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Despina Stratigakos on Das Haus der Alleinstehenden Frauen
22 February, 2021
As a graduate student, I came across a bizarre novel about a woman architect that negatively inspired me, if that is the correct term. Johanna Böhm, a Swiss writer, published Das Haus der alleinstehenden Frauen (The House of Single Women) in 1932, at a time of increasingly reactionary views of women, sexuality, and domesticity. The protagonist is a lesbian architect who builds a modernist apartment block for single, independent women with disastrous consequences. Lonely, bitter residents are driven to suicide, madness, murder, and into each other’s arms in what the author portrays as an uncanny house of horrors. Beyond the thrill of finding a smoking gun that concretised the dread of ‘manly’ women taking over architecture, which I had been exploring in my scholarship on women’s integration into the profession, the book compelled me to look more closely at popular representations of women architects and, eventually, to attempt my own intervention with Architect Barbie.