The House I'd Like to Have: Women's Spatial Cultures, Design, and Aesthetic in 20th Century Italy

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Issue Vol. 7 No. 1 (2024)
Published Jan 29, 2024
Section Articles
Article downloads 241
Submitted : Jul 1, 2023 | Accepted : Dec 9, 2023

Francesca Romana Forlini


"Has any woman ever designed architectures in the past centuries? You may ask her to design a hut, not even a temple! She can't. She is foreign to architecture." These infamous words of Benito Mussolini (1927) reflected the widespread sexism of the Fascist regime and prompted a silent wave of dissent pioneered by women intellectuals, architects, writers, and journalists in the early 20th century. They advocated for a valuable feminine contribution to Italian architecture and their story is still partially unknown by architectural historians today. This essay tackles Italian women's spatial design and aesthetics during the regime, a period in which they kept silently operating within the built environment as professional architects with unbuilt projects and as amateur designers inside their homes. These circumstances, as argued here, determined the emergence of a feminine and feminist approach to architectural design and criticism that transcended the male boundaries of high culture, reinforced by the Fascist regime and in line with the modernist binary understanding of taste and cultural architectural production. The latter is studied through the lens of cultural domesticity, a theoretical framework that merges cultural sociology, feminism, and architecture. By focusing on Italian women's lived experiences and unconventional design approaches, this study ultimately looks at the consolidation of feminine aesthetics and how it informed women's spatial design as it keeps challenging the boundaries of architectural history.

Keywords: domesticity, Italy, feminine, aesthetics, design, interiors

Article Details

How to Cite
Forlini, F. R. (2024). The House I’d Like to Have: Women’s Spatial Cultures, Design, and Aesthetic in 20th Century Italy. Interiority, 7(1), 41–60.
Author Biography

Francesca Romana Forlini, New York Institute of Technology, USA

Francesca Romana Forlini is an architect, PhD, educator, writer, and editor whose research is located at the intersection of feminism, cultural sociology, architecture, and interior design history and theory. She teaches history and theory of interior design and architecture at the New York Institute of Technology. Francesca previously taught at Parsons The New School in New York and was head of the BArch History and Theory of Architecture course at the University of Hertfordshire. She worked as a researcher at Foster + Partners, lecturer, and researcher at Middlesex University, Harvard University, and the Royal College of Art (RCA). Francesca presented her research in various international conference venues (such as Harvard, SAH, AMPS, Docomomo) and published it in several journals and magazines. She is the director of the book series Stanze (LetteraVentidue), former chief editor of KoozArch and contributor at the Italian Journal of Architecture. She is a Fulbrighter and an alumna of the RCA, where she completed her Ph.D. in Architectural History and Theory. She also holds a Master in Design Studies in Critical Conservation from Harvard Graduate School of Design (degree with Distinction) and completed a five-year degree in architecture (Laurea Magistrale, cum laude) at Università La Sapienza in Rome.


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