A series of folios presenting design research by staff at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
City of Ladies : Penelope Haralambidou;
City of Ladies
by Penelope Haralambidou

In The Book of the City of Ladies (1405), the medieval author Christine de Pizan describes the construction of an imaginary city, a utopia built and inhabited by women. Her work can be seen as a proto-feminist manifesto, conflating the act of building with stories of notable female figures from fiction and history, and erecting a thesis against misogyny.

This design-led analytical and creative project aims to introduce Christine’s work to an architectural audience for the first time. It builds upon existing scholarship on the relationship between image and text in her work and proposes an innovative design remodelling of her architectural and urban allegory, which displays the city in three stages of completion. The project asks if this remodelling of Christine’s book/city can provide an impetus for a contemporary feminist re-evaluation of the future of the city.

Christine is an early female/feminist speculative architect; yet, her work remains almost entirely unknown in the field of architecture. Beyond architecture, the research contributes to the field of French and medieval studies, as it provides a novel lens through which the iconographic programme of Christine’s book can be evaluated. The author marries medieval drawing techniques with digital modelling and film, constituting a methodological innovation in both disciplines.