Last saturday was the first anniversary of the women’s march that took place in Washington. This special date was celebrated with many massive public demonstrations to claim for social change. The routes to march were not chosen because they were the most convenient in terms of space or accessibility, they were chosen to cover the most representative sites of the institutional power so the strength of the oppressors and the protestors could be confronted in the same frame.
Women marching is not only one year old, it’s actually a few centuries old. On the 5th of october of 1789, a group a thousands of french women marched from Paris to the Palace of Versailles to show their discomfort with the politics of the monarch. The origin of their suffering came for the inequality installed by the crowned head so it was very clear that in order to address it they needed to march to the royal court residence. During that march the image of the Palace of Versailles went from the household of repression to the first conquest of the women during the french revolution.
Today, the effectiveness of a protest is measured by the impact it has on the media. It is not anymore about physically conquering a building but about filling its image with indignation. Although streets have been a coercive field for women, when thousands of them come together to get their point across, streets become empowering. The same happens with institutional architecture, they might have represented for years the willing to preserve the interests of the privileged ones, but the moment its citizens organise themselves to march in front of it asking for a social change, they demonstrate that institutions have to stand for those who have been overlooked.
«Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.»
Jane Jacobs, Life and Death of Great American Cities, 1961
The capacity of architecture to represent what can be harmful and healing for a society resonates with what Jane Jacobs wrote in Life and Death of Great American Cities in 1961. Jacobs ends her famous book by stating that cities can be «the most helpless and devastated victims of disease» but can as well «became great disease conquerors». She concludes that «Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.». Those cities that don’t question what their institutions represent will ultimately become stagnant, but those who march to confront the power and claim social justice are the ones that will lead the evolution of society.