Recommended: Lessons to learn from Matrix
No, I’m not referring to the cult film starring Keanu Reeves, although there are lessons to be learnt from the rebels dressed in leather too. Instead, I’m focusing on a different kind of Matrix, namely the feminist architecture collective. Allow me to elaborate.
Founded in 1980s Britain, Matrix is a women-led collective working to deconstruct the complex relationships between buildings and bodies, questioning how our cities are planned and who our environments are designed for. In doing so, they bring attention to the groups that turn victims at the hands of an industry far from representative of the communities it is supposed to serve.
“Buildings do not control our lives. They reflect the dominant values in our society, political and architectural views, people’s demands and the constraints of finance, but we can live in them in different ways from those originally intended. Buildings only affect us insomuch as they contain ideas about women, about our ‘proper place’, about what is private and what is public activity, about which things should be kept separate and which put together,” reads the introduction to Making Space by Matrix.
Over the years, the collective has established an impressive portfolio as they continue to explore marginalization in relation to architecture. Aside from conducting and compiling research, they have developed feminist architectural guidance and their own designs that “aim to empower groups often excluded in the design of buildings, including Black and Asian women’s organisations, community and childcare groups and lesbian and gay housing co-operatives.” Matrix was nothing but radical in its time, as the work directly contributed to lowering the barriers of entry for various under-represented groups to get involved with and feel seen by architecture.
“It’s all about rethinking a system and the limitations we take for granted.It means finding solutions that last instead of focusing on short-term fixes.”
For example, Matrix was determined to open up a debate around the many ways which man-made environments exclude women. The group’s members were involved with producing the documentary Paradise Circus: Woman and the City. The film criticizes how the city of Birmingham was built by men for men. Interviews with various female residents expose how the concrete jungle’s elaborate motorways served men who drove to work – but for those traveling on foot (usually women), this meant facing dark alleyways and far distances between daily chores such as nurseries and grocery shops. As a result, the women perceived Birmingham as hostile, impractical and unsafe.
What has made Matrix so impactful is their ability to see beyond short-term solutions. The collective could have advocated for making the streets safer by introducing more policing or offering more self defense classes. Instead, they attacked the very structures responsible for excluding women in the first place. The problem was never police presence or the lack of combat skills, it was the lack of diversity within the architecture industry. The city was planned and raised by men. If women had a say in the matter, they would know their own reality and take this into consideration when designing Birmingham.
How does this all tie in with Bolder? Well, it’s all about rethinking a system and the limitations we take for granted. It means finding solutions that last instead of focusing on short-term fixes. That is bold. Similarly, when brand manager Anne Sofie Engelschiøn was asked about what Bolder means to her, she stated that it is deeply tied to making conscious and active choices. This philosophy can be applied to anything, not only technology: “For instance, I apply this logic to the fashion industry by asking if the production is conscious. I also look at it like this: It’s important to make active choices, but it’s equally important to have the chance to choose in the first place. When you go grocery shopping, you might want to pick an organic product, but many stores do not offer that – and that’s one less option. Regardless of how many other choices you have, that is still one less option. ‘Bolder’ means having the possibility and freedom to make your own choices based on your values.”