Re: Designing for Women [was An article that might be ofinterest to some of you
From: Wayne Tyson (
Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2013 08:23:29 -0700 (PDT)
Having once been a park planner, designer, and manager for a number of years, plus studying urban geography and urban design, I have had some real experiences with the defects in designing for women. The following brief comments are just a sample of some of the relevant issues with which I have dealt, and the underlying knowledge and understanding is rooted in a mixture of experience, education, and the work of others.

Understanding the demographics of the users is only a start, but it's a useful start.

Women and children both tend to be ignored or misunderstood in favor of adult men, whose unconscious prejudices reflect their own needs and desires.

Shared toilet facilities are a major example of this. (Studies have shown, by the way, that co-ed facilities work best, as each sex tends to keep the facilities cleaner than those separated by sex, apparently because one sex knows that the opposite sex might be the next person to use them. Such facilities can be marginally or significantly more costly to construct than separate ones, but the real-world function should be the first design foundation rather than the common assumption that the front-end-cost "tail" should always "wag the dog.")

My own surveys found that the better-designed, nice facilities suffered far less vandalism than "hardened" institutional-type designs. One movie-house restroom that was paneled in high-quality cedar, had fresh flowers, and vintage catalog pages over the toilet, suffered ZERO vandalism, despite the very high level of usage and the broadest demographic. The users apparently felt more like an honored guest in a home than a vandal to combat. The more "hardened" they were, the more costly was the maintenance and repair. One highly-hardened facility had a huge stone dropped into the toilet. Treat people with contempt and they tend to respond accordingly. Of course, I'm sure there have been exceptions to this, but remember, the point is the totality of the real-world consequences, not quibbling over exceptions.

But in the "real world" of hierarchical control--politics, these "counter-intuitive" concepts are almost universally damned in favor of the more combative approach to urban design.

In the case of public restroom facilities, note that, for example, "equal" is not necessarily equitable. Typically (a theatre is a good example), with "equal" facilities for each sex, the lines/wait-times are always longer for females than for males. This is one design disparity that can be remedied with "uni-sex" facilities.

I have noted a relatively recent development in uni-sex public facilities that might turn on its head an old dispute in the war between the sexes, leaving/returning the seat down. I have increasingly found urine on seats that are down. While both sexes may bear some responsibility, I lay most of the blame upon men who are too lazy or prissy to put the seat up before urinating. The question then becomes, "Do I put the seat down for the convenience of the ladies, or do I leave it up in case a male cretin of some kind comes in next and pisses all over the seat. Do such matters lead to the ". . . times that try men's souls" or are they just unresolvable Paine's in the derriere?


----- Original Message ----- From: "Sharon Villines" <sharon [at]>
To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Thursday, September 19, 2013 3:24 PM
Subject: [C-L]_ Designing for Women [was An article that might be ofinterest to some of you

On Sep 19, 2013, at 5:47 PM, Racheli Gai <racheli [at]> wrote:

This is a very interesting article on urban planning and how different genders use public spaces and public transportation. How design of public parks can change who uses the park.

Women use pubic transportation far more than men. I wonder if this is the reason public transportation isn't top priority in most places.

A UN report on Gender and Urban Planning, 2012

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"Design is the first sign of human intention." William McDonough

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