The Berlage

Public Lecture Room K

City of Ladies: Christine de Pizan and Architecture

Penelope Haralambidou

Christine de Pizan meets the three ladies and lays the foundation of the city of ladies, for The Queen’s Manuscript.

City of Ladies is a cross-disciplinary research project, which aims to introduce and promote the work of medieval author Christine de Pizan to an architectural audience for the first time. In her celebrated text, The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405, Christine describes the construction of an imaginary city, a female utopia built and inhabited by women. Her work has been seen as a proto-feminist manifesto, conflating the act of building with collecting stories of notable female figures from fiction and history and erecting a thesis against misogyny. Our research builds upon existing scholarship on the relationship between image and text in Christine’s work. It proposes an innovative, design-led analysis of the architectural and urban allegory in her text and a spatial remodelling of the accompanying illuminations (miniature illustrations). Performing history and theory through design, the research aims to establish Christine as the first speculative female architect and to project the powerful message of her allegorical city into the future.

Penelope Haralambidou is Professor of Architecture and Spatial Culture and Director of Communications at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. She coordinates MArch PG24, where she promotes a highly innovative research-based teaching methodology that uses digital film and immersive environments to re-think architectural design through time. Her research employs architectural drawing, model-making and digital film as investigatory tools to analyse ideas and work, not only in architecture, but also visual representation, the politics of vision, art and cinema. Her work has been exhibited internationally, she is the author of the monograph Marcel Duchamp and the Architecture of Desire (London: Routledge, 2013), and she has contributed writing on themes, such as architectural representation, allegory, figural theory, stereoscopy and film to a wide range of publications. Her solo show, ‘City of Ladies’, presenting her recent practice-led research on Christine de Pizan’s proto-feminist text The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405, was hosted at DomoBaal gallery in 2020.

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