer bottles, revealing a theme of "Wine, Pool, Meat, Forest."

A diagrammatic section of His House reveals a hidden white room with a skylight above. In this room, the floor is covered with salt to represent the history of salt fields. 

A diagrammatic section of His House reveals a hidden white room with a skylight above. In this room, the floor is covered with salt to represent the history of salt fields. 

Her House stands in contrast to His House as a sensitive, delicate counterpart. Light pink paint signals stereotypical femininity. In contrast to triangle forms, semicircular forms are used on doorknobs and doorways to create a soft, curved appearance. Irregular windows, original to the home, create a lively facade. Curtains wrap one facade like a veil, implying introspection and contemplation, while also creating a new facade in front of the original balcony. Inside, a labyrinthine maze of walls connects spaces to one another, while windows provide views to the surrounding village. 

Pink rock salt covers the exterior patio.

Pink rock salt covers the exterior patio.

The original character and detailing of the homes remain intact.  Graceful, ornament detailing of Her House contrasts to the geometric form of His House.

The original character and detailing of the homes remain intact. Graceful, ornament detailing of Her House contrasts to the geometric form of His House.

Large windows connect occupants to the exterior courtyard and surroundings.

Large windows connect occupants to the exterior courtyard and surroundings.

The original, irregularly placed openings remain.

The original, irregularly placed openings remain.

Curtains wrap Her House like a veil, creating a feminine solution for a new facade.

Curtains wrap Her House like a veil, creating a feminine solution for a new facade.

The veil of curtains, which lies on the exterior of the original balcony rails, create a unique brise soleil spatial solution.

The veil of curtains, which lies on the exterior of the original balcony rails, create a unique brise soleil spatial solution.

The brise soleil condition carries through to the ground level.

The brise soleil condition carries through to the ground level.

A built-in ladder provides access to the roof deck.  The blue skies contrast with the light pink walls, creating a pastel composition of solids and voids.

A built-in ladder provides access to the roof deck. The blue skies contrast with the light pink walls, creating a pastel composition of solids and voids.

A diagrammatic building section of Her House reveals white spaces with tall, arched passageways. 

A diagrammatic building section of Her House reveals white spaces with tall, arched passageways. 

His House and Her House—through color, form, light, and material— portray strong social metaphors in an architectural, artistic concept of urban revitalization.


Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Wutopia Lab