Virginia Alvares Affonso

Reimagining Women's Shelters

Class of: 2024

Major: Architectural Design BFA

Medium: Combination of multiple media

Faculty: Alison Schuettinger

Prompt: For this assignment, we had to develop a creative, sustainable, and innovative solution to a problem in the world. In order to do so, we had to use systems thinking and follow the steps of design to come up with ideas and work closely with people the issues might impact.

I’ve always been an avid advocate for women’s rights. Earlier in the semester, I had the opportunity to learn more about establishments in my neighborhood that provide shelter and health services for women in need. I was fascinated that there were so many places that supported this cause. I began researching some of these places and what aspects could be bettered to make them accessible and inviting for women. During this process, I learned that homeless women avoid going to women’s shelters for various reasons. Within women’s complaints were the cleanliness of the spaces, the presence of male employees, and the feeling that these places fail to give them a sense of security, dignity, and belonging. The buildings aren’t designed to fulfill their needs, often don’t have shared spaces, or offer women activities that encourage them to claim their freedom and visualize a better future for themselves. With that in mind, I wanted to create an environment in which they felt like they were a crucial part of the world, and it gave them a sense of belonging and permanency. I applied Le Corbusier’s architectural principles to create a building that would look modern and provide the structure for a communal garden. I was inspired by female architects such as Lina Bo Bardi, Jeanne Gang, and Zaha Hadid, who tend to use rounded shapes to mimic the human body, the flow of nature, and the interconnection between the two. My final product includes three floor plans, an architectural model, and a drawing of what the buildings would look like.