perceptions of security: Weronika Zdziarska questions urban design and its impact on gender-based violence suffered by women in cities | Characteristics

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Weronika Zdziarska, 2021 recipient of the RIBA Norman Foster travel grant. Photo courtesy of Weronika Zdziarska.

How safe can you feel in a city? To be more precise, how safe do women feel in the city? Although the discourse on public space and perceptions of women’s safety in urban and rural areas has been a constant topic, one student took advantage of her nomination as the recipient of the RIBA Norman Foster 2021 Travel Fellowship for explore these questions further. research proposal by Weronika Zdziarska, “Don’t Stay Out Alone: ​​addressing the perception of women’s security and freedom in cities from conception ”, focuses on urban safety and how better design strategies benefit the well-being of women as well as others. She adds, “Particular attention is devoted to design solutions that successfully evoke the feeling of security and freedom.”

Zdziarska explains that the reason for her research stems from the conditioning that women around the world are familiar with when it comes to public spaces and cities. During our interview, she shared that her intention was to explore a topic important to her. She delves into her own experiences and how this topic is an experience shared among other relatives, friends and women in general. “As a woman, I have been the victim of gender-based violence in the towns where I lived,” she explained. “I have often felt fear in the city, and I realized that my perception of safety is strongly linked to the quality of the space around me.

As her research focuses on five cities in South America, she offers insight into an often overlooked urban planning consideration. It should be noted that creating progress and change around this particular topic also involves re-educating the social and behavioral perceptions of both men and women. Zdziarska’s research and work as a designer provides powerful insight into his role as an emerging leader in social design practices.

As a young graduate from Politecnico di Milano, we asked her about the project and the challenges she faced. She stresses the importance of establishing a network that will help her carry out her plans to deepen her research and continue to raise awareness of urban planning and the safety of all. We also asked Zdziarska about her post-graduation plans and the advice she has for students applying for scholarships similar to the Norman Foster Travel Fellowship.

Image courtesy of Weronika Zdziarska

The objective of my research proposal is to demonstrate an interdependence of spatial design and gender inequalities and to put in place best practices to build more inclusive cities.

Image courtesy of Weronika Zdziarska

How would you describe your Don’t stay alone project?

The goal of my research proposal “Don’t Stay Out Alone: ​​addressing women’s perceptions of security and freedom in cities from conception ” is to demonstrate an interdependence of spatial design and gender inequalities and to put in place best practices to build more inclusive cities. The study focuses on the theme of urban security and its perception.

Particular attention is devoted to design solutions that successfully evoke the feeling of security and freedom. The methodology is based on the evaluation of previous interventions carried out by international, regional and local organizations in South America. Five cities were selected, representative of different attitudes and responses to research: Medellín, Quito, Santiago, Montevideo and Curitiba.

Cities selected for research: Medellín, Colombia; Quito, Ecuador; Santiago, Chile; Montevideo, Uruguay; and Curitiba, Brazil. Image courtesy of Weronika Zdziarska

The methodology is based on the evaluation of previous interventions carried out by international, regional and local organizations in South America. Five cities were selected, representative of different attitudes and responses to the research topic …

Image courtesy of Weronika Zdziarska

What motivated you to explore this topic?

The main motivation for exploring this particular topic was my own experience and that of my friends and family. As a woman, I have experienced gender-based violence in the towns where I lived. Since I was a girl I was warned not to stay alone and I knew where it was not safe for me to go. I have often felt fear in the city, and I realized that my perception of safety is strongly linked to the quality of the space around me.

I began to read on the subject, and was particularly inspired by the work of researchers like Ana Falu, Vania Ceccato, and Rosa Sheng. I was interested in the United Nations Safe Cities Initiative during the Femminile Futuro conference at the Politecnico di Milano. I am delighted to see and evaluate the results of the work of many professionals and organizations focused on improving women’s safety in South American cities, and I hope to contribute with my own ideas and perspectives. .

Ever since I was a girl I had been warned not to be alone and I knew where it was not safe for me to go. I have often felt fear in the city, and I realized that my perception of safety is strongly linked to the quality of the space around me.

Are there specific elements of your research that you find particularly rewarding or somewhat difficult?

At this stage of the project, the main challenge is to establish relevant contacts and find local collaborators, whose direct experience will be essential to my research. The aspects that particularly satisfy me are the interdisciplinarity inherent in the proposal and the relevance of the subject for many people who reacted enthusiastically to my ideas.

Image courtesy of Weronika Zdziarska

I am delighted to see and evaluate the results of the work of many professionals and organizations focused on improving women’s safety in South American cities, and I hope to contribute with my own ideas and perspectives. .

What are your next academic steps? Professionally?

In the future, I imagine myself working both as a professional architect and as an active researcher. I will continue my studies in the MSc Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences program at TU Delft, from September. Immediately after graduation, I want to gain experience in international architectural firms. Later, I am ready to start my own architectural firm, sharing my passion and interests with others. I am also considering enrolling in a doctorate. program and pursue an academic career in architecture.

Any advice for other students who are considering applying for scholarships?

What helped me the most was picking a topic that I was really interested in and putting in the time and effort to explore and research it. I think it’s important to try brainstorming with lots of people, also from other disciplinary areas, and to choose good advisors who can broaden your perspective and motivate you to improve the proposal.

* The Norman Foster Travel Fellowship is an annual program that provides’ £ 7,000 to an architecture student who demonstrates the potential for exceptional achievement and original thinking on issues related to the sustainable survival of towns and villages. ”

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